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Case #5589: The campaign for the longest driver in golf

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Mark Twain is often given credit for the assertion, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Were he still alive today, Twain would no doubt be intrigued by the current state of advertising and the golf industry in particular.

At its core, marketing is about procuring and sustaining customers. Customers create profit and profit is the lifeblood, which fuels all things pertinent to a private enterprise. And profit is gasoline to the engine, oxygen to the body and drama to Lindsay Lohan – it makes everything go.

So when someone or something interferes with your access to profit, you take it quite seriously. Especially when the challenge comes from a rival competitor and is the result of some rather shady statistics and shaky reasoning; or as I like to call it “lying.”

I know that lying and advertising are on some level synonymous, or more correctly that consumers understand on some level that what an ad presents as implicit truth is not an iron-clad promise to deliver the image presented. Advertising exists in the vast grey area between fiction and reality.

I understand that if I drink a certain beer, I won’t end up in a hot tub of busty blondes in some snow-capped rocky mountain retreat with 50 of my closest friends. I’m equally aware that a rugged 4X4 truck won’t increase my testosterone levels, nor will my wife and I ever end up on a beach, holding hands in two separate bathtubs watching the sunset, regardless of which pills I ingest.

But, when a company, in this case Callaway, claims to have “The Longest Driver in Golf,” then consumer should reasonably expect that the driver is in fact the longest.

[youtube id=”ihfRdZgG9CQ” width=”620″ height=”360″]

TaylorMade has dominated the metal woods portion of the golf industry for the last two decades, in much the same fashion as Titleist has owned golf ball usage and John Daly has had a monopoly on bad outfits. So when Callaway claimed to have “The Longest Driver in Golf,” TaylorMade didn’t take it well. When TaylorMade actually looked at how Callaway reached this conclusion, it called hogwash and filed a complaint with the NAD.

The NAD is a third-party wing of the Better Business Bureau that serves to resolve advertising complaints in a manner more expeditious (and significantly cheaper) than legal methods. According to the NAD, “an advertiser is responsible for all reasonable interpretations of its claims, not simply the messages it intended to convey.”

Enter case #5589: The skinny

Tweet to Unleash campaign

TaylorMade objected to Callaway’s assertion of producing “The Longest Driver in Golf,” the #LongestDriverInGolf Twitter promotion and the usage of “The Longest Driver in Golf” phrase in eight out of nine advertising videos on the Callaway website.

Where the story really gets interesting is how exactly Callaway landed at this rather bold and audacious declaration. See, when testing the Razr Fit Xtreme driver, Callaway tested the 2013 RFX against five other models (all 2012 models) that represented 54 percent of the driver market according to “dollar market share” based on data from September 2012.

Problem: How can you claim to be the best of anything when you only test 54 percent of potential competitors? What if that 54 percent is inflated and the real number is more like 40 percent as the NAD reasonably suggested?

Also, both the Titleist 910 D2 and D3 were included in the 54 percent “figure,” but the D3 was left out of the player testing. Curious, right?

Callaway didn’t provide any rationale for this, which speaks volumes. Also, dollar market share doesn’t account for drivers that may have been purchased on sale (it was September after all) and creates a false assumption than the most expensive drivers are also the longest. Finally, TaylorMade objected to the use of extrapolating conclusive statements using data from a single month (although TaylorMade has done this exact tactic when it served its advertising needs…pot…kettle…you get the idea).

I don’t know that you need to test all 180-some-odd drivers that have appeared in the Golf Digest Hot List since 2004, but if you’re going to be the longest driver in golf in 2013, wouldn’t you want to test your product against other 2013 offerings?

razr-fit-xtreme driver

Callaway also used a variety of test groups to test the five drivers against the Razr Fit Xtreme. The random sampling (one group had 13 testers, another eight and another 12) was indicative of either a group of fourth graders running a school science experiment or a company that never thought it would have to defend the validity of its claims. It gets better (or worse): 11 players tested only one driver, two players tested two drivers, eight players tested three drivers and only three players tested all five.

Problem: TaylorMade stated that it would have been more valid to treat each individual comparison of the RFX to one of the other models as an individual test. However, only 20 of the 58 would have shown the type of results Callaway desired and that’s hardly enough to be the “the longest driver in golf,” and probably not enough to even be the longest driver in your neighborhood.

Finally, Callaway didn’t actually fit the adjustable driver to ANY of the test participants, and it only used the 440 cubic centimeter head (which is only available in lower lofts and geared toward better players), failed to use any women as test participants and did I mention, all testers were CALLAWAY EMPLOYEES!

Problem: When your burden of proof is to test the “broadest range of player abilities possible,” it’s probably best to include both males and females and a wide-range of handicaps in your test pool. Looking at the handicaps of the Callaway employees/test subjects, 88 percent were 0-to-15 handicap and 77 percent were 0-to-10. When the average male handicap hovers in the mid-teens, this just doesn’t pass the smell test.

After considering all of the information presented, the NAD stated that Callaway didn’t provide sufficient evidence to declare the Razr Fit Xtreme “the longest driver in golf.” File that in the “duh” pile.

Callaway was disappointed and disagreed with the NAD decision (enter shocked face smiley emoticon here), but said that the company respected the decision and discontinued “The Longest Driver in Golf” campaign.

Translation: We’re really bummed we got caught, but hey, at least this product cycle is over and we can all move on.

Yet another layer to this smelly onion is case #5584, where Callaway asked the NAD to look into TaylorMade’s claims that “The average golfer picked up about 17 yards with the ROCKETBALLZ 3-Wood.”

It shouldn’t be lost on the reader that Callaway filed this complaint after receiving the complaint from TaylorMade regarding the RFX driver. It could be just interesting timing, and I could also be Hulk Hogan.

TaylorMade 17 campaign

The NAD ultimately found no cause to ask TaylorMade to do anything more — TaylorMade had already deleted the content from an interview-style video with its CEO and added necessary qualifiers such as “better player”… compared to Burner ’11 fairway and 150 mph ball speed … total distance.”

What maybe gets lost in all of these qualifications is just how ridiculous it still is. In order to gain the supposed “17 yards,” you have to compare the 2012 RBZ fairway wood to the 2011 Burner fairway. OK, that’s simple enough. But now, you need to generate 150 mph of ball speed with a 3 wood. The average consumer is just going to gloss over that and make the unlikely assumption that 150 mph ball speed with a 3 wood is imminently doable. Let’s break that qualification down:

Looking at some PGA Tour stats, we see an average driver swing speed of 113 mph and a carry of 269 yards. This gives the player approximately 2.38 yards of carry for every mile per hour of swing speed. If we use a smash factor (ball speed/swing speed) of 1.47, we see that the average tour ball speed, with a driver, is approximately 166 mph.

To achieve a ball speed of 150 mph with a 3 wood (again, assuming a smash factor of 1.47, even though many amateur players will be closer to 1.4 or lower), a golfer would need a swing speed of approximately 102 mph, or just a couple miles per hour slower than an average PGA Tour player.

The average male driver swing speed is 80-to-85 mph, or some 30 mph slower than the average Tour player. If a 3 wood swing speed is a good 7 mph less than that, then the average player is generating approximately 110 mph of ball speed, or 40 mph less than the requisite amount to experience the “promised” 17 additional yards. At 2.38 yds carry/mph of swing speed, the average golfer is about 95 yards short of being able to realize the full Rocketballz potential.

Like Penny Lane quipped in Almost Famous: “It’s funny. The truth just sounds different.”

And generally, the truth just doesn’t sell as well. The individual consumer might be able to handle the truth, but I’m not sure the market could bear this reality. I don’t know about you, but if I only purchased items using objective, fact-based decisions, I’d probably have a lot less stuff. And if everyone did this, companies couldn’t survive. I’m hard pressed to come up with a solid list of people I know who will drop a couple hundred bucks for a couple yards, yet that is often the reality when an individual “upgrades” to the latest and greatest golf gear.

So instead, OEM’s propose the possible, the theoretical, and the consumer believes it to be the actual. The critical consumer knows that most PGA Tour players use drivers that are 45 inches or shorter, yet they continue to chase more distance with 45.5-inch and 46-inch drivers because they cranked one up on a launch monitor at some indoor big box store and couldn’t believe how far they hit it.

While Callaway and TaylorMade might be making the most noise (or crying) right now, these are hardly isolated incidents.

Some notable examples:

  • The recent thread on GolfWRX documenting the industry practice of mis-stamping driver heads. As stated by Callaway, driver heads could be off by as much as 3 degrees. So your 8.5-degree driver could actually be closer to 11 degrees.

Click here to read the discussion about mis-stamped lofts in the forums.

Certainly, there are manufacturing tolerances in all industries, but essentially the OEM’s don’t trust the consumer to make an informed decision. Knowing that machismo and low-lofted drivers can go hand in hand, the OEM’s get the win-win. They sell a driver that fuels the male ego, yet probably fits the player a bit better. The player believes he is playing an 8.5-degree driver and no one is the wiser – that is until a golfer goes to get fit and can’t understand why he’s getting the best numbers from an 11.5-degree driver that is 2-degrees closed. If only he knew.

And lest we forget, it’s still lying. Boldface lying. My doctor doesn’t tell me the blood pressure he wants me to have, and at the end of my round, I sign for the score I shot, not the one I wanted to shoot. If OEM’s are willing to purposely stamp the wrong loft on a club, what else are they willing to do to “protect” us from our savage egos?

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  • TaylorMade’s current “My R1” campaign: Based on the commercials, any reasonable person would conclude that the driver played by the pros is the same club you can by at your local retail outlet. I mean, what else would you fathom when Dustin Johnson hands you “his R1?” What they don’t tell you is that NO ONE on Tour plays the version that is sold to the public.

Click here to read our full story on the differences between the TaylorMade R1 driver available in stores and the one played on the professional tours.

Every OEM engages in advertising and marketing campaigns. Some are simply more aggressive than others. There are no fender-benders on the Autobahn, and when a company like TaylorMade or Callaway gets called out for crossing the line, there’s going to be some flames. But don’t you think the OEM’s know this? Aren’t some of these crashes calculated and already accounted for? Maybe they’re even expected.

Think about the recent case with Callaway. By the time the NAD investigated and rendered a decision, information was already leaking about Callaway’s next driver. So how much did the faulty campaign really cost Callaway? Pennies. It’s not like Callaway had to buy back a bunch of recalled products or really do much of anything, other than perhaps apologize and then focus on selling the living daylights out of whatever the next product is.

There might be a bit of public scrutiny, but likely nothing of lasting significance. The campaign was faulty from the onset and Callaway knew this, but the company leadership isn’t dumb. They knew exactly how shady their math was, but they also knew the odds were in its favor.

Nike just performed a similar act with the Roger Federer shoes at Wimbledon. The All England Club (ruling body for Wimbledon) requested, after a short 69-minute match that Federer no longer wear his white shoes with orange soles. See, Wimbledon has a strict “white apparel only” policy that is as much a part of the tradition as the Royal Family and grass courts. Nike offered these limited-edition shoes to the public for $140 and they sold out well before Federer ever took the court. So who won that match?

Who is to blame for this cluster? OEM’s? Retailers? Consumers? The Mayan Calendar? Just like there have to be buyers and sellers, everyone gets a little egg on their face with this debacle.

OEM’s

Ultimately, they produce the products and they have the final say in what lofts get stamped on clubs, what clubs are sold to the public and which are “tour only.” They create the ads and invest millions in marketing campaigns. Their money, their message, their profit. They can be as honest or dishonest as they feel necessary.

  • Blame rating: Four stars

Retailers

As the outlets for the OEM’s, they absolutely have to move product. In fact, retailers probably have more pressure to move product than anyone. For them, it really is all about volume. How many of you have been the victim of a juiced-up launch monitor at a big box outlet? How often do we see threads detailing the latest barrage of bullarky from the $8-per-hour sales person? In this case, the consumer gets precisely the level of service and expertise they’re paying for.

  • Blame rating: Three stars

Consumers

Actually, consumers have the most power in this conversation, yet the least information. No one has to buy anything, and the maxim about fools and money is far too often accurate.

  • Blame rating: Two stars

The sooner golfers realize that OEM’s don’t care that much about helping golfers play better golf, the better off they will be. At the end of the day, a company’s bottom line is the bottom line. They don’t care who is buying their product, as long as someone is buying their product. They need profit, which means they need consumers who believe that whatever they are selling will fulfill some need they have.

I’m not suggesting that all OEM’s are evil villainous creatures that will stoop to any level just to make a buck, but if you are buying a ball, a club or a shaft only because of what a retailer or OEM is telling you, you’re playing right into their hands.

It’s like my uncle used to tell me. If you’ve been sitting at the poker table for 10 minutes and you can’t find the fool. Guess what? It’s you.

So, how long have you been sitting at the table?

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I didn't grow up playing golf. I wasn't that lucky. But somehow the game found me and I've been smitten ever since. Like many of you, I'm a bit enthusiastic for all things golf and have a spouse which finds this "enthusiasm" borderline ridiculous. I've been told golf requires someone who strives for perfection, but realizes the futility of this approach. You have to love the journey more than the result and relish in frustration and imperfection. As a teacher and coach, I spend my days working with amazing middle school and high school student athletes teaching them to think, dream and hope. And just when they start to feel really good about themselves, I hand them a golf club!

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Bill

    Jul 13, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    But, but , but….the Razr Fit Xtreme IS the longest driver I’ve ever hit. Stock shaft and all. Tremendously longer than my previous gamer.

    Exaggerating in advertising is a time honored tradition in golf. “You’ll play better” doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as “Longest Driver in Golf” to an ad man. So guess what WE get to read?

    Common sense here. If you are a good golfer and are considering a club then get to a demo day and hit it alongside your current gamer and then hit the top of the line competition. I read all the web sites and golf mags too. But I take everything in print with a grain of salt.
    Clubs that are universally raved about often don’t work for me. Same with balls. We all like tweaking our game a step at a time with better technology. It’s part of the fun. Not every car is the best and most advanced. Not every new bill being voted into passage is what’s best for its constituents. Why would I think golf evaluations would be any different? But I was looking at Scotty Cameron’s top line putters for $3000-$4500 and they MUST be amazing, right?

  2. R

    Jul 12, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Fantastic article.

  3. pine

    Jul 3, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Then where do I look to for honest recommendations for buying my next club/s???

    • RCM1301

      Jul 3, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      GolfWRX. Read user forums, not what Golf Digest or that guy at Dick’s says.

  4. FatRick

    Jul 1, 2013 at 10:19 am

    I don’t seem how you can blame the consumer less than the OEMs or retailers. Your job as a consumer is to cut through all the BS, which really is not hard to do in golf since you can actually test out the products before you by them. You don’t do that and end up with something that doesn’t fit you, thats on you and only you.

    • digsnola

      Jul 2, 2013 at 11:23 am

      While I agree that consumers should try to educate themselves before buying any product, the golf OEMs have for so long purposely perpetuated these lies and aggressive tactics that most of the golfing public take it as truth. Callaway says they’re the longest most forgiving ever nearly every year. TM states yardage gains each year that would have us driving the ball 450 yards compared to our 2000 driver.

      While golf is only a game, it was a game that many on this forum were drawn to because of its difficulty and integrity. Questionable advertising and mis-stamping of loft flies in the face of these precepts. This is why I’m bothered. It’s slimey gamesmanship in a game of honor.

      To ask the consumer to either look behind the veil and be cool with it, or don’t look in the first place but still fork over 500 bucks or more, is insulting. The golf industry is eating its young.

  5. J C

    Jul 1, 2013 at 1:32 am

    I HAVE THE LONGEST DRIVER IN GOLF, IT’S SHAFT IS 48 INCHES.

  6. Double Mocha Man

    Jun 30, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    I have the longest driver in golf.

    I read all the hype, didn’t believe it. Tried it twice over the course of two different demo days. Bought it.

    Set out to play all my favorite courses from my usual tees. Gained 15 to 20 yards with no swing changes. It’s the only driver I’ve ever bought that was true to its word.

    I’ve had it almost 3 years and constantly compare it to other brands at different demo days. This driver is still in my bag.

  7. naflack

    Jun 30, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    very informative, not very surprising information.
    another validation for my mute button usage during the golf coverage commercials.

  8. Jason

    Jun 30, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Mellow out bro……it’s just golf. I don’t understand why people get worked into a lather about things like this. What I really don’t get is why people care so much about getting tour issue TaylorMade equipment. So your R1 isn’t the same as Dustin Johnson’s…..who cares? 99.9% of the world wouldn’t benefit from his driver. But good news! You can buy tour issue equipment from some dude on the Internet and guess what, he can fit you for a shaft also!!!! All over the phone!!!! For $1500.00 you can have Dustin Johnson’s driver! You obviously only watch golf commercials on tv, but guess what there are many other industries which bend the truth in their commercials.

  9. Chris b

    Jun 30, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Hands down one of the most informative golf articles I’ve ever written. Neatly and accurately sums up a lot of the informative threads floating around, every golfer should read this. This article is WHAT WRX is about. Hats off to Mr Nickel

  10. Edward Brumby

    Jun 30, 2013 at 6:39 am

    While your have written an excellent article that makes many good points, if we are going to be assigning blame isn’t it fair to look also to the major golf magazines. Both test a lot of product, but they disguise the results of their testing with vague phrases rather than raw numbers or a more exact ranking. Plus Golf Digest includes expected demand as a criteria for giving out their “Gold” award. This means a better performing club from a small manufacturer may be ranked below a club from a big manufacturer. Isn’t this just a reward for advertising? So I give the golf magazines three stars in the blame game.

    • chris

      Jul 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      Right on the button edward

      • downtoo

        Jul 3, 2013 at 12:36 pm

        Great article, thanks for taking the time to go into such detail. Basic marketing teaches companies to sell the sizzle not the steak. Shame on us as consumers for falling prey to OEMs and their age old ruse.

    • Ken

      Jul 11, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      I have been an on and off golfer for 50 years. I have been a fanatical skier for 35 of those 50 years. Both are sports that use equipment where the pro version is radically different than the public version. The way to hold OEM’s feet to the fire is to develop hard core measurement methods and publishing the results. Defined parameters would not be as pretty but they sure would be a lot more informative.
      Example: Take golf shafts and measure the deflection and rebound with actual weights. Measure how much the shaft bends and publish the information. Soft shafts will bend more than stiff shafts. Use the swing robot to measure how far the golf club hits the golf ball. Use different golf balls with a single golf club to measure how far golf balls go. Use tests that can be verified over and over again. Will there be unaccountable differences in some cases? Absolutely becuase there are different quality control issues.

      Lets get out of the imagination world and get into the reality world.

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Opinion & Analysis

2023 Phoenix Open: Betting Picks & Selections

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There couldn’t be more of a contrast from the evil of Pebble Beach last week to the raucous party that will take place in Scottsdale this week.

From a depleted field to one that contains 18 of the world’s top 20 players, there is no doubt that the 2023 elevated events are attracting the biggest names in the game. Combine that with Superbowl weekend, a stadium course and one of the biggest crowds outside of the majors, and this will be one to watch all weekend.

Played for the last 36 years at Scottsdale, the course offers a mix of risk-and-reward holes as well as severe penalties for those that hit it wild. Witness the 17th, or 71st, hole over the last two runnings.

In contention, both Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele hooked their aggressive approaches into the greenside lake, handing the title to Brooks Koepka, whilst last year debutant Sahith Theegala found that luck was not with him, his tee-shot perfectly on line but finding a hard bounce, long roll, and a place next to those of the far more experienced duo.

Whilst the course offers it’s rewards, first-timers are far more likely to be put off by the enthusiastic, if slightly drunk, crowd, perhaps demonstrating why the list of recent winners includes major winners and contenders.

It’s always tough opting between the classier players at the top of the market, but world number five Patrick Cantlay makes most appeal at anything over 14/a and should be backed as such.

Understandably, there is plenty of repeat course form here, so it is testament to the 30-year-old’s class, that he contended a play-off here on debut last year.

There are few secrets from the elite of the golfing world and, like most, with Cantlay we get a solid bank of high-level form, highlighted by his efforts at the Shriners and Memorial tournaments, both included in a select group of comp courses.

It’s quite simple with Pat. At Summerlin he has recorded finishes of 1/2/2/8/2 whilst at Muirfield we get a pair of victories, third, fourth and seventh in just seven starts. I love this as a guide, particularly when looking at his numbers.

At both course, Cantlay ranks an average of around 11th off-the-tee, 22nd for approaches and 11th for tee-to-green. In last season’s play-off loss, he ranked 13th OTT, 27th SGA and 10th T2G – spot anything?

Cantlay often needs a run or two so I’m not worried about the opening 16th at the Tournament of Champions, and the 26th place at the American Express can possibly be upgraded a touch – 14th at halfway and fought back from a poor third round and 49th place – and he arrives at what looks a perfect course.

If most of the top lot are easy to read, I’m still not sure that we have reached anything like the ceiling for Tom Kim.

It’s tough to add anything new to this potential superstar other than most golf fans were waiting to see how he reacted to a stellar first full year on tour – it certainly isn’t disappointing!

17th on ‘debut’ at the Byron Nelson, the 20-year-old has done nothing but improve, and now ranks inside the top-15 thanks to victories at the Wyndham and Shriners championships, both with huge form links to the Pheonix Open, courtesy mainly to Webb Simpson and Cantlay.

If Kim was going to fall away he may have started at the seasonal opener where his lack of length would have been exposed. However, a fifth place secured his name in the minds of most for the rest of the year, enhanced by a sixth place at the American Express where a ranking of 16th in approaches was his worst for some time, the vast majority being inside the top-10.

Tom absolutely relished the party environment of the Presidents Cup and will no doubt do the same here on debut, another factor hardly worrying given his first-time efforts last year. It was close between he and compatriot Sungjae Im, but despite the latter’s course experience, there is a win factor element that gives the younger man the hard edge.

Mentioned already, Sahith Theegala is another name that should pay to follow for this year and beyond.

Once again, his profile is hardly secretive, and even if he has just that ‘unofficial’ pairs win to his name, could quite easily be sitting aside Tom Kim with two individual titles.

It’s almost impossible to ignore what the 25-year-old did on debut here last year, when even ‘star-struck’ playing with Koepka and Xander, he managed to find himself tied for the lead on payday Sunday.

However, in came the troublesome 17th, and whilst his tee shot took an awful bounce and careered his ball into the water, the highly-decorated Pepperdine graduate, came out of the event with a much higher profile and a fan club much bigger than the 100-or-so family and friends that surrounded him afterwards.

Previously, Theegala had led at the Sanderson Farms before proving a touch naive, whilst he also tried a miracle bunker shot when in contention at the last hole of the Travelers, something that caused a double-bogey and a two-shot defeat.

Add a top five at Muirfield to his collection of high finishes – an event he called ‘major tough’ – and we have a player that, like Kim, is progressing fast.

A pair of runner-finishes, third and four other top-10s have led to a place inside the top-40 of the world rankings and he has progressed from his opening two events of 2023 to finish tied-fourth at Torrey Pines, one of the classic ball-striking courses.

Ranking fourth for iron play and tee-to-green last time suggests he can attack these pins with relish, something he can build on after the usual quality driving, whilst an overall rating of 14th for greens-in-regulation over the past three months will give the opportunity for aggressive putting, something he showed in that victory alongside Tom Hoge.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Over in Singapore, the DP World Tour join the Asian Tour at ‘The Beast’, a 7400-yard course with huge undulations, and water hazards to catch out the more enthusiastic of drivers.

With little, in fact nothing, to go on for European Tour students, ante-post stakes will be lower than usual and punters, like the players, will surely learn a lot as we go through halfway.  This could be a great event for betting in-running – keep eyes peeled on the Bet Victor golf page.

It’s churlish to criticise Ryan Fox for not exploiting an opening top five last week, but after a first round 67, Ras did look open for a Fox saunter across a course that was certainly tighter than we had seen before, but had enough links-like characteristics to be right up his street.

11th is a strong finish, but at around 18/1 I need more, as I do if taking a couple of points less about favourite Robert MacIntyre.

Instead, start the card with the consistent Adrian Otaegui, who may not have the latent power of the other pair but has a guile to his game that might be a sneaky factor around a course that looks like it needs careful handling.

Winner of two match-play scenarios, he proved he could win a standard stroke-play with a win in poor conditions in Scotland, before showing the highest level of skill last October.

Coming off the LIV Golf bench, the 30-year-old (it’s that age again, the supposed peak of a golfer) won around Valderrama in record score and by a record-equalling margin of six shots, putting up figures rarely seen around what is a tough track.

It would have been almost impossible to recreate those numbers week-in week-out, but he hasn’t let his iron play slip, ranking an average of 10th for eight of his last nine outings – I’ll ignore Dubai as it was such an anomaly.

Add that to a set of scrambling stats that have the Spaniard inside the top 14 for 11 recent starts and a top-five rating for accuracy off the tee and we have a player that offers far more than hit-it-and-find-it. If this is a high scoring event, Otaegui’s placing could be valuable.

Back the four-time winner up with two maidens.

Matt Jordan has always been on the radar, particularly in links conditions, and he’s the potential value from the bigger hitters.

A pair of top-fives in Himmerland reads well, even if he should have finished better after a third round 62, whilst efforts in Foshan, Qatar and Portugal hint to being suited by this test, the middle of those the scene of a final round collapse after making his way to the front in difficult conditions once again.

The 27-year-old relishes a grind, something he’ll find over the next few days, but he makes the plan due to an upturn in putting form, something that was his nemesis over the last couple of seasons.

The trio of events since the start of the year have seen the Englishman steadily improve on the greens, finding half-a-shot, three-quarters and now over three shots on the field through Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras. Laguna National might have elements of all the places Jordan thrives, and I’ll take that chance.

Over to another Matt to complete the plan, this time Frenchman Matthieu Pavon. 

Taking a look at the 30-year-old’s best form, he was third at the links-dominated Scottish Open in 2017, runner-up alongside Lucas Bjerregaard to Thomas Pieters in Portugal, and split Jon Rahm and Min Woo Lee in Spain.

Top that with a runner-up in Mauritius, and a fifth place at the same place in 2017, both amongst big-hitters, as well as a silver medal at Foshan, and the two-time Alps Tour winner builds up a profile that should relish a test like Laguna National’s toughest track.

Over three months Pavon ranks in seventh place for total driving and top-40 for greens-in-regulation, figures he improved on last week at Ras Al Khaimah, when second in approaches, fifth tee-to-green and top-20 in greens. Take that onto Singapore and it doesn’t take that much to believe he is slightly overpriced in what looks a winnable event.

Recommended Bets:

Phoenix Open

  • Patrick Cantlay – 18/1 WIN
  • Tom Kim – 22/1 WIN
  • Sahith Theegala – 45/1 Each-way

Singapore Classic

  • Adrian Otaegui  25/1 Each-way
  • Matt Jordan 45/1 Each-way
  • Matthieu Pavon 60/1 Each-way
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Opinion & Analysis

Junior golf development 101

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So here’s a best guess: At 7-years-old, in the United States, there are about 200 junior boy golfers “trying.” That is, they are taking lessons, going to tournaments, and doing some sort of practice. In my estimation, this number doubles every year until high school. This means that at 13 there are 12,800 players trying. It also means that each and every year, it gets almost twice as tough to win. This of course continued until about 400 of these players go on to play NCAA Division 1 golf and another 1,000 or so go on to play NCAA D2, D3, NAIA, or club golf.

So why is this important? Because between 7-13 years old kids are gonna change A LOT. In particular, kids who start early and have some success are going to face infinitely better competition in three years. Likewise, students who start at 12 are going to lack experience playing competitive golf. This includes traveling, charting courses, and maybe playing in different conditions.

The difficulty with golf is that to become a college athlete the data suggest that by the end of freshman year in high school you should be able to shot about 78. Below are the scoring differentials (basically, handicaps) of players who, according to best guess are on pace to play college golf:

So what is a kid or parent to do? I would focus on the player developing at least six shots. They are:

  • go-to shot off the tee
  • stock iron shot
  • low iron shot
  • low spinning chip
  • flopper
  • bump and run

I would challenge them with games:

  • round with just even irons or odd
  • draw back; every time they miss a putt on the course, they draw the putt away from the hole a putter length
  • play the red tees and try to shoot as low as possible

The secret sauce for kids is to have the desire and internal motivation to continue to learn and grow. Kids that love golf and have a future will not only have some scoring success but will have a deep passion and interest for the game. They will spend countless hours honing different shots and trajectories, all while avoiding the dangers of adolescence (which, of course, is the real goal of youth sports).

The reality is that success, particularly in junior golf, has a ton to do with things people don’t consider. This includes when puberty happens, who your children play with at the club (other competitive players?), how much they want to compete and access to their club.

In fact, in all cases, your kid would be better off at the goat ranch down the road, without a range, with three kids of the same skill level than alone on his fancy range pounding perfect range balls.

Let that sink in.

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The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work?

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Having been in the wedge business for over thirty years now, and having focused my entire life’s work on how to make wedges work better, one of my biggest frustrations is how under-informed most golfers are about wedges in general, and how misinformed most are about the elements of a wedge that really affect performance.

That under-informed and misinformed “double whammy” helps make the wedge category to be the least dynamic of the entire golf equipment industry. Consider this if you will. Golfers carry only one driver and only one putter, but an average of three wedges. BUT – and it’s a big “but” – every year, unit sales of both drivers and putters are more than double the unit sales of wedges.
So why is that?

Over those thirty-plus years, I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers to ask that very question, and I’ve complemented that statistical insight with hundreds of one-on-one interviews with golfers of all skill levels. My key takeaways are:

  • Most golfers have not had a track record of improved performance with new wedges that mirror their positive experience with a new driver or putter.
  • A large percentage of golfers consider their wedge play to be one of the weaker parts of their games.
  • And most golfers do not really understand that wedge play is the most challenging aspect of golf.
  • On that last point, I wrote a post almost two years ago addressing this very subject, “Why Wedge Mastery Is So Elusive” (read it here).

So now let’s dive into what really makes a wedge work. In essence, wedges are not that much different from all the other clubs in our bags. The three key elements that make any club do what it does are:

  • The distribution of mass around the clubhead
  • The shaft characteristics
  • The specifications for weight, shaft length and lie angle

Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.

For any golf club to perform to its optimum for a given golfer, these three key measurements must be correct. Shaft length and lie angle work together to help that golfer deliver the clubhead to the ball as accurately as possible time and again. If either spec is off even a little bit, quality contact will be sacrificed. The overall weight of the club is much more critical than the mystical “swing weight”, and I’ve always believed that in wedges, that overall weight should be slightly heavier than the set-match 9-iron, but not dramatically so.

We encounter so many golfers who have migrated to light steel or graphite shafts in their irons, but are still trying to play off-the-rack wedges with their heavy stiff steel shafts that complete prohibit the making of a consistent swing evolution from their short irons to their wedges.

That leads to the consistent observation that so many golfers completely ignore the shaft specifics in their wedges, even after undergoing a custom fitting of their irons to try to get the right shaft to optimize performance through the set. The fact is, to optimize performance your wedges need to be pretty consistent with your irons in shaft weight, material and flex.

Now it’s time to dive into the design of a wedge head, expanding on what I wrote in that post of two years ago (please go back to that link and read it again!)

The wedge “wizards” would have you believe that the only things that matter in wedge design are “grooves and grinds.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Grooves can only do so much, and their primary purpose is the same as the tread on your tires – to channel away moisture and matter to allow more of the clubface to contact the ball. In our robotic testing of Edison Forged wedges – on a dry ball – the complete absence of grooves only reduced spin by 15 percent! But, when you add moisture and/or matter, that changes dramatically.

Understand the USGA hasn’t changed the Rules of Golf that govern groove geometry in over 12 years, and every company serious about their wedge product pushes those rules to the limit. There is no story here!
For years, I have consistently taken umbrage to the constant drivel about “grinds.” The fact is that you will encounter every kind of lie and turf imaginable during the life of your wedges, and unless you are an elite tour-caliber player, it is unlikely you can discern the difference from one specialized grind to another.

Almost all wedge sole designs are pretty darn good, once you learn how to use the bounce to your advantage, but that’s a post for another time.

Now, the clubhead.

Very simply, what makes any golf club work – and wedges are no different – is the way mass is distributed around the clubhead. Period.

All modern drivers are about the same, with subtle nuanced differences from brand to brand. Likewise, there are only about four distinctly different kinds of irons: Single piece tour blades, modern distance blades with internal technologies, game improvement designs with accented perimeter weighting and whatever a “super game improvement iron” is. Fairways, hybrids, even putters are sold primarily by touting the design parameters of the clubhead.

So, why not wedges?]

This has gotten long, so next week I’ll dive into “The anatomy of a wedge head.”

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