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Why do we care about amateur golf? (Part 2)

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In the first part of this series, we traced the rise and fall of tennis and postulated the conclusion that it was a natural condition seeking its reasonable level. There are those who say all the hand wringing about golf’s decline in popularity is nothing more than a reaction to a normal occurrence. In other words, let it find its level and move on.

Furthermore, golf is a game; something people do for enjoyment. Despite the sanctimonious tones of some TV broadcasters, it’s still a game. The job of broadcasters is to create an environment where people watch, get emotionally involved, tell their friends and increase viewership. This positively effects ratings, which is used to extract more money from advertisers. Nothing wrong with that; it’s the business side of things.

An abandoned golf course, however, does not equate to an abandoned tennis court. Besides the pure acreage difference, an accompanying issue is that a golf course is an employer. Jobs range from managers with advanced degrees to on-course maintenance employees, which can mean dozens of jobs per course, and I count people losing jobs as part of the overall issue.

I’ll give a brief nod to the values learned on the course. It’s been written about extensively, and I’ll suffice that the values are real and recognized. It’s better for me to leave that detailed analysis to the experts.

I will say that I’ve had conversations with many professional athletes from other sports over the years and if young potential golfers could listen in they would come to the game in droves. These are elite athletes who have tested themselves against the very best in their sport and love golf because it pits them against their toughest opponent: themselves.

Most sports are about reacting in a competitive environment. Golf gives you all of that challenge and, to make things even more intense, time to think about it. The great NBA point guard of yesteryear Earl “The Pearl” Monroe once said, “I don’t know how anyone can guard me. I don’t know where I’m going to go.” In golf, you have time to ponder a variety of choices and must have the mental will to execute your choice to the best of your effort.

Years ago, I was at a charity golf event watching Julius Erving, the 4-time NBA MVP known as “Dr. J,” play the last hole with his team one shot ahead. He chipped a shot over a water hazard close to the flag and made the short putt. Afterwards, I asked him why he didn’t chip wide of the water to take it out of play. “Gotta come in through the front door,” he answered, revealing the inner workings of the mind of a champion athlete. He didn’t want to be in his comfort zone; he wanted to test himself.

Then there is “THE” reason why golf should flourish, or more accurately, 3.9 BILLION reasons. You see, through a variety of efforts, golf raises $3.9 billion annually for charity, more than all other sports combined!

I got this number from a PGA Tour official and my first thought was that the number had to be overstated. WAY overstated. I contacted Golf Digest and was told that their staff reacted just as I did, but upon deeper investigation ascertained that it was a realistic number. I guess you must consider that a vast majority of U.S. towns — cities of every size — have one or more charity golf events; everything from sending the band to state to funding cancer research. Add in the professional tours, the USGA and you can see how it gets to be such a huge number.

My response to Golf Digest was subtle, at least for me.

“Why in hell isn’t this performance an annual issue with $3.9 billion the entire cover.”

I was told that there just wasn’t enough interest. I’m sorry, but I don’t agree. This should be tracked and reported annually. Every person who plays (or contributes) should take immense pride in the accomplishment.

We are not going to let the drop in participation be registered as normal ebb and flow. Starting in part three of this series, we will define the drop in specific numbers and begin the process of goal setting.

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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.

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Joe S

    Jul 1, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Mr Adams,

    I’m hoping you might give some suggestions or lead the charge for affordable lessons. Tennis lessons are often half or more off for an hour vs golf instruction. I thought the golf pros of yesteryear were known as teachers at each club…now they are clothing salesmen and tee time checker-inners instead. Is it the fault of the employer or the pro? I’m not sure(?), but go to any club USA’s monthly newsletter and you always find all kinds of affordable clinics for all ages for tennis but golf has next to nothing…except $100 per hour lessons. People will play when they learn the game with quality instruction…this in my opinion could and should be where the ‘boom’ may come. Clubs can’t compete with the jumbo net retailers on price or selection but they could teach people in droves and more easily grow their bottom line.

    • Barney adama

      Jul 1, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      As for the check-er -iners and shirt salesmen unfortunately that is an employer issue. Here’s what I know and it would take some searching. Most assistants are capable teachers and earn very little. I’d think there is a cost-effective opportunity there. Many ranges have lower priced instructors for new players. There are PGA sponsored programs to get folks started and they are very cost effective. It’s also a value proposition. You can take a mediocre lesson a month for a year for $50 ea or 4 great lessons at $100 and be further ahead for less money. Just don’t listen to your 18 hcp buddy there’s a reason ( or 10) he’s an 18.

  2. Bruce

    Jul 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    The USGA sure fails at its task of promoting golf. They focus on regulations for the Tour Pros and then slap them back on those of us that pay the bills. Issues like club driver construction, ball changes, long putters, and wedge spin may impact the pros but only penalize the rank and file digging in the dirt. No wonder the game is in decline: let people play and have fun. If you want to play for a million dollars, then abide by the rules of the USGA.

    • W Mass

      Jul 2, 2014 at 7:04 am

      Also may I add to your comment the cost of equipment which the professional ranks because of their sponsor deals hikes the price of equipment.Also the cost to play certain courses around the globe e.g St Andrews or any other course on the Open circuit with their rip off fees for a round keeping these clubs as elitist.Any wonder why everyday Joe doesnt want to play the game.

  3. Daniel V

    Jul 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Will you be discussing ” Golfing Mentality” later on in your series? I see that you touched on in it a bit by differentiating between Recreational and Pro (College/Web.com/PGA). Golf is challenging. When you start playing it, you are very very bad. It has a huge learning curve for most individuals, and while you don’t need to have great height, speed, or strength, to be a scratch golfer requires some solid coordination an physical abilities. I see a tie-in with equipment manufacturers promising extra distance, and accuracy as a panacea, rather than having a player invest hours on the range, and money through lessons. I just wonder how many people try golf for a few weeks, and then quit, because they aren’t as good as the players on T.V.?

    I know that this series is just beginning, and I am anxious to read the rest of it. I am hoping that you touch on this topic in the future.

    • barney adams

      Jul 1, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Forget as good as TV how about airborne. I have more coming on that subject; good point

  4. Super Tuna

    Jun 27, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Mr Adams:
    I’m presuming you’ve seen the Outside the Lines investigation and the results? It could be suspected that along with lack of interest no one really wants to dig into how that number actually breaks out.

    But that is a story for another day.

    • barney adams

      Jun 27, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      please show me where to look just in case, you can email me.

    • barney adams

      Jun 27, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      DUH,me. I had read it and forgot ! yes, now that I did again i am quite familiar and while i didn’t get into numbers my point was golf raises money for under the radar charity ; the wheel chairs for the Senior Citizens home, sending the band to state etc…. of that 3.9 B figure this is the vast majority and is a great tribute to the game.

  5. DC

    Jun 27, 2014 at 7:28 am

    I hope at some point this discussion focuses on – or we can have an honest to god debate with the big OEMs about – the *cost* of the game of golf. Everyone wants to talk about everything else – except cost.

    I dont see the cost of those $500 drivers or $300 fairway woods going down – do you?

    I have discussed this with other OEM folks who look at me like I have 4 heads. When is a manufacturer going to take a real hard look at creating a beginner set of clubs that is actually AFFORDABLE and not a complete piece of junk? Price it barely over cost if you have to. But the beginner sets you see are normally way overpriced or complete junk – or both.

    I hope that one of your goals in drawing more beginners into the game is finding a way to make it more AFFORDABLE. I have no issue with the rest of the OEM’s lines being priced the way they are. But why not put *something* affordable out there?

    • barney adams

      Jun 27, 2014 at 11:34 am

      a subject worth discussing in detail, which i’ll do at a later date. you may be surprised about the facts.

      • Jerry

        Jun 27, 2014 at 1:05 pm

        I agree that the cost of golf along with the time commitment has become an issue. I also agree that the networks have created problems with the way they do their broadcasts. Players playing from the wrong tees, playing like they are pros (waiting from greens to clear and can’t get the ball there)all because of what they see and hear from watch TV.

    • Steve P

      Jul 1, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT THE COST OF GOLF
      Quality golf equipment has NEVER been more affordable that it is right now. You can buy a complete set of Adams Speedline Irons and Woods with a bag, a putter, and headcovers for 400 bucks. Real titanium driver, stainless heads on all the other clubs.
      & You can buy a brand new RBZ driver now for under 100 bucks anywhere.
      If that’s out of your price range, go the used route.
      I’ve been on the equipment side of golf since the mid ’90’s.

      Golf is MORE AFFORDABLE, both in equipment and greens/cart fees than ever before. And if you’re one of those that still can’t afford it… maybe you should be spending more time working anyway.

  6. Bryan

    Jun 27, 2014 at 1:05 am

    I think a change is already coming in golf that will attract more people. Its concussions. More and more parents will start steering their kids away from more traditional sports like football and hockey just based on the long term effects of head injuries.

    The Tiger Woods effect has already ballooned tournament purses to where a good player can make a great living playing golf. The other thing Woods has done is bring the more traditional athlete persona to golf and made it so that people look at golfers differently than in the past. Obviously cost is a factor when you talk about any sport, but I see my friends dumping thousands of dollars on their kids to play baseball and other sports. In the winter, they are taking them to the indoor hitting centers, buying them $400 bats and expensive gloves and paying to travel all over. Many of the schools around my area are also “pay to play” meaning that parents have to cough up money for their kid to play any sport. Golf is expensive for us because we want to travel to nice courses and hit fancy new drivers; but for a young kid its not that bad. Many courses have junior rates and make the kids walk and its the same price as a trip to the batting cages. They have junior lesson programs and clinics at many places.
    While golf is not as viable an option for kids in more depressed urban areas as say basketball or football, it still has a place if somebody really wanted to do it.

    Where golf is different from other sports is that it can be enjoyed into a much later age than other more physical sports and it can be played in a group or individually. I played hockey for many years but quit a few years ago because it was too inaccessible. There is one ice rink in our area and ice time was at a premium and very limited. However, there are 7 golf courses that are the same distance from my house as the ice rink. I think the programs by the USGA completely miss the mark for trying to attract new golfers or entice old ones back. Those 15″ cups and teeing it forward are all gimmicks that dumb the game down…kinda in the same category as everybody gets a trophy now, not just the winners. I think they would get further ahead by helping people get better at golf and finding more creative ways to get people to want to go out and play.

  7. Paul

    Jun 26, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    I personally don’t believe any kid would reconsider trying out golf with the knowledge that it donates nearly 4b every year to charity.

    It’s a wonderful thing, but it is a non-issue when it comes to the growth of the game

  8. roger

    Jun 26, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Great article, sends great pride in Golf as a message.
    Thanks for the figures!

  9. LJW

    Jun 26, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    My high school raised money for the band with bake sales, car washes, fish frys & softball games. We didn’t have a golf course and no one played golf. Point being that if golf went away the local band would find another way to raise the money. But it is nice that golf involves itself in charity. I understand the PGA tour raises large sums for very deserving charities. I also read that as a percentage of total revenue it was a not really a great story. Maybe that will increase over time.

  10. Pingback: Barney Adams: Why do we care about amateur golf? | Spacetimeandi.com

  11. Chuck

    Jun 26, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    The terms I like to use in serious debates about golf policy:

    Recreational golf – the term for average players, be they daily fee golfers or even club golfers. If you are a 36 hdcp. or a 3 hdcp.; you are a recreational golfer.

    Elite golf – the term for championship players who play on professional tours, for NCAA institutions, or in the highest level amateur competitions.

    Between “recreational” and “elite” we can draw a pretty clear line as to which golfers are now (technology-assisted) obsoleting classic courses, and which golfers are not. It isn’t simply a “pro” and “am” distinction. I’ve seen NCAA kids demolish a U.S. Open course. So it isn’t a matter of “the Tour” or not.

    There may be other subgroupings worth distinguishing; daily fee players; club players; top level amateurs, Tour professionals, etc.

    But the USGA knows, and they are on it. Technologically speaking, the USGA knows very well that they have a serious problem with all (pro and am) elite golfers, and absolutely no problem with recreational golfers.

  12. MHendon

    Jun 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Mr. Adams
    Golf has a great and detailed history of teaching both honesty and integrity through self officiating along with charitable giving. I don’t think anyone doubts the values that golf teaches, however with all that is good about the game you, I, and everyone else who is a member of this site loves it also has a long standing history as an elitist sport. Elitist not because others are intentionally being shunned but elitist because the cost is so prohibitive for most people. The golf powers that be with all there efforts to bring more people to the game through the extensive marketing of Tiger Woods has failed to address that one critical issue. Stepping on a baseball diamond, football field, basketball court, or tennis court is free for most kids and adults. How can golf ever compete with that?

    • Jerry

      Jun 27, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      Our PGA section along with the local Pros have started a team golf program that has attracted a lot of young new players. Parents are finding out its cheaper than playing select baseball or softball. All the travel and associated cost for those programs run the parents well over %500 a year playing 50+ games a year mostly on the road. Where the team golf is the cost of the shirt and maybe a cap and playing local courses setup for young players to make it fun. From all reports I have heard those who are playing are really enjoy it. This concept should grow as parents start looking at cost and travel with the other sports of summer. I also agree with another comment about the head injury issue. I have a lot of parents thinking twice about football and there sons involvement. I know with all my football injurys know causing problems in my old age, I wish I had spent more time in my youth learning the game of golf.
      We also need to make sure lessons for the middle and lower class income people don’t run them out of the game either.

      • MHendon

        Jun 28, 2014 at 12:37 am

        50+ games a year? Wow youth baseball is much different where you live than here. However you say that’s costing parents well over 500, what would 50+ rounds for these kids cost? Don’t get me wrong sounds like a nice initiative but it still doesn’t address the issue of how expensive the game is for everyone else. Where I live I can step on a tennis court for free, same with a basketball court, or baseball field. Of course the one advantage golf has over those other sports is you don’t need anyone else to play.

        • Alfredo Smith

          Jul 1, 2014 at 1:06 pm

          50 rounds of golf for kids in my town (SF Bay Area) would cost $50… It’s $1 for our new 9 hole and $1 after 12pm on two 18 hole courses. We have a great junior program at Chuck Corica GC

  13. 4pillars

    Jun 26, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    This seems to be a very weak cause and effect argument, if amateur golf declines then charity contribution also declines.
    What evidence have you for this, as others have pointed out the charity giving may continue through another route.
    I must say that I am not clear about the direction you are taking with this series, I thought it was how to reverse the decline, but it seems more what will be the add on effects of the decline.
    There is an argument that disused golf courses are more ecological.

    • RG

      Jun 26, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      Individuals become elderly and eventually expire. It is the elderly and middle aged adults who make the vast majority of charitable contribution. If you don’t add to the pool by bringing in young amateurs, eventually it will diminish.
      Mr. Adams argument and logic are sound, the only weakness here is your feeble retort.

  14. paul

    Jun 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I would still spend lots of money on golf and give money to charity with or without the PGA. I may skip an annual charity tournament I attend and just donate the money to the same charity directly this year.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 26, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      As I re read what I wrote it appears that I’m giving credit to the Tours. Bad job, me. Their office supplied data which I confirmed elsewhere but the vast majority of charity giving comes from local events

      • Hunterdog

        Jun 27, 2014 at 10:59 pm

        Mr. Adams – I will agree that recreational golf is a terrific platform for charitable fundraising. While I complain about the 6th Captain & Crew of the year, I’m there every year with check book out; sure beats the wine and cheese circuit! Where I live, during these events, I see a lot of younger players. Often their games are built on trying to hit that damn little ball as hard they can; but I often see a few start to learn how to “play” the game. Maybe the Tour is not in the golfing future but some single handicaps have come about. And we all know once hooked…..

  15. EF

    Jun 26, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Barney,

    Nice job keeping it going, and I’m curious to see where you head next. A couple thoughts:

    1) I’m not sure that there is a way to fix “public interest” in a game. And I sincerely wonder whether the modern suggestions – Tee It Forward, 15″ holes, playing by something other than THE rules as a matter of course – helps, or actually undermines this interest. Would Dr. J have cared so much about that shot if he knew he’d just get to pick up and move to a more convenient location if he failed? Remember when they tried to make Bushwood into an amusement park in Caddyshack II? Didn’t work out so hot for them. I assume you’ll get to that in the next 3 parts.

    2) Golf is not responsible for $3.9B in charitable contributions. Rather it is just a vehicle through which $3.9B in charitable contributions get made. If we look at it in the manner you suggest, the thing on the planet most single-handedly responsible for all charity would be ALCOHOL. It’s served at every charitable event, and it actually has a physiological effect on people’s inhibitions, thereby increasing the likelihood/amount of giving substantially. But I don’t think you’d ever see an article about how we need to bolster alcohol sales in any dips in the market because of its charitable effects.

    Thanks.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 26, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      Dr J had a bunch of people watching and was way out of his comfort zone ( I would have been and at the time was a much lower handicap) I just admired his thinking.
      Alcohol. That’s a bit like saying the NFL is so successful because more is bet on games than all other sports. It is what it is. I take pride in what golf does at the lowest community level. Not the Tours the local fundraisers

      • Bluefan75

        Jun 30, 2014 at 11:43 am

        Mr. Adams, you bring an intersting perspective, and I am enjoying your pieces. But I must say that in regards to your comment about the NFL and gambling, that is exactly why the NFL is so successful. The number of people who claim to be football fans but couldn’t describe a slant pattern to save their lives, nor can you get them to watch a college game(harder to bet and find useful information), is staggering.

        I agree with the earlier post about charities finding another way to raise money if golf wasn’t an option. But I do like your point about why a golf course being abandoned is much, much worse than a tennis court being abandoned. That certainly makes a lot of sense.

  16. HBL

    Jun 26, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Mr. Adams – It appears to me that you, like many in the “industry”, equate the health of the game to the health of professional golf. I would agree that televised golf is probably a driver, of an extent, of golf (a game played by amateurs of varying handicaps, however, I think that golf would survive without such a huge push of the PGAT. I think if you looked at the $3.9 B you would see that the vast majority is raised by the local tournament committees; it is not clear but for a Tour event would that the money or some portion, would not be raised in some other manner.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 26, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      I must have written poorly my emphasis is that most of the funding comes from amateur golf. As for equating with professional golf; stay tuned !

  17. ca1879

    Jun 26, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Even if you accept that $3.9B number charitable giving number, and I’m pretty sure it represents the most optimistic estimate possible, it still represents about one percent of the charitable giving annually in the US. Hardly a critical source of funds. And since it’s only the incremental gain or loss to charity that would come with growth or decline in golf that’s at issue, the actual effect, unless there is a total collapse of the game, would be negligible.

    It’s a sport and a pastime Barney, not a social crusade. It will grow or shrink due to reasons having to do with the game and it’s marketing, not it’s fringe effects.

    • Barney Adams

      Jun 26, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      Not positioning as a social crusade. However golf reaches things like the band raising money to go to state, local needs which fly well under the national figure you mention. I’d say over 90% of the requests we got were for needs that used golf because there was no other vehicle. Crusade , no Pride yes.

      • ca1879

        Jun 27, 2014 at 9:57 am

        No one is arguing that it’s not admirable or useful, just the actual effect of growth on the giving, which is a marginal effect. Charitable giving is something we should do because it’s the right thing to do, and I’ll put in my hours next year at the LPGA event we host to help maximize the dollars we generate, but not because it will grow the game. People do not take up a difficult and expensive sport in order to have donation opportunities. Again, we need to focus on the core problems, not the fringe effects.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: A few thoughts on off-season improvement

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Having lived my entire life in South Texas, one of the things I had to learn very quickly when I went into the golf business nearly 40 years ago was that this was a much more “seasonal” activity than I had ever thought about. Though we are blessed to be able to play golf year-round down here, we do have periods (like the past two weeks), where cold/windy/wet weather keeps all but the most devoted off the courses. Still, I certainly understand that there are many of you who have had to “hang ‘em up” for the next few months and get your golf fix with maybe one or two trips over the winter, or just by watching golf on TV and reading about it.

Over those 4o years I’ve talked with lots of golfers about what they do to “get their fix” during the long months when the weather just does not allow you to get out at all to work on your game. It seems I’ve heard everything from “I just try to forget about it” to “I’ll take a couple of trips to southern climates” to “it hurts every day”.

I’m going to try to offer you a bit more than that today, with some tips anyone can use to actually improve your game during the long off season. So here goes:

Improve your putting stroke. All you need is a strip of commercial grade carpet about 8 feet long if you don’t want to purchase one of the specialized putting mats (get it in a green color if you can, but any neutral earth tone will do). Find a place in your home where you can set this 12-20” wide strip of carpet down on the floor and leave it for regularly scheduled sessions. The goal with this off-season exercise is to improve your mechanics to a point where you have so much trust in your stroke that when you get to the course in the Spring (or on one of your trips) that you can focus entirely on making the putt.

One of my very closest friends was/is maybe the best putter I ever saw in the recreational ranks . . . because he dedicated time nearly every day to honing his putting stroke to a razor edge. He would spend a half hour each night watching the evening news with his putting mat in front of the TV and stroke 6-8 footers . . . one after the other . . . probably several hundred every day. He had so much confidence in his set-up and mechanics that the only thing he thought about on the greens was the line and hitting the putt the right speed.

While you might not work on it every day as he did, you can build an extremely reliable putting stroke over this off season that will pay off very well for you in 2023.

Rebuild your chipping/pitching technique. Making significant changes in our techniques during the golf season is the hardest thing we golfers try to do. What happens is that you learn something new, but on the golf course you are really wanting to get results, so you end up trapped between old and new, and quickly lose confidence in the new. I’ve heard it said that any new physical activity become a habit after 21 consecutive days of doing it. Well, the guy who wrote that probably was not a golfer, because this is a lifelong learning experience.

If chipping and pitching the ball are not your strengths, make this off-season the time to do something about it. In my opinion and years of observation of recreational golfers, poor chipping and pitching are the result of poor technique. There are dozens of good books and videos out there (not to mention dozens of my own posts here) showing you how to develop a proper technique, and physical strength is not an obstacle around the greens. ANYONE can learn to chip and pitch with sound fundamentals, and those can be better learned away from the course than on it.

All you have to do is commit to making the change, get one of the great books by Stan Utley, Tom Watson or others, purchase some of the soft “almost golf balls” that won’t break anything and work on it through the off season.

Keep yourself “golf ready”. As I have transitioned now to life after 70, I have realized that keeping my flexibility was the key to feeling great every morning, and to being able to maintain my golf skills. A number of years ago, I began a simple 4- to 5-minute stretching routine I do every day before I even get out of bed, and it has made a world of difference in everything I do and the way I feel.

Especially for those of you 40-50 years and older, I guarantee you that if you will commit to a daily stretching routine, not only will your golf dramatically improve, but it will change the way you feel every day.

So, there are three ideas for you to consider for using the off season to improve your golf game for 2023. Regardless of your age, there is no reason not to set a goal of making next year your best golf year ever.

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2022 Alfred Dunhill Championship: Betting Tips & Selections

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As the DP World Tour ends its stint in South Africa, the stars come out to play.

Whilst the Nedbank was officially part of the 2022 season, the invitational was the start of a four -event run that now concludes at the picturesque Leopard Creek, summed up by the course website:

“Golfing hazards take on a new dimension at Leopard Creek, for much of the water is home to the magnificent creatures for which the river is named – crocodiles. Extensive use has been made of water features and sightings of crocodile, hippo, antelope, buffalo and elephant are commonplace, on the course or in the Kruger Park bordering the course.”

Not only is this time for Tony Johnstone to show his exacting knowledge of the local wildlife, but golf fans can witness some of the true legends of South African and European Tour golf.

Whilst single-figure favourite Christiaan Bezuidenhout represents the best of the current generation of players, viewers will also see the likes of former Masters winners as well as the future of African golf.

In Bez we have a worthy favourite that is hard to crab given his current and course form. The 28-year-old won here in 2020 on the way to an impressive back-to-back fortnight that included the South African Open (at another Gary Player design), whilst both his victory at Valderrama and play-off defeat against Lucas Herbert in Dubai can be linked into Adri Arnaus, runner-up and third in those events and, incidentally, sixth here behind this week’s favourite.

Latest form sees the short-game wizard leave some acceptable, if disappointing, PGA results behind, with a fifth at his favoured Gary Player Country Club being followed a fortnight later with a very laidback third place finish at the Joburg Open.

At both home events, Bez started slowly and was never nearer than at the line, and trusting that the cobwebs have been blown away, he has to be in the plan, even if as a saver.

There’s a decent argument to say multiple event champion Charl Schwartzel and still-classy Louis Oosthuizen should challenge for favouritism (Oosty has now shortened up) but I’m simply not convinced their hunger is as strong as it once was, and of the three, I’d much rather be with the player with more to come.

If we are getting Bez beat, then it makes sense to row along with history, at least for a pair of back-up wagers.

There is a host of South African players attempting to continue the run of seven home winners from the last nine, but this course tends to lend itself to experience and Hennie Du Plessis looks the type to ‘do a JB Hansen’ and finally crawl over the line, as the Dane did in Joburg in 2020.

The 26-year-old has been banging his head against the winning line for a few years now, with many of his multiple top-five finishes having genuine potential to bring home the trophy instead of glancing at it.

6th at both runnings of the South African Open in Covid 2020, to Branden Grace and then Bez, he recorded a host of top-20 finishes at Challenge Tour level (including three top fives) before qualifying for the DP World Tour off the back of an 18th place at the Grand Final.

2021 ended well, with his three home visits, including 7th in Joburg and third in his home Open, suggesting a good year, and for more evidence he ended his first full DP season with five top-10s.

Unlike his more obvious compatriots, Schwartzel and Oosthuizen, Du Plessis was a surprise call-up to the LIV Golf series, but he hardly let himself down in his brief spell, running-up to the 2011 Masters champion at LIV London.

After his season-ending top-10 behind Jon Rahm in Spain (third at halfway), Du Plessis followed a steady 33rd at Houghton with an improved and closing top-10 at Blair Atholl last week when his game was in acceptable shape in preparation for this week’s test.

Whilst length is somewhat negated around Leopard Creek’s twisting fairways, huge hitter Adrian Meronk finished joint runner-up here two years ago (look at him go now!) and Du Plessis should be able to club down on many of the tee-shots and take advantage of his tee-to-green play – a factor for which he ranked in ninth place through the DP season.

With players catching the eye much earlier than in previous generations, it’s hard to believe that Wilco Nienaber is just 22 years of age.

It’s a tough thing to say that this former amateur star should have won the 2020 Joburg Open, as it was surely only inexperience that cost him the trophy against a determined JB Hansen. Whilst hugely talented, the former world amateur ranked 28 has become frustrating, winning just once and that at the lower level co-sanctioned event, the Dimension Data, in the Western Cape, although an event the likes of Nick Price, Retief Goosen, Darren Clarke and Oosthuizen, amongst others, have won.

Still, back to what he can do today and going forward.

Another huge hitter off the tee, Nienaber has been 18th and ninth in tee-to-green over the last two tournaments, finishing in 24th and 15th but in far better position through the events (10th at halfway in Joburg and 5th into Payday last weekend). Whilst last week’s test was right up his long-driving alley, that should have been a perfect warm-up for an event at which he’s improved to finish 24th and 12th in 2019 and 2020.

Adrian Otaegui has always been a tee-to-green machine, and whilst he already had three trophies in the cabinet, his six-stroke victory at Valderrama was a revelation.

It’s not as if the Spaniard was in poor form, having arrived in Sotogrande off the back off just one missed-cut in 11 starts, including a third place in Scotland and 13th at Wentworth and Le Golf National, interesting comparisons to this week’s venue. However, when recording figures of first in approaches, second for tee-to-green and second in putting, Otaegui not only took his form to a new level, but showed his strength against adversity.

The Spaniard became the first ex-LIV plater to win a ‘proper’ event, overcoming a bizarre attitude from the organising tour, who ignored much of his outstanding play and refused to cover any of the highlights on their social media pages.

I can certainly forgive a moderate effort the following week in Mallorca, but the 30-year-old has performed well of late, finishing 18th at the Nedbank (in seventh place going into Sunday), 16th at the DP World Tour Championship (11th at halfway) and dropping away from 8th overnight to 23rd at Joburg.

Take away the home contingent and Spaniards almost dominate recent runnings of the Alfred Dunhill, with Alvaro Quiros, Pablo Martin (x2) and Pablo Larrazabal winning here since 2006. Otaegui can make a good run at making it the nap hand.

I’m waiting for the right moment to back Joost Luiten, showing some tremendous play but only in spurts, whilst the likes of Tom McKibbin and Alejandro Del Rey are players I’ll have in the list of ‘follows’ through 2023. For the final selection, let’s go big!

Christiaan Maas is a young South African player that has been on the ‘watch’ list for a couple of years. His brilliant amateur career saw him rank a best of 19th and awarded him the Brabazon Trophy, the prestigious national amateur stroke-play event, as well as some of his homelands most valued events.

However, it is hard to understand how he rates 50 points shorter than his amateur rival, Casey Jarvis, who has recently shown he can compete with the legends of the game, leading George Coetzee at the South African PGA Championship before succumbing into second, and following that up with a top-10 at Joburg.

Following a stellar junior career, the 19-year-old won four of the best home amateur events in 2020, beating the best that South African golf could throw at him – including Mass – as he won the African Amateur Stroke Play in back-to-back years.

Maas took revenge on the development tour – the Big Easy – but Jarvis was back on the winner’s rostrum in July this year, and recent form suggests it might be better sticking with him this week.

A 63 in the second round in Joburg was matched only by multiple winner Daniel Van Tonder, and was one shot ahead of Bezuidenhout, so the game is there for all to see.

Jarvis missed the cut on the number when making his debut here in 2020, but the following week improved throughout the week to finish 25th behind Bez at the Gary Player Country Club. That is promising enough without much of what has gone on since, and it might pay to be on at big prices in better fields, before both he and Maas start mopping up the lesser home events.

Recommended Bets:

  • Christiaan Bezhuidenhout WIN
  • Adrian Otaegui WIN
  • Wilco Nieneber WIN/Top-10
  • Hennie Du Plessis WIN/Top-10
  • Casey Jarvis WIN/Top-10/Top-20
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Club Junkie

Club Junkie Review: Samsung’s Galaxy Watch5 Pro Golf Edition

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Technology has been playing a larger part in golf for years and you can now integrate it like never before. I don’t need to tell you, but Samsung is a world leader in electronics and has been making smart watches for years. The Watch5 Pro Golf Edition is the latest Samsung wearable running Google’s Wear OS operating system and it is more than just a golf watch.

The Watch5 Golf Edition is a full function smartwatch that you can wear every day and use for everything from golf to checking your text messages. For more details on the Golf Edition made sure to check out the Club Junkie podcast below, or on any podcast platform. Just search GolfWRX Radio.

Samsung’s Watch5 Pro Golf Edition has a pretty large 45mm case that is made from titanium for reduced weight without sacrificing any durability. The titanium case is finished in a matte black and has two pushers on the right side to help with navigating the pretty extensive menu options. The case measures about 52mm from lug to lug and stands about 14mm tall, so the fit on smaller wrists could be an issue. I did notice that when wearing a few layers on colder days the extra height did have me adjusting my sleeves to ensure I could swing freely.

The sapphire crystal display is 1.4 inches in diameter, so it should be very scratch resistant, and is protected by a raised titanium bezel. The Super AMOLED display has a 450 x 450 resolution with 321ppi density for clear, crisp graphics. Inside the watch is a dual-core 1.18Ghz Cortex-A55 CPU, 16GB + 1.5GB RAM, and a Mali-G68 GPU to ensure your apps run quickly and efficiently.

I do like that the Watch5 Pro Golf Edition’s white and black rubber strap has a quick release system so you can change it out to match or contrast an outfit. The Golf Edition strap is very supple and conforms to your wrist well, holding it in place during multiple swings.

Out on the course the Watch5 Pro golf Edition is comfortable on the wrist and light enough, ~46g, where it isn’t very noticeable. I don’t usually wear a watch on the course, and it only took a few holes to get used to having it on my left wrist. Wearing a glove on the same hand as the watch doesn’t really change much, depending on the glove. If you have a model that goes a little higher on the wrist you could feel the watch and leather bunch a little bit. Some of my Kirkland Signature gloves would run into the watch case while I didn’t have an issue with my Titleist or Callaway models.

The screen is great in direct sunlight and is just as easy to read in overcast or twilight rounds. The images of holes and text for distances is crisp and has a bright contrast agains the black background. The Watch5 Pro Golf Edition comes with a lifetime membership to Smart Caddie for your use on the course. Smart Caddie was developed by Golfbuddy, who has been making rangefinders and GPS units for years. I didn’t sign up for the Smart Caddie app as I did not buy the watch and have logins for multiple GPS and tracking apps. Smart Caddie looks to be extremely extensive, offering a ton of options beyond just GPS and it is one that works seamlessly with the Galaxy watches.

I ended up using The Grint as it was an app I have used in the past and was already signed up for. Getting to the app to start a round was very simple, needing one swipe up and one tap to start The Grint app. The screen is very smooth and records each swipe and tap with zero issues. I never felt like I was tapping or swiping without the Watch5 Pro acknowledging those movements and navigating the menu as I desired. The GPS worked flawlessly and the distances were accurate and consistent. With The Grint’s app you did have to keep the phone in your pocket or in the cart close enough for the Bluetooth connection. For most that is’t a big deal and the only time I noticed it was when I used my electric cart and drove it well in front of me down the fairway.

Overall the Samsung Watch5 Pro Golf Edition is a great option for golfers who want one device for everyday wear and use on the course. The Watch5 Pro Golf Edition still has all the fitness and health options as well as being able to  connect to your email, text messages, and social media apps. With the Watch5 Pro Golf Edition you won’t have to worry about buying a device just for golf or forgetting to bring your GPS to the course.

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