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Not making the college golf cut

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Golf participation for the Millennial demographic (ages 18-to-34), has decreased 30 percent in the past 20 years, and the remedy to bring the game back to us remains largely unsolved.

I relish the hot summer days when I’d bang range balls for a few hours, play nine holes and caddy during the afternoon. Life was good, life was golf. My circle of friends lived a similar lifestyle, played junior tournaments and some of us moved onto the college ranks. And then something funny happened. The game tied to our personal being somehow separated as we started careers in different cities. My golfing buddies and I aren’t alone.

The problem begins in the transition between high school and college. In 2012, 152,725 students played competitively in high school, yet only 12,147 students played varsity college golf that year, according to scholarshipstats.com. If you are part of the lucky 8 percent playing golf for a college team, you play for free and get handed school-logoed Pro V1’s. But what happens to those not on varsity who are forced to pay for their own golf, find transportation and courses that actually welcome their business? Some students attend one of the 100 or so universities that have courses on campus, but for many, the clubs don’t make it to the dorm room and students drop the game temporarily.

On the bright side, there has been a significant uptick in number of collegiate club golf teams from 50 to over 200 in the past year alone.  Many of these club golf teams now compete in student-led weekend tournaments in the National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA). The organization takes a proactive role—a grassroots effort of sorts—in recruiting and working with students to start school-recognized and funded club golf programs off the ground. While the NCCGA has carved out a niche for competitive non-varsity golfers, it struggles to assist more recreational players or students brand new to the game.

At Michigan State’s club golf fair in the fall of 2011, nearly 500 students signed up with an interest in joining the club, but only a few dozen ultimately remain on the competitive club team roster. The gap could be filled by finding a solution to keep more of these fringe college golfers in the game by getting PGA professionals to teach lessons on campus, helping them improve and stay interested.

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The problem—specifically with Millennial golfer participation—begins in college but exacerbates as a young professional.

“Consistently keeping up a golf game has been very difficult since moving to Manhattan,” says Ryan Down, a 26 year-old former Yale varsity golfer. “Transportation is the main issue: most people don’t have cars in the city, which sometimes means two trains and a cab to get to a course. The other difficulty is the lack of availability of decent courses that aren’t constantly packed with weekend golfers. All in all, it can easily be an 8 hour commitment including the ride to and from the course.”

With often 60+ hour workweeks and a lack of transportation options, golf is just not feasible on weekends like it was back in high school. Young professional golfers in cities such as New York, Boston, DC, San Francisco and Chicago face serious barriers in making it out the links on any regular basis.

I live in Boston where I can’t afford to own a parking spot, so I’m left stranded if I haven’t secured one of the few public spaces before 7 p.m., thereby making playing golf after work a serious challenge. Improving or sharpening my game is a thing of the past. For the modern young professional, playing golf requires planning, commitment from friends and some serious dollars if you’re looking to play a decent track with the rest of the masses on summer weekends.

Is golf officially dead for college students and young professionals? Does the industry just need to wait until we turn 40, own a house with a white fence and join the local country club? The answer is no, however, the industry needs to make changes in becoming more relevant to younger consumers. The explosive growth of the NCCGA proves the demand for competitive golf for single-digit handicap players at the non-varsity collegiate level.

So why is nobody extending competitive golf into the young adult space? As a former D3 golfer who plays twice a month, I have zero business spending $125 trying to shoot 74 and qualify for the state amateur. That said, I’d love to compete against other serious golfers around my age in a more relaxed environment.

Theories exist — including foot golf, 15-inch cups and actually using media effectively — to help Millennials keep golf fun and accessible, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. If you have thoughts on ways to engage the next generation of golfers, shoot a note to [email protected] or better yet, tweet to @MikeBelkin11.

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Mike Belkin is a Co-Founder of Nextgengolf & Director of College Golfer Happiness. Mike played varsity golf at Amherst College, currently resides in Boston, and is passionate about growing the game for millennials. Contact Mike on Twitter @MikeBelkin11 or [email protected]

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Tom

    Jul 7, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    You’ve brought up some good points and as a single digit who didn’t start playing until I was in my late twenties I have to disagree with the premise that another person or organization should be involved in motivating the “latent” 12m+ population. Unfortunately golf is very hard and time consuming. IMHO this is a cultural issue that runs deep in the “millennial” population – I’m not a sociologist but I think there needs to be a more comprehensive study of what is driving this population. I took up golf because of the challenge and because I wanted to play. It was a singular, individual decision. Even if you motivate 10% of that 12m you’re referencing to play you’re only replacing the losses from the older generation. Socially and culturally things have shifted and the CC lifestyle along with 4.5 hr rounds on weekends (assuming you live somewhere close to a golf course) just aren’t feasible for the Millennial populations. Forgive me if I’m coming across in a negative light. I respect your article and the points you raise but this may be a problem that can’t be solved. It may just be part of the natural expansion/contraction life cycle that everything goes through. I think we should question the question – why should we grow golf?

  2. Peter Kratsios

    Jul 7, 2014 at 8:06 am

    First and foremost, I’d like to say that NextGenGolf and NCCGA are the types of initiatives the golf industry needs in their effort to grow participation amongst millennials. I too played collegiate golf at a D3 college, which provided me many benefits that my friends were unable to take advantage of. However, it were those benefits that have made me realize how unrealistic it is to play competitively at age 25 in local tournaments. Events range from $125-200, which is a steep price for someone simply looking to enjoy a competitive round of golf.

    I look forward to seeing how these organizations develop in the future.

  3. Dave

    Jul 6, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Great picture of South Station in Boston. That picture could have been of me a few weeks ago.

  4. Neil

    Jul 4, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    It’s definitely a time issue with me, having two young kids; I practice way more than I get out.
    Hopefully one or both them are interested in getting out on the course with Dad as that will
    increase my course time ten fold.

  5. Bobby

    Jul 3, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Great article, Mike. I never thought that I would be playing golf regularly in college, but being on a club golf team allows me to play competitively while still focusing on academics and maintaining a healthy social life. Practices are optional, tournaments are held twice per semester, and no classes are missed. Playing club golf certainly helps student golfers get the most out of their college experience.

  6. Peter Klemperer

    Jul 3, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Great article. Club sports are a great opportunity for college students to get involved in athletics without the pressure or time commitment of varsity sports. I didn’t own a car in college but the team provided great opportunities for group training and rides races all over the midwest. I’m sure the same thing could be replicated with golf.

    As a younger professional having recently moved to Northern California I find the courses plentiful but generally packed. I tend to play my 18-hole rounds as early as possible to avoid the crowds or seek out par-3/9-hole courses for after work golf.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks Peter. Going out and playing early is way to do it so long as you can get some friends to join you! I used to play a Newton Commonwealth, a city course in Boston, with may dad on weekends and tee off at 5:15, we’d be off the course by 8am and have the whole day free (with a brief nap, of course).

  7. Allen Freeman

    Jul 3, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Speaking of the costs of playing in tournaments, check out the petition to the USGA to make playing in national championships more affordable: http://chn.ge/1xu0WNX

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Very interesting, Allen. As a young professional I personally I struggle more with the time to keep my game sharp and having access to places to practice and play. The median greens fee across courses nationwide is $26 so that $100+ entries fee (albeit at high-end) courses is certainly not cheap.

  8. WarrenPeace

    Jul 3, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Book time at the local Golftech and work on your game- they have simulators and instructors. That’s what I would do if I couldn’t get out to play regularly. Practice more-play less if inconvenient to get to a course. That way when you do play- it’s enjoyable to watch the progress you’ve made.

  9. AJ

    Jul 3, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Again, I think this is a real problem with the USA sports model in general. Looking outside in (from the UK) it would seem that once you cease to play any competitive sport, the general infrastructure isn’t there to enable meaningful amateur play in any field.

    My point here is that there is no established organised amateur sport, and this extends to golf. Basically, once you are out of your high school / university sports team, you don’t play that game competitively, ever again.

    Is that right or have I got that completely wrong?

    In Europe certainly, if you don’t make the cut as a professional in any given sport, you can join a local club and play competitive soccer/rugby/cricket for as long as your body will allow, and there is always a level for you.

    It’s the same with golf. In general clubs are more accessible, more affordable and there is a whole heap more organised competitive golf for amateurs. I play at least one competitive round each week, usually two or more in the summer (mixture of medal play and match play).

    I think we have it pretty sweet over here, and I speak as somebody who lives in central London yet can still afford to be a member of a top 100 course and get there pretty easily by car or public transport. I had the chance to move to NYC a few years ago and the prospect of only playing golf a few times a year really did put me off. There was simply no way I could afford to be a member of a decent private members club over there like I can here.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Great points, AJ. College golfers in the states–be it on varsity of NCCGA club teams–have organized methods to actually play competitive golf. But once they enter the working world, and especially in major cities, it’s nearly impossible to find solid competitive golf outside of USGA & State Am like tournies that are pretty expensive to begin with. I agree with you that NYC is the most difficult for young professionals to play golf competitively, let alone just keeping the game sharp. I am always thinking about ways the industry can become more friendly to young professionals to help keep them in the game. It’s the future and the golf needs to innovate here!

      • AJ

        Jul 4, 2014 at 6:38 am

        Mike, that is very interesting to hear. Example from the UK: this weekend I am playing in a Men’s Open event (typically for handicaps 10 and below) which costs £50, includes 36 holes and all food for the day. It’s on a Saturday so working guys can play. There will be a scratch prize and a handicap prize so it’s fair. UK handicaps are also more tightly regulated because we play so much competition golf and handicaps aren’t adjusted unless in a competition.

        Most golf clubs in the UK will host such an event (be it individual, pairs, mixed golf) once a year at a minimum.

        In August I will play in a further one day 36 hole event and two separate 72 hole events (with a halfway cut), all around the £50 mark to enter and providing great competitive golf.

        I see no reason this model can’t be adopted in the states?

  10. DoWhat

    Jul 3, 2014 at 9:14 am

    How does a 15 inch cup make the game more accessible?

    Oh, wait. Maybe the dude can park his car there.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:19 am

      We actually hosted a big cup tournament at Newton Commonwealth, a local Boston course. We had a nice mix of somewhat competitive to fairly novice golfers attend the event. https://nextgengolf.org/boston/social-and-competitive-events/ The ability to play golf in a new way helped bring folks out the course who ordinarily wouldn’t have played.

      To your point, however, do 15 inch cups make the game more accessible? No. It was actually more expensive to play that day. That said, more people came out at least!

  11. Gibbyfan

    Jul 3, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Sorry for the confusion with your article, but what was the point you were trying to get across? Is it that you are not able to play when living one of the major cities? That you chose to live in a densely populated area after graduating college? What did you expect? Did you think right down the street next to your corporate office was the company funded Donald Ross designed club where everyone would cut out at 5 PM and hit the links? You made the choice to live there. There are trade offs with living in major cities; golf is one of them.
    As for competition, there are plenty of outlets for competition Golf Channel Tour comes to mind, your local/regional golf associations run a number of events, you are part of one of the largest internet GOLF forums. There is golf to be played, YOU are the one that needs to make the choice whether it is important to ignore the bars on Friday, Saturday nights.
    I mean heaven forbid, you drive out to the burbs where you can practice and play. If you are 20 years old and older it is time to grow up and decide what is important to you. I’m a professional that works a lot,a parent, live near a large metro area, and I golf 2x a week from May -August. Maybe the ” Millennials” that are too perplexed with living in the overcrowded city and just can’t figure out how to keep their game in shape hit the net and blog how our system is broken. Or, you could get into a cab, take a train, move out of the city where you can afford to live, park a car, and golf, or, as many of your Millennials have chosen to do, move back in with their parents.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:40 am

      I wish that my friends in Boston enjoyed golf enough to take public transportation after work and play nine at Fresh Pond in Cambridge. The fact of the matter, however, is that playing golf for most young professionals is just top of mind or a high enough priority to be a regular activity. But don’t take my word, let’s look at Project M from the National Golf Foundation: http://ngfdashboard.clubnewsmaker.org/map7zilj8gqvvn6t1exxr4?a=5&p=2341869&t=410871

      The fact that you suggest that young adults should pass up a job in the city to live in the burbs where they can play golf more easily demonstrates that you are completely out of touch with the Millennial generation. Project M looks at the “latent demand” or 12M+ Millennial golfers who are interested in playing but on the fence. If the golf industry projected your attitude toward this generation, you can kiss those 12M golfers goodbye.

      It’s not easy getting good jobs these days, and America’s best and brightest college graduates will continue move to Boston, NYC, SF, DC and dozens of other metropolitan areas. If the industry does not innovate–and I mean take progressive steps to get young adults playing their courses–America’s finest will continue to keep golf on the backburner.

      If anything comes out of this article and conversation, it is to open up the eyes to all in golf–the PGA of America & the Professionals, USGA, the TOUR, course owners and operators–that the industry can’t sit back on our heels and let this generation leave their clubs behind. We need to take proactive measures to get people on the course. Opening up the cash register and expecting people to come out and play won’t cut it forever.

      Let’s innovate together and make golf relevant again for our Millennial Golfers.

      • Gibbyfan

        Jul 3, 2014 at 2:11 pm

        To begin, thank you for the response. I see that this is something that you are passionate about. Seeing that this is your profession and working with Nextgengolf. First, your job takes you to Boston metro area. Could you do your job if you lived in an area where you could commute into Boston? My guess is yes. BUT, you chose to live in the city where costs are high, parking is a premium, and you lack some green areas like golf courses. So, it is a little unfair when you imply it’s not fair or you ( Millennials) are not being catered to by the golf industry.
        Chicago ( which I live near) has a number of park district/ public courses within the city limits. Are they type of course where you want to travel to and spend your money? That is for the individual to decide. But if keeping your game sharp is important to your age group, then the answer is yes. Will getting there be easy? Doubtful. That is the tradeoff of living a metro area. You are going to have to make some concessions.
        In my earlier post, golf is there to be had. If golf is that important, then the Millennials will need to decide how they are going to play. Golf can be economical. I play at the same course and they give me the twilight rate almost anytime I play. Why? Because I am a returning customer. Some golf clubs and courses are hurting for play. Here is a link to the public courses that are around Boston http://www.golflink.com/golf-courses/city.aspx?dest=Boston+MA. I am sure that one will meet your needs as a practice site or place where your group can play on a routine basis. As the song goes ” you can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes well you might find you get what you need.”

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  13. Straightdriver235

    Jul 2, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Mr. Belkin is correct here. I played some college golf, but as grades got more important, and law school loomed, it became a more special occasion to play. Because I did public service law, and now teach at the undergraduate level, I never made enough money or needed the contacts to consider club memberships. I’ve always been a public course player since becoming an adult… I resent, however, as does Mr. Down, the idea of moving from something pretty competitive, to struggling around waiting on six around rounds near weekend golfers. I miss the competition, the camaraderie of a few close expert and knowledgeable golfing friends, and more associates from younger days of competing. City clubs need to seek out young professionals and cultivate them, but so many seem caught up with the white picket fence, real estate on the course type of mentality. I lived in a major NE city and for ten years just couldn’t even find a public course where I could store my clubs at safely that I might take public transit to. If you can solve this problem you are a genius. It’s not my baby, but I have reflected the same sort of thoughts… and with great regrets. As I grow near retirement now, I am an excellent golfer who is a complete loner. My game is entirely within myself, my rounds are exercises in self control and meditation. I’m eventually heading to France where my wife is from and all but giving up the game. For now, fortunately my university is one with its own course, and it is often not too crowded, but golf clearly now lacks the social foundations I grew up with. I have not had a “golfing friend” in many years. I have given to golf, but I do not feel it has given back so well… still I love her. I’m a liberal, and see it as a capitalist problem in so many ways, but so many golfers are not neo-Marxists, and it makes no sense to them. Golf put to the excesses of the free markets only stretches so far… to cultivate serious play from lifetime committed players who might happen to be middle class and don’t see golf as a tax write off, a different model is necessary.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:44 am

      Very thoughtful response here. Can you please expand on what you mean by “a capitalist problem in so many ways”?

  14. SW

    Jul 2, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Boohoo. Move to the South or SouthWest, why dontcha?

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:46 am

      I started my career out in Buckhead, GA where it was DEFINITELY easier to get around and play. That said, it was my first year after graduating college in a totally new city so getting acquainted to my job, meeting a totally new friend group, and budgeting all got in the way. That said, I did manage to play once every other week.

  15. Phil C.

    Jul 2, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Prioritize the player to player competition aspect of the game and let match play format take center stage. Let it be the primary format on TV, that we teach to new players, and that we play with our friends on the weekends.

    Also, Break up the match play of 18 holes into 3 separate 6-hole sets, with the winner decided after a player has won 2 sets.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:48 am

      Competition is a key ingredient to getting folks interested. Look at the explosive growth of PGA Junior Leagues which anticipates having 14,000 kids involved this year, nearly double y/o/y growth. They wear jerseys and play team golf against other clubs.

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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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