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Opinion & Analysis

Why do we love golf?

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There’s often a point in a round of golf, most typically after my second consecutive double-bogey, when I wonder what I’m doing, why I’m wasting my time and money, and if I’m really enjoying myself.

This usually passes with a good tee shot, a nice iron approach or a made 20-footer.

Sometimes I wonder though, do I really love golf? And if so, why?

[quote_box_center]“I think it’s the best sport once you’re in your 40s,” Mark, who I guessed was in his 50s, told me at Whispering Palms. “There’s physical skill required, mental obstacles to overcome, an element of skill and luck on every shot.”[/quote_box_center]

“I know I can hit the shots, not every time, but most of the time,” said Jeremy, a white-shirted 30-something golfer wearing a red hat and matching red shoes. “And in that second-and-a-half when I’m swinging, every bit of concentration I have is focused on the challenge of hitting the ball just right.”

So, it’s the challenge of golf we love?

[quote_box_center]“When I visualize a shot before I hit it and then hit that shot,” Brian told me at Dos Lagos. “When the ball is in the air, it’s nothing short of orgasmic.”[/quote_box_center]

And I backed away from him as he went to the tee.

“I can hit a shot sometimes,” Paul, a 12-handicap at Santa Anita, said, “that’s as good as any pro could have hit from the same spot.”

“Dude, they’d never be in the same spots you’re in,” said his friend Ari.

“Hey, remember who’s winning the match,” Paul snapped back.

Maybe it’s the competition with each other that makes us love golf?

[quote_box_center]“You’re really only competing with yourself,” Daniel told me at Redhawk. “And with the golf course, I suppose. But you can’t really ever beat the golf course.”[/quote_box_center]

“I love to play in tournaments, men’s club or SCGA,” Ramon, a 9-handicap, said. “You have to play the ball down, play it into the hole, no mulligans, and everyone has to play the same course, the same wind, the same hole locations. You get an honest measurement of yourself, your game against everyone else’s.”

“Yeah, it confirms how bad you suck,” his friend, I think, Ruben answered.

Maybe it’s that camaraderie we love?

[quote_box_center]“I’m playing with my little brother and two guys I’ve known since elementary school,” Weston offered at the short course at Brookside in Pasadena. “We give it to each other pretty good every hole. Then we continue it after the round in the bar.”[/quote_box_center]

“I’ve been playing with this same group of guys now for three years,” said Tim, a 10-handicap wearing a Puma hat, an UnderArmour shirt and a Nike belt over Adidas shoes. “We play a serious game except when we’re making fun of each other.”

“After every shot you hit,” said his cart partner Nick.

“You don’t laugh when I drive it like 50 yards past you,” Tim responded.

So, maybe it’s crushing the ball that makes us love golf?

[quote_box_center]“There’s nothing I enjoy more than a big drive,” said Ellen, who is tanned, muscular, short, and the owner of a 15-handicap. “I hit it 180 off the tee. I suppose that’s not long by men’s standards, but I’m usually at least 30 yards past the other girls.” It turns out women really do dig the long ball, especially when they hit it. “Then,” she added, “if I knock it on the green and make a birdie putt, that’s the best.”[/quote_box_center]

Perhaps it’s that element of conquest we love?

“I had a 74 Sunday,” Evan, a 7.1 index, told me at the turn at Brookside. “I double-bogeyed the first hole then played the last 17 even par.” And I didn’t understand that, because I’ve never broken 80 after a first hole double. “I was in some trouble on 18,” he reminisced. “I was blocked by a tree in the rough; I had to hit a low liner under a branch and curve it into the fairway to run up between the traps and onto the green. That was the shot of the day.”

Maybe we love golf for the creativity it requires?

[quote_box_center]“I love reading greens,” Leigh told me at Escena in Palm Springs where the putting areas have lots of undulation. “You don’t have to sink the putt to feel like you’ve hit it well. When I curl a 35-footer over a mound and down to tap-in range, getting both the break and the speed correct, I think that’s pretty cool.”[/quote_box_center]

“I think the real creativity comes in the short game,” said Owen who had just finished 18 at Indian Canyon South with a tap-in par from a clever chip up and over a trap and down to the hole.

“That’s because he doesn’t hit many greens in regulation,” his buddy Jonathan told me. “I think the creativity comes from trying to imagine the shot I need to play into the green. You have to calculate the distance, the direction, the obstacles to avoid, the wind, the trajectory of the shot, and what kind of roll the ball will get after it lands. And then you have to choose the right club,” he said.

That must be it; it must be the choices we have to make that make us love golf.

[quote_box_center]“Golf’s all about choices,” my friend Adam said. He’s a 15-handicap and sometimes he chooses to play the white tees instead of the blue. “I could hit driver or 3-wood off the tee. I could bump-and-run or fly the ball to the green. I could chip or pitch with a lob wedge or a 9-iron. I could even putt the ball out of the trap instead of using my sand wedge if there’s no lip. The only choice I don’t have is whether to count all of my strokes.”[/quote_box_center]

Okay, then. It could be the choices, or maybe it’s the creativity, the conquest, crushing it, the camaraderie, the competition, or the challenge; it’s hard to say exactly why I love golf.

I guess it’s a combination.

Why do you love golf? Tell us in the comments section below. And check out Tom Hill’s humorous golf book, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth at 7-ironpress.com – use the coupon code GOLFWRX for free shipping of the paperback.

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Tom Hill is a 9.7 handicap, author and former radio reporter. Hill is the author of the recently released fiction novel, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth, a humorous golf saga of one player’s unexpected attempt to shoot a score he never before thought possible. Kirkus Reviews raved about A Perfect Lie, (It) “has the immediacy of a memoir…it’s no gimme but Hill nails it square.” (kirkusreviews.com). A Perfect Lie is available as an ebook or paperback through 7-ironpress.com and the first three chapters are available online to sample. Hill is a dedicated golfer who has played more than 2,000 rounds in the past 30 years and had a one-time personal best handicap of 5.5. As a freelance radio reporter, Hill covered more than 60 PGA and LPGA tournaments working for CBS Radio, ABC Radio, AP Audio, The Mutual Broadcasting System and individual radio stations around the country. “Few knew my name and no one saw my face,” he says, “but millions heard my voice.” Hill is the father of three sons and lives with his wife, Arava Talve, in southern California where he chases after a little white ball as often as he can.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Mike Adams

    Apr 30, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Why do we love anything? And why do we repeatably do anything?

    It’s for the drugs man – our brains operate on four key chemicals and golf is a wonderful source of dopamine. Imagine how a shot needs curve under a tree over the bunker, then recall the necessary body movements in your mind, then execute the stroke and watch the ball exactly perform your mental prediction – and pow! Dopamine hit. Exactly the same as a gamblers hit when winning the jackpot. (And the assumption that the result was based your own skill is just as misplaced).

    A few good shots of Dopamine are enough to get most people back to the course. And the reason that some people love the game and others can’t stand it, is probably because a few of use were lucky enough to make a centre club face strike when we first tried the game.

    We are all junkies, it’s just a question of how you get your chemicals.

    Cheers

    mike

  2. Al

    Apr 29, 2015 at 10:46 am

    It’s the stupidest game in the world, but I love it because I hit shots that amaze me. Downhill lie in light rough, green 30′ away and ~8′ above the ball, downhill all the way to the hole — Deadsville. I proceed to consciously forget about score and flop it on the edge and it rolled into the hole for eagle… but just hitting one dead straight right at the flag from 100 yards with such a coarse aiming method seems like performing a minor miracle. Still, it remains a love-hate relationship.

  3. cb

    Apr 28, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    The feeling of a great iron shot is the addiction for me. If I’m playing bad I sometimes feel like I should just give up the game (not like Im relying on it for income) but then I hit a great iron shot and the addiction starts all over again

  4. Jason

    Apr 28, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    It’s a challenge, but to me the best part is having my son, my dad and my brother out for an afternoon hitting some good shots and having a few laughs at the not so good shots (as long as they’re not mine). 🙂

  5. rer4136

    Apr 28, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Just read John Updike’s The Camaraderie of Golf I and II. He really nails it.

    • Andrew

      Apr 28, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Golf provides ordinary men (and women) with momentary glimpses of greatness – bolstering our own belief that greatness is in fact possible. Not necessarily the greatness we see on ESPN or Golf Channel. Our own greatness. We may never achieve the consistency of a PGA pro, but in striving to perform at a higher level (in any facet of our lives) with increasing regularity, we move closer to the excellence each of us was born to pursue. It’s all about the pursuit.

      When it comes to golf, many will wax on about the beautiful surroundings, the camaraderie with friends, etc. But let’s face it, if you want beautiful surroundings you can go hiking. If you want camaraderie with friends, basically any shared interest will do. These are, of course, valid reasons to LIKE golf as a hobby and a great bonus of playing the game. However, for those that LOVE golf, it’s not a game, a hobby or a social outing. It’s a pursuit.

      In its purest form, the human spirit drives us to continuously seek out and overcome new challenges. As is often forgotten or misunderstood, the pursuit of excellence ought not be some draconian death march where happiness is sacrificed in favor of some specific achievement. On the contrary, the pursuit of excellence (or at least continual improvement) in any worthwhile endeavor is perhaps the most fulfilling use of one’s time – a path to pure joy.

      For many young children (especially boys) athletics become the most natural and captivating outlet for the expression of, and the pursuit of, excellence. When a young boy watches professional sports with his father, that young boy is almost certainly scripting a slow-motion mental highlight reel of himself one day competing at the highest level, just like his heroes on the field. The father likely reminisces about how he did the same when he was a kid. If this young boy is blessed with natural athleticism, he may well become a star on his high school team; maybe even play in college. However far his innate talents and physical attributes ultimately take him, the pursuit will undoubtedly be valuable, formative and deeply fulfilling.

      Eventually though, with very few exceptions, the jersey and cleats will be retired in favor of button down shirts and penny loafers. The glory days of conquering opponents, of always working to get faster, stronger, better will give way to a reality that is more…mundane.
      That is not to say that professional life is inherently unfulfilling. For those who are goal-driven, there are degrees to earn, sales targets to hit, promotions to earn…plenty of opportunities for “professional-development.”

      But for many, their motivation in this new “real world” is more practical than inspirational. There are bills to pay and mouths to feed. But there are no dragons to slay, no records to set, no rivals to beat. Something is missing, and you want it back.

      Hence, our love of golf.

      I firmly believe that humans are born with an innate desire to pursue excellence. This part of us never dies, although it can wither away painfully if we keep it locked up in cubicles of indifference. Although accessible to those whose athletic prime has past, Golf is far from indifferent. One or two degrees of face-angle rotation can be the difference between humiliation and perfection. Like a well-fought battle back in one’s glory days, a single round of Golf can knock you on your ass, give you a few glimpses of glory, and inspire you to get better.

      Here’s to the pursuit.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive

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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

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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”!

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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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