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Barney Adams introduces himself as a GolfWRX Contributor

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Hello GolfWRX readers. Let me introduce myself, as I’m about to write a series of columns for the site. The initial effort will be a six-part series on the drop in participation and what can be done. After that columns will reflect comments directed by you, the readers.

My name is Barney Adams and as I understand it many of you are younger, avid golfers. So why would you be interested in reading anything from a relic like me who doesn’t use any of today’s social media?

Well, to start, I used to be you. Only now I have a lot more experience, so you can ask me whatever you want about the game or equipment and you’ll get a straight answer. Back in the persimmon and balata days I was a decent player; a 2-to-3 handicap for many years. I was never considered professional material (not because of a lack of time, but because of a lack of talent), however, I did get on the occasional streak, have broken 70 dozens of times and have a tournament registered low of 64 (with a double bogey, I might add, which I remember vividly some 40 years later).

Later when I got into the club business, I worked as a club fitter down range from Hank Haney and his teaching staff. This was when I was trying to develop my own line of clubs and the hands-on experience was invaluable. In those days prudent observation would have me going broke any day, so as a back-up plan I studied teaching methods. Fortunately, I got lucky with a club I designed called the Tight Lies and it provided a platform for Adams Golf to become a real company. Along the way I have repaired clubs, picked up eight patents on designs and came up with some good ideas: some that I’d rather forget. I still have a shirt with embedded epoxy as a keepsake from my assembly days.

I provide all this personal data not to try and impress anyone or reflect upon days gone by, but because I hope it opens the door so you will ask questions that I’ll attempt to answer publicly. I’m not affiliated with any golf company, and you can be assured you’ll get straight answers. That’s the type of dialogue that’s important to me.

My first six columns will be a series on declining amateur participation in golf. For those of us who love the game and want to see it flourish, this is a serious issue. I first started writing about this three years ago and it wasn’t a subject some in the industry wanted openly discussed. There is an old saying that I first heard when I was working in the Silicon Valley decades ago:

“You can always tell the pioneers. They are the ones with arrows in their backs.”

Now that I’m 75, I’m far more concerned about the status of my aching back than some golf twit who doesn’t think it’s proper to discuss the players leaving the game. The erosion has continued and today it’s become a popular issue for discussion. So what I’ve done is trace the pattern, offer insight as to why its happening and propose a definitive solution.

You may notice the occasional attempt at humor and that I’m an equal opportunity offender.

So here my email: [email protected]. You might want to table any questions until the series has run its course, but if you’d rather send them now I’ll hold onto them and respond as soon as I can.

I’m very interested to see where this goes, and am looking forward to your feedback and questions. Thank you in advance for reading and your support of this game I love so much.

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at [email protected] Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. tbowles411

    Jun 23, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Well, this is just cool. Think I can stop in on my next trip to Dallas in a month? 🙂

  2. Ken

    Jun 17, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Welcome to the Golfwrx site!!! I have always respected your insight and look forward to all of your future columns.

    I’ve been a long-time Adams user. Started as most with the Tight Lies FW’s, but I’ve always loved Adams irons. Over the years I’ve played the GT Performance, GT Tour, GT Ultimate, and now the Adams CMB. Really looking forward to your input.

  3. Clarkson Golf Alumni

    Jun 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    I played golf at your alma mater, Clarkson University. The one thing I’ve always wanted to ask is why Adams Golf was not involved at all with our golf program. We used Ogio bags and later Ping. No players on the team used any Adams clubs. It wasn’t that we didn’t like your equipment, it was the fact that Adams was one of the manufacturers that we didn’t get a discount from. My teammates and I presumed you would have wanted us to have Adams/Clarkson golf shirts and Adams/Clarkson bags rather than other manufacturers. Like all our golf equipment, we didn’t expect it for free, but the fact we didn’t even receive a discount was puzzling. I frequent the golfwrx forums and now that you are posting, I had to ask.

    Thanks.

    • Barney adama

      Jun 17, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Years ago there was a problem with my old Fraternity. I called the office of the then President to see if I could get any details. A spokesman told me to go away. I asked again saying I was just curious and was told to go away that the school wasn’t interested in anything I had to say. I then asked them to mark my file ” deceased ” that was President Brown. Now the school has Tony Collins a great guy. Of course now I can’t do anything because I have no affiliation.

  4. RG

    Jun 16, 2014 at 4:00 am

    Mr. Adams,
    Thank you! Your clubs have given me joy and confidence in abundance through the years. I can’t wait for your articles and insights. Swing away!!

  5. LB

    Jun 14, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    This is fantastic, can’t wait to read what you have to say. And congrats on a stellar career. Your company was churning out remarkably performing clubs in every category which is a credit to your leadership.

    Tee it forward I agree is a misnomer. If you are left with long irons into every approach shot you need to move up, plain and simple. My biggest issue with slow play is those that don’t recognize it or don’t care, when every group is backed up and they make no effort to get going.

    Outside of that, the game is what it always has been. There’s simply less time to get away in 2014.

  6. Greg Hunter

    Jun 14, 2014 at 12:54 am

    That’s awesome to have someone with the background and street knowledge. It will be cool to ask questions!

  7. makaveli

    Jun 13, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Welcome to the best golf site ever Barney.

  8. paul

    Jun 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Welcome Mr. Adams. I loved my first set of golf clubs, a set of Adams I picked up on a garage sale. In regards to growing the game, I think it is not going to happen for a while. The bubble burst, now things are going back to normal. Where I live in Canada golf is still thriving. The reason is because our local economy is strong, and even trades people make enough money to go play. We also have time because courses around here were built a long time ago and only one or two are crazy long. The big problem is our culture doesn’t share the values that are built into the core of golf, and that’s why more people don’t play.

  9. John Wunder

    Jun 13, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Simply Amazing. This site never ceases to surprise me!

    Welcome Mr. Adams!

  10. Dave Davis

    Jun 13, 2014 at 7:40 am

    As a fitness contributing writer I Welcome you Barney, looking forward to your additions. I know i will have questions as an aspiring golfer trying to improve my game.

  11. 4pillars

    Jun 13, 2014 at 6:05 am

    Barney

    As a very successful designer of Hybrids how do you feel they should be hit off the deck

    hit down like an iron, or a sweeping action like a wood.

    I see advice from different coaches on this and wondered how you designed them to be hit.

    Thanks

  12. Jim Gilbreath

    Jun 13, 2014 at 12:29 am

    I am very pleased that Barney Adams will be a regular contributor, especially with the topic of the first six. I have read a lot of his writing in the past 2 years. I am a big fan of Tee It Forward, and have promoted that as much as possible at my home club, and with some success. We are also participating in the PGA of America’s Family Tee program, but it’s hard to get people to move up that far.

  13. Tommy

    Jun 12, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    Welcome to the WRX community Mr. Adams. When I was 11 years old I had a go-to club, an Adams Tight Lies 5 wood, it was my favorite club and used it for everything. I cannot wait to hear your knowledge about the future of golf.

  14. EF

    Jun 12, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    I’m going to try to say this nicely because you seem like a nice guy. But if your first article has anything to do with teeing it forward, 15″ cups, only playing 9 holes at a time, slowing the greens down to 3 on the stimp meter or generally not following any of the rules of golf, I won’t be reading any further in the series. Those topics have been absolutely brutalized to death at this point. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on on those issues, they are at minimum completely belabored at this point. But I’m just getting a feeling that article 1 will be something about teeing it forward. And if that’s the case, there’s already about a hundred such articles already on this site.

    You know a really good idea for an article on declining participation? How about peeling back the layers from the items I noted above and taking a real look at it. Want an even better idea? How about an article on whether it really matters to the future of the game whether it grows.

    • John

      Jun 13, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      How can they be “brutalized to death” when it still takes five hours to play 18?
      I’d hold your fire a little bit until the man has an opportunity to actually write something. There may be more layer peeling than you think.

    • Barney adama

      Jun 14, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      Hit like a 5 iron

    • Barney adama

      Jun 14, 2014 at 10:14 pm

      A) I’m not really a nice guy I’m much too blunt. b) teeing it forward is a misnomer which I will explain , I don’t favor anything that breaks the rules. As to taking a hard look and whether it matters ; read on.

  15. Reid

    Jun 12, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    It’s so awesome to see you here Mr Adams. I’ve been a fan of yours since day one with the Tight Lies. I think your innovation to the game is something that many of the newer/younger golfers don’t realize when they pick up a hybrid and fairway wood. Although the brand may not be Adams, the innovations you developed so long ago are shared so many times over throughout the equipment lines. Welcome and Aloha!

  16. Ken

    Jun 12, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Welcome, sir. This is the kind of thing that truly adds value to WRX. I find this preferable to some guy asking whether I play better in black or khaki. Looking forward to your columns.

    Ken
    Adams in the bag

  17. Sean

    Jun 12, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Welcome! I’m a big proponent of teeing it forward Barney, and have talked about it extensively, unfortunately not many agree. I think if more people did tee it forward they would enjoy the game more. Perhaps one of the reasons people do leave the game is frustration? If so, teeing it forward may be one way to keep them around. 🙂

  18. Tom Stickney

    Jun 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Awesome guy; met him in palm desert several times…always friendly! Welcome.

  19. Clem

    Jun 12, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Barney I’m looking forward to your comments and insights into the game of golf. As well as what can be done to increase the participation of young and older players to this great game.

  20. John Muir

    Jun 12, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Excited to hear this news, Barney. You were a subscriber to my golf equipment newsletter some time ago and I always appreciated your input/notes to me.

    John Muir

  21. Jason Hat

    Jun 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Looking forward to reading your articles. Thanks for your time here.

  22. Chuck

    Jun 12, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Barney thank you for taking the time to write and for sharing your invaluable knowledge.

    I hope you’ll answer this question at some point in the series: Why not rollback the USGA’s testing specs on golf balls?

    It doesn’t seem to me to be much of a threat to the golf CLUB business. We’re all great lovers of golf clubs and technology on this site. Some of us are great lovers of classic golf course architecture. I know of virtually nobody, apart from Wally Uihlein and the people he pays, who are particular fans of golf BALLS.

    Is it not conceivable, that if golf ball specs were significantly altered, that the change might well result in a boost to equipment sales, as players adjusted their club choices to better match new balls?

    As for general distance gains for recreational players, the data seems inconclusive. Some experts claim that technology (that has unquestionably revolutionized elite-level golf) has done little to change recreational golf. Other experts claim that technology (THEIR technology, most often) is significant and essential to growing the game. Do you take a side? If so, what’s your evidence?

    • John

      Jun 13, 2014 at 1:56 am

      Great question, and great idea. I am not looking forward to 8,000 yard courses, and neither is the water table. Too much land, resources etc. When Bubba hit a gap wedge into 13 at Augusta, I just thought something has to be done. I also agree that the club manufacturers wouldn’t lose anything with a ball rollback, they might even gain as the original poster pointed out as people adjusted their set ups for playing golf instead of bombing golf.
      The ball is ruining the game.

    • Barney adama

      Jun 15, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Will address golf balls in a future column.

  23. Steve Barry

    Jun 12, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Welcome to the site Barney, I’m sure you’ll have a ton of great info to add with coming from such experience. Looking forward to your additions!

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Here is the name of our teaching method…

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You have to listen to this to find out!

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: A shot to a spot

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Over the past few years, golf has entered the statistical era, with the help of ShotLink, launch monitors, and “strokes gained.” As more and more data is analyzed, much is being written about which parts of the game are most important to scoring and winning out on tour.

It started out with “strokes gained-putting” as maybe the best indicator, but of late, we are reading more and more about ‘strokes gained-shotmaking’, which is the measure of a golfer’s ability to keep it in play and hit greens in regulation.
However, the statistics on strokes gained on tour are very different from the game most recreational golfers play. Realize that “out there”, all these guys are extraordinarily skilled in every aspect of the game, so what separates the winner from the “also-rans” in any given week drills down to a very few specific things. That is a far cry from the game you play week in and week out.

So, what about your game?

From my observation, for almost any recreational golfer, hitting 2-3 more greens per round does two things for you. 1) It gives you that many more birdie tries, and you’ll just have to make some of them. And 2) it takes that much heat off your scrambling. For the average golfer, a missed green leads to a bogey or worse more often than not. Very few recreational golfers can come close to an up-and-down percentage of anywhere near 50%, and most are around 20% at best. Think about that.

So, here’s one way to look at how you might be able to hit more greens in regulation. On the PGA Tour, greens-in-regulation percentage drops by almost half on shots from the rough over shots from the fairway. If that doesn’t hammer home the importance of hitting fairways, I don’t know what will.

Growing up in the era of persimmon drivers – which I’m sure many of you completely missed – the driver was for positioning the ball in the right part of the fairway for an approach shot, not for just blasting as far “that way” as possible. The top players of the era hit their drives to particular spots that allowed for the best approach to the green, and they didn’t let it “all out” all that often.

In his 1949 book “Power Golf” Ben Hogan, listed his ‘regular’ distance with a driver as 265, but his ‘maximum’ as 300. Who keeps 35 yards in reserve for only those times when you really need it?

So, here’s a little experiment for you the next time you can get out for a “practice nine” in the afternoon or early morning.

Each time you hit a drive in the rough, walk it out to the fairway and then back 10 to 15 yards. My bet is that you’ll find that the hole plays a bit easier, even though you have a longer club in your hands for your approach shot.

Then think about how much better you might score if you thought of each drive as a comfortably controlled shot to a spot, rather than just “hit it that way as far as I can.”

Just something to change the game a bit and keep it interesting.

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Courses

The Jamaica Golf Experience

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I love Jamaica. I have been to the island for several trips with my family and the feeling I get every time I think about a next visit is always exciting. On past trips, I have made Jamaican friends that I will remember for the rest of my life. The people there are so happy and good. One Love. The “no problem ‘mon'” culture just becomes a part of you when you’re there, creating a special atmosphere that lets you escape it all. I keep Red Stripe beer in my fridge at home in Fort Worth, Texas, all year — a reminder of the island I love with every sip. So when I received an invitation to play in The Jamaica Pro-Am, I was quick to accept.

The Jamaica Pro-Am (aka Annie’s Revenge — more on that later) is an annual tournament held each year in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Four-man teams constructed of three amateurs and one PGA Professional, the tournament is typically played on three of Jamaica’s finest golf courses — Half Moon, Cinnamon Hill, and White Witch. I attended this year’s tournament as a playing observer, confined to the “media team” and partaking in the festivities. Ya’mon.

The tournament field gets to stay at the beautiful Iberostar Grand Rose Hotel, conveniently located near all three courses and more importantly, right on the beach. The hotel is indeed grand and all-inclusive, providing guests with a wristband that gets you whatever you’d like to eat or drink from any of the onsite bars and restaurants — no questions asked. Less than 30 minutes from the airport, if Montego Bay is your desired city for your next Jamaican vacation, I’d imagine this hotel is tough to beat.

The first night of the tournament is the welcome dinner and reception on the beach. A full Jamaican buffet complete with jerk chicken and pork, beef patties, fried plantains, rice and peas, and cabbage. A true taste of the Caribbean, accompanied of course with whatever rum drink your heart desires. Appleton is the island favorite, and it mixes well with pretty much everything when you’re toes are in the sand. There was a live reggae band playing the Bob Marley songs everyone knows.

While the festivities were for the tournament participants, there was still plenty of activity and vibe for the other hotel guests. This is Jamaica. There was music and fun all around the hotel every moment of this trip. No worries, everything is irie. I have a real love for the island. The people are kind, the food is fantastic, and the waters are the finest in the world.

Day One: Half Moon Golf Club 

Quite understandably, Jamaica has been hit hard by COVID-19, with tourism taking a substantial dip in the past year and a half. The golf has seen a dip in numbers as a result, but the courses are in gorgeous shape with foot and cart traffic just now picking back up.

Half Moon was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and it opened in 1962. The course rests between the Blue Mountains and the sea, playing a mostly flat 7,120 yards from the back tees. Half Moon does offer several tee box options and could be played as short as 5,032 yards, making it a pleasant resort course, should that be your speed.

The course is beautiful and very well maintained. The greens were a bit shaggy, but luscious, playing at a slower pace than I am used to. I am not sure if that is by design or a side effect of the pandemic, as I do know the Jamaican golf courses have been short-staffed and without the usual supplies this past season. That appears to be a thing of the past, however, as the course looks to have turned a corner.

Most fairways are lined by palm trees, adding something to avoid off the tee, but there is enough space between each trunk to give you a full swing if you do miss left or right. The coconuts that drop, luckily, are loose impediments.

Half Moon is a resort course through and through. There are elements of character and excitement, but it mostly just provides a beautiful and benign setting for fun island golf. The fairways are dressed with multiple well-placed bunkers which provide the only designed protection against low scores. The driver could be used on virtually every non-par 3, but the course is better suited to be thought around and played to avoid the sand.

Built on a retired sugar cane estate, the other real hazard (water doesn’t come into play much at all) is the coastal winds that pick up mid-morning each day. With little besides the coconut trees to protect your ball from gusts, the wind becomes a real challenge on this bow-tie routed design. Holes into the wind were a beast, and when we finally turned with the wind at our back, it was time for a Red Stripe and a sigh of relief.

Those winds are a big reason why this tournament is called “Annie’s Revenge.” Named after Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rose Hall, the namesake is one of Jamaica’s most famous local legends. Rose Hall’s Great House, just down the road towards Cinnamon Hill Golf Course, was home to Palmer, a Haitian-born white woman who grew up studying voodoo and witchcraft. Thus the nickname, the White Witch. She moved to Jamaica when she married John Palmer, the owner of Rose Hall, and unfortunately, her practice of dark magic proved too powerful for those around her. Legend tells she murdered her husband (and two more after that) along with many of her slaves. She herself was eventually killed, but to this day, the locals claim to have witnessed Palmer’s ghost riding her horse around the Jamaican plantations.

The strong coastal winds are Annie’s Revenge on any golfer trying to enjoy the land she once owned. They got the best of me a time or two.

Days Two and Three: Cinnamon Hill 

Both Cinnamon Hill and White Witch Golf Course are members of the Rose Hall family. Typically, in the “Annie’s Revenge” tournament format, the courses are played once each in the three-day event. However, White Witch is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its owners made the financial decision to proceed through these tough times with only one course due to the limited play and the costs of upkeep. While disappointed to not play White Witch, playing Cinnamon Hill twice instead more than satisfied my appetite for Jamaican golf. This is my favorite course on the island.

Cinnamon Hill was designed by Rick Baril and opened in 1969. It was later renovated and redesigned by Robert von Hagge. The greens here were much quicker than those at Half Moon, which I certainly appreciated. The two nines of Cinnamon Hill play in complementing contrast to one another, with the front providing low coastal play while the back nine rises into the tropical Blue Mountains.

Tipping out at 6,828 yards, the front nine marches and builds towards the ocean, with two phenomenal holes hugging the coastline. This is unusual for Jamaica, as most of the shore is saved for sandy beaches and rum-flavored sips under thatch umbrellas.

I played Cinnamon Hill with my cart partner, Jason Deegan of GolfPass.com. Our hosts for our rounds at Rose Hall were Keith Stein, the Director of Golf Course Operations for both Cinnamon Hill and White Witch, and Donnie Dawson, the Deputy Director of Tourism for the Jamaica Tourist Board.

Keith is a very good golfer with a smooth swing. He is originally from Toronto but has lived in Jamaica for 30 years. Donnie is a world-class storyteller who grew up in Kingston and has been playing these courses his entire life. It was a real treat to be able to play the course with both fine gentlemen, see how they play each hole, and hear their tales. The best story came on hole four, a 170-yard par 3 over marshy ponds.

Donnie Dawson and one of his stories

As we approached the fourth tee box, Donnie pointed out a concrete wall just behind the markers and informed us that a cemetery lay just beyond. Peering over, we could see the gravestones in this centuries-old burial plot for the family of English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The grass is grown tall because the golf course staff, local Jamaicans, refuse to go inside.

Donnie told us 20 or so years ago, he was playing this course with a caddie named “Teeth,” a moniker he was given based on the looper’s colored and decorated top front teeth. As they approached the fourth tee box, a man was sitting on the concrete wall bordering the cemetery. He tossed Donnie a ball and said “hit this one, mon.” Donnie complied and the three men watched the shot bounce twice and roll directly into the cup. A hole-in-one with accompanied celebration. When they reached the green, Donnie and Teeth looked into the cup to retrieve the ball, and, to their surprise, it had vanished. Disappeared from the hole. They looked to the tee box and the kind stranger on the wall was gone as well. Perhaps a ghost from the ancient graves. Donnie said Teeth, a believer in local legend, took off running and didn’t stop for three miles.

Hole Four Green, site of the vanishing ball

Holes five and six provide tremendous views right along the quietly crashing waves. The par-3 sixth hole, arguably the prettiest hole on the island, is a 178-yard carry over the Caribbean with bailout room to the left. Just a gorgeous hole that I would have been happy to play all day. Cinnamon Hill does not waste their par 3s.

Hole five fairway

Keith Stein, yours truly and Jason Deegan

Par three sixth hole

The course is also home to an ancient aqueduct that winds through both the front and back nine. The now-ruins provide an interesting backdrop to island golf, whereas they used to be a working part of the sugar cane plantation and used to grind and transport one of Jamaica’s top export products for commerce.

The back nine brings you up the mountains, with the 17th tee box sitting nearly 400 feet above sea level. What that provides, obviously, is wonderful views of the ocean through and over jungle leaves, along with challenging golf shots. On the fairway of the 14th hole sits one of the few homes on course, but one has some historical value: The Cinnamon Hill Great House was the second home of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash for 30 years.

Cinnamon Hill Great House

The 15th hole is another tremendous par 3 measuring 220 yards from the back but playing much shorter straight down the hill to a large green nestled beneath a waterfall. The waterfall, in case it looks familiar, was the backdrop of a famous scene in “Live and Let Die” — one of the best James Bond films ever made. Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond series, lived and wrote many of the books here on the island at Golden Eye.

Cinnamon Hill takes the driver out of your hand on many holes, forcing you to find the right club on every tee shot. You need to be prepared to hit mid-irons off some par fours as angles are often more important than distance. And with the undulating back nine, distances are sometimes deceiving. Cheers to my caddie for keeping the right club in my hand all trip.

Back to the hotel for the final ceremony and last sleep on the island. The Jamaica Pro-Am is open to anyone willing to pay the entry fee, but if you come to Jamaica for just a family vacation, don’t forget about the golf. Most travelers to Jamaica come for the beaches and the island lifestyle, and they aren’t wrong to do so. But next time you visit, I suggest you bring your clubs, mon.

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