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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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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Reviewing Callaway’s NEW Apex UW and Graphite Design’s Tour AD UB shaft

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Callaway’s new Apex UW wood blends a fairway wood and hybrid together for wild distance and accuracy. The UW is easy to hit and crazy long but also lets skilled players work the ball however they would like. Graphite Design’s new Tour AD UB shaft is a new stout mid-launch and mid/low-spin shaft. Smooth and tight, this shaft takes a little more of the left side out of shots.

 

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The Wedge Guy: Your game vs. The pros

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I know most of us like to watch golf on TV. Seeing these marvelous (mostly) young athletes do these amazing things with a golf ball makes for great theater. But the reality is that they play a very different game than we do, and they play it differently as well.

I’ve long contended that most rank-and-file recreational golfers cannot really learn a whole lot by watching men’s professional golf on TV. It would be like watching NASCAR or Formula One racing and looking for tips on how to be a better driver.

The game is different. The athletes are different. And the means to an end are entirely different. Let me offer you some things to ponder in support of this hypothesis.

First, these tour professionals ARE highly skilled and trained athletes. They spend time in the gym every day working on flexibility, strength, and agility. Then they work on putting and short game for a few hours, before going to the range and very methodically and deliberately hit hundreds of balls.

Now, consider that the “typical” recreational golfer is over 45 years old, likely carrying a few extra pounds, and has a job, family or other life requirements that severely limit practice time. Regular stretching and time at the gym are not common. The most ardent will get in maybe one short range session a week, and a few balls to warm up before a round of golf.

The tour professionals also have a complete entourage to help them optimize their skills and talents. It starts with an experienced caddie who is by their side for every shot. Then there are the swing coaches, conditioning coaches, mental coaches, and agents to handle any “side-shows” that could distract them. You, on the other hand, have to be all of those to your game.

Also, realize they play on near-perfect course conditions week to week. Smooth greens, flawless fairways cut short to promote better ball-striking — even bunkers that are maintained to PGA Tour standards and raked to perfection by the caddies after each shot.

Watch how perfectly putts roll; almost never wavering because of a spike mark or imperfection, and the holes are almost always positioned on a relatively flat part of the green. You rarely see a putt gaining speed as it goes by the hole, and grain is a non-factor.

So, given all that, is it fair for to you compare your weekly round (or rounds) to what you see on television?

The answer, of course, is NO. But there ARE a lot of things you can learn by watching professional golf on TV, and that applies to all the major tours.

THINK. As you size up any shot, from your drive to the last putt, engage your mind and experience. What side of the fairway is best for my approach? Where is the safe side of the flag as I play that approach? What is the best realistic outcome of this chip or pitch? What do I recall about the slope of this green and its speed? Use your brain to give yourself the best chance on every shot.

FOCUS. These athletes take a few minutes to drown out the “noise” and put their full attention to every shot. But we all can work to learn how to block out the “noise” and prepare ourselves for your best effort on every shot. It only takes a few additional seconds to get “in the zone” so your best has a chance to happen.

PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS. You have complete control over your set-up, ball position and alignment, so grind a bit to make sure those basics are right before you begin your swing. It’s amazing to me how little attention rank-and-file golfers pay to these basics. And I’m firmly convinced that the vast majority of bad shots are “pre-ordained” because these basics are not quite right.

SHAKE IT OFF. The game is one shot at a time – the next one. That has been preached over and over, and something most pros do exceedingly well. Very often you see them make a birdie right after a bogey or worse, because the professional bears down on these three basics more after he had just slacked on them and made a bogey or worse.

MEDIOCRE SHOTS ARE THE NORM. And those will be interspersed with real bad ones and real good ones. Those guys are just like us, in that “mediocre” is the norm (relatively speaking, that is). So go with that. Shake off the bad ones and bask in the glory of the good ones – they are the shots that keep us coming back.

Let me dive into that last point a bit deeper, because some of you might find it strange that I claim that “mediocre shots are the norm,” even for tour professionals. First, let’s agree that a “mediocre” shot for a 20-handicap player looks quite different that what a tour pro would consider “mediocre.” Same goes for a “poor shot.” But a great shot looks pretty much the same to all of us – a well-struck drive that splits the fairway, an approach that leaves a reasonable birdie putt, a chip or pitch for an up-and-down, and any putt that goes in the hole.

Finally, I will encourage all of you – once again – to make sure you are playing from a set of tees that tests your skills in proportion to how their courses test theirs. This past weekend, for example, the winner shot 25 under par “on the card” . . . but consider that Summit had four reachable par-fives (most with iron shots) and a drivable par-four, so I contend it was really a “par 68” golf course at best. Based on that “adjusted par”, then only 20 players beat that benchmark by more than 5 shots for the week. So, obviously, the rest pretty much played “mediocre” golf (for them).

So, did your last round have at least one or two par-fives you can reach with two shots? And did you hit at least 10-12 other approach shots with a short iron or wedge in your hands? More likely, you played a “monster” course (for you) that had zero two-shot par fives and several par-fours that you could not reach with two of your best wood shots. And your typical approach shot was hit with a mid-iron or hybrid.

The game is supposed to be fun – and playing the right tees can make sure it has a chance to be just that. Paying attention to these basics for every shot can help you get the most out of whatever skills you brought to the links on any given day.

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The ghost of Allan Robertson: A few thoughts on the distance debate

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It’s that time of year in certain parts of the world. Ghosts, ghouls, and ghoblins roam the lawns. Departed ancestors return to these fields to visit with living descendants. It’s also a time (is it ever not?) when curmudgeons and ancients decry the advances of technology in the world of golf equipment.

Pretty big narrative leap, I’ll admit, but I have your attention, aye? An October 16th tweet from noted teacher Jim McClean suggested that it would be fun to see PGA Tour players tee it up for one week with wooden heads and a balata ball.

Others beg for a rolling-back of technological potency, raising property acreage as a critical determinant. Fact is, 90 percent of golfers have no experience with hitting the ball too far, nor with outgrowing a golf course. And yet, the cries persist.

Recently, I was awakened from a satisfying slumber by the ghost of Allan Robertson. The long-dead Scot was in a lather, equal parts pissed at Old Tom Morris for playing a guttie, and at three social-media channels, all of which had put him on temporary suspension for engaging violently with unsupportive followers. He also mentioned the inaccuracies of his Wikipedia page, which credits him for a 100-year old business, despite having only spent the better part of 44 years on this terrestrial sphere. Who knew that the afterlife offered such drip internet access?

I’m not certain if Old Tom cared (or was even alive) that his beloved gutta percha ball was replaced by the Haskell. I believe him to have been preoccupied with the warming of the North Sea (where he took his morning constitutional swims) and the impending arrival of metal shafts and laminated-wood heads. Should that also long-dead Scot pay me a nighttime visit, I’ll be certain to ask him. I do know that Ben Hogan gave no sheets about technology’s advances; he was in the business of making clubs by then, and took advantage of those advances. Sam Snead was still kicking the tops of doors, and Byron Nelson was pondering the technological onslaught of farriers, in the shoeing of horses on his ranch.

And how about the women? Well, the ladies of golfing greatness have better things to do than piss and moan about technology. They concern themselves with what really matters in golf and in life. Sorry, fellas, it’s an us-problem. Records are broken thanks to all means of advancement. Want to have some fun? Watch this video or this video or this video. If you need much more, have a reassessment of what matters.

Solutions

Either forget the classic courses or hide the holes. Classic golf courses cannot stand up in length alone to today’s professional golfers. Bringing in the rough takes driver out of their hands, and isn’t a course supposed to provide a viable challenge to every club in the bag? Instead, identify four nearly-impossible locations on every putting surface, and cut the hole in one of them, each day. Let the fellows take swings at every par-4 green with driver, at every par-five green with driver and plus-one. Two things will happen: the frustration from waiting waiting waiting will eliminate the mentally-weak contestants, and the nigh-impossible putting will eliminate even more of them. What will happen with scoring? I don’t know. Neither did Old Tom Morris, Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., Lady Heathcoat Amory, or Mildred Didrickson, when new technology arrived on the scene. They shrugged their shoulders, stayed away from Twitter and the Tok, and went about their business.

Add the tournament courses. Build courses that can reach 8,500 yards in length, and hold events on those layouts. Two examples from other sports: the NFL made extra points longer. Has it impacted game results? Maybe. The NBA kept the rim at ten feet. Has it impacted game results? Maybe. We don’t play MLB or MLS on ancient diamonds and pitches. We play their matches and games on technologically-advanced surfaces. Build/Retrofit a series of nondescript courses as tournament venues. Take the par-5 holes to 700 yards, then advance the par-4 fairways to 550 yards. Drive and pitch holes check-in at 400 yards, at least until Bryson DeChambeau and Kyle Berkshire figure a few more things out.

Note to the young guys and the old guys from this 55-year old guy: live your era, then let it go. I know things.

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