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Opinion & Analysis

Getting to know Instructor Tom Stickney



GolfWRX Featured Writer Tom Stickney currently splits his time between Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif., and the Promontory Club in Park City, Utah, as the Director of Instruction at both courses. Stickney, who has also worked in Florida and Colorado, is a native of Memphis, Tenn.

The Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher is also one of a handful of Trackman Masters and was recognized as one of the best Young Teachers Under 40 by Golf Digest from 2006 to 2011. 

How he got his start in teaching…

Stickney was playing mini tours when he was approached by a pro due to inherit a hefty sum. The pro, now financially secure, wanted to try his hand at making it to the big tour. Thus, he needed someone to give lessons at his 45-hole semi-private course.

How teaching has changed in the last 10-15 years…

“When I first started…the first 10-12 years of my career…golf instruction was a very closed shop. It was very proprietary as far as the information that was out there. You pretty much developed your own style based on what you could read.”

“It’s not like you had the Internet…all you did was read every book that was out. Now, the information is out there.”

“We’ve got a couple of kids…interns in the PGM Program…and they probably know 60 percent of what I know, as far as the mechanics…and they haven’t taught at all…They just dug around the internet and figured it all out. What they don’t have is 20,000 hours if lessons to hone their crafts, like I do.”

Signs of an increasingly competitive industry…

“When I first started, getting to $100 an hour was a goal…you look around and everybody at every main resort was charging $250 an hour. There were just so many people spending so much money on golf. There are very few $250 an hour jobs anymore.”

“If you want to make any money in the instruction business, you have to have all the awards, all the accolades and you have to spend a bunch of money on technology.”

How he got started writing for GolfWRX…

“When I get home, I don’t usually surf the Internet for swing theory…but I was surfing around one night looking for something and I came across GolfWRX.”

“I’d written a bunch of articles…I’ve always been a prolific writer. I called Zak and said, ‘Hey, look, I have a series of articles I’d be interested in putting on your blog, if you have any interest.’”

What it’s been like…

“As time has gone on, it’s been fun to watch my number of views grow. It’s been addictive…watching it grow”

“I still can’t believe I’ve had a million people click on my article”

Favorite stuff he’s written…

“In my articles, I’ve always been more of a niche person on the technology side.”

“Trackman is the hot thing, and it’s something I believe in very much…My favorite articles have been the Trackman stuff.”

“There’s a need for some deeper swing theory given the clientele [at GolfWRX].”

Stickney said his favorite article he’s written is “Impact location by handicap.” Regarding the piece, he said: “That something so basic could get so many responses…the golf business never ceases to amaze me.”

On his future writing for GolfWRX…

“I look at it as an obligation to continue to write, and I’ll continue to write. It’s been fun.”

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  1. tom stickney

    Apr 21, 2015 at 12:26 am

    Dr. Britt– loved the ping becu one iron you had back in the day…used to go by the bag room as a kid look at it only to wish I had one of my own!!! I hope you well…great to hear from you! Thanks!!!!

  2. tom stickney

    Apr 21, 2015 at 12:25 am

    Thanks Steven…glad you are enjoying the articles sir!

  3. Lou Britt

    Apr 20, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    I had a lesson years ago in Florida great to aw you prospering I. Like your writing I’m an old friend of your dad from Colonial

  4. steven

    Apr 20, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Mr. Stickney is my favorite writer on golfwrx. I read his articles and try to absorb as much as my small brain allows. My favorite articles were his series The Swing in Pictures. In these articles he broke down positions of the swing from a beginner/intermediate/advanced and professional prospective.
    Tom, Thank You for sharing your knowledge and investing your time in writing great articles with this low double digit duffer.

  5. Tom Stickney

    Apr 20, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Thank you for your time! My pleasure

  6. Don OConnor

    Apr 19, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    I have enjoyed Tom’s articles so much that I recently took a lesson from while visiting California from Texas. First of all he was very accommodating when arranging the lesson on short notice. Secondly the lesson has helped me tremendously. He almost instantly noticed a flaw in my set-up that has caused inconsistency in my ball striking for the last 35 years. I have taken lessons from several well regarded pros and none of diagnosed my set-up as an issue. I am a 1 hdcp so I strike it fairly well, but now I am not searching for the bottom of my arc at impact. As you can imagine a set-up change after that many years feels uncomfortable and strange, but 2 days after the lesson I played in a So. Cal. Mid-am qualifier and made 7 birdies in the first 13 holes. If it was for a sloppy short game the 72 could have been a 67.perhaps I need to see Tom for a short game lesson. The set-up is now starting to feel more naturally and am thinking less about mechanics than I ever have. Thank you Tom, even at 51 I feel like my game can now be better than it has ever been.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive



I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Breakthrough mental tools to play the golf of your dreams



Incredibly important talk! A must listen to the words of Dr. Karl Morris, ham-and-egging with the golf imperfections trio. Like listening to top athletes around a campfire. This talk will helps all ages and skills in any sport.



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On Spec

On Spec: Homa Wins! And how to avoid “paralysis by analysis”!



This week’s episode covers a wide array of topics from the world of golf including Max Homa’s win on the PGA Tour, golf course architecture, and how to avoid “paralysis by analysis” when it comes to your golf game.

This week’s show also covers the important topic of mental health, with the catalyst for the conversation being a recent interview published by PGA Tour with Bubba Watson and his struggles.




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