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10 Unwritten Rules of Golf Etiquette



There is certain etiquette all golfers are taught when first learning to play the game, such as not to step in another person’s line on the green, and not to talk while another person is hitting. Those are the basics, but not what I’m talking about here. There are underlying rules of etiquette; ones that you may never even know existed.

You see, the mind of a golfer is very fragile, and often irrational. It’s understandable, since there’s a constant battle going on inside of it — juggling swing thoughts, demons, highs and lows. At any point a golfer’s patience can snap, and the last thing he or she needs is a push from a playing partner.

When you’re in a group with another golfer, your job is to be respectful, helpful, enjoyable, and sometimes just stay out of the way. You don’t want to unknowingly aggravate a player in your group (unless you’re playing match play, maybe), but that’s another discussion entirely.

Here’s a list of 10 unwritten, unspoken rules of golf etiquette.

Don’t talk to someone else’s golf ball

I know, you’re only being polite. But when golfers spray a shot and it’s heading for the water, you can bet they know it’s heading for the water. They don’t need you yelling at it or begging for it to stay dry. If they want to instruct their golf ball to behave a certain way, leave it up to them.

The last thing you want is for them to say GO as their ball flies toward a fairway bunker, while you’re telling it to SIT… only to see it land in the sand. Awkward.

Your pleads to another’s golf ball can also come across as insincere, or even disrespectful. For example, if the ball is clearly hooking left into the trees, and you yell “spit it!” you’re basically saying that the golfer just hit a shot that needs to get extremely lucky. Surely the player doesn’t need to hear your confirmation that he or she just hit a terrible shot.

It’s their golf ball; they paid for it, they hit it and they know best where it’s going. When in doubt, silence is always the best approach.

If you say “nice shot,” make sure it was a nice shot

“Nice shot” is undoubtedly the most overused compliment in golf, so make sure to at least use it correctly.

Imagine you’re a scratch golfer and your ball is in the fairway about a 100 yards out, your favorite number. The pin is tucked back-right, but you’re eyeing it up and looking to attack in hopes of making birdie. You end up tugging it, and didn’t catch it cleanly either, so you let your hand off the club in disappointment. The ball lands on the front left portion of the green for an outside chance at birdie, and you’re heated. You slam the club back in your bag, upset at the missed opportunity, and another player in the group gives you a half-hearted nice shot.

Now, not only did the compliment go unappreciated, but the scratch golfer may now be thinking, “Are their standards so low of my golf game that they think that’s a nice shot?”

And this goes for any level of golfer. No one wants to hear nice shot when it was below their standards. The point is, compliment a player on hitting a good one, but make sure the player actually agrees with you.

Show some love

On the flip side, if your playing partner is faced with a difficult shot — maybe they need to hit a towering shot over a tree to a green guarded by water — and they pull it off, make sure to say something more than “nice shot.” Especially if you’re the one who said “nice shot” when that same player hit a semi-chunk from 100 yards on the hole before.

Since the mind of a golfer is fragile, it doesn’t hurt to stroke their ego a bit when they hit an amazing shot. The golf clap was invented for this reason.

Don’t ask someone what they had on the hole as soon as they hole out

While it may not seem like a big deal, keeping score can be a lot of pressure. It’s easy to miscount, forget to mark down the scores from a previous hole, or simply mark down the wrong score. Such mistakes can easily lead to a dispute if handled improperly.

Nothing is more irritating to most golfers than having to announce to the group they made a double bogey as soon as their golf ball touches the bottom of the cup, though. If you just saw them three-putt, or you know they hit a ball out of bounds on the hole, don’t ask “What’d you have there?” as soon as they hole out.

Since they’re probably either angry or upset, give them a few minutes to collect themselves before having to confirm they had a terrible hole. And think before you say “nice par,” forgetting about the ball they dunked in the water, because then they have to correct you and say “actually it was a bogey.” It just reaffirms the heartbreak.

No talking during a no-hitter

If you’re a baseball fan, you know that you should never talk to a pitcher who’s throwing a perfect game or no-hitter, as to not disrupt him while he’s “in the zone.”

The same goes for golfers, but it’s even worse. For golfers, zones are particularly fragile, and any mention of performance, swing thoughts or score can be destructive.

So if a golfer just hit the first six fairways of the day, don’t ask something like, “How are you hitting all of these fairways today?” Chances are, they’ll snipe the next tee shot way left. And if they’re clearly playing better than their handicap suggests, they’re either sandbagging, or know exactly how well they’re playing that day. Don’t disturb them by saying, “Hey, you’re playing pretty well today, eh? Is this the best you’ve ever shot?” If it turns out they screw up their potential best round ever, you can bet they’ll be blaming you and your question when the round is over.

Also, don’t ever say this: “Hey, do you know you only need a bogey to break 80. Have you ever broken 80 before?” No they haven’t broken 80 before, and they won’t today because now it’s in their head.

Don’t hit, or even look at someone else’s golf ball

Want to see a golfer completely lose the plot? Walk over to their golf ball, bend over to look at it, then address it with a golf club.

Anyone who has had someone accidentally hit their golf ball knows there’s nothing that makes a golfer angrier. If your golf ball happens to be in the vicinity of someone else’s ball — or if there’s even a chance of it — be extra, extra careful that you’re hitting the correct one. I’ve seen disputes over golf balls turn into fisticuffs.

And, whatever you do, DO NOT hit someone’s golf ball, realize it’s theirs, and then drop the ball back in a worse lie than where you found it. Not even your worst enemy deserves that.

Tell someone if they’re teed up in front of the tee markers

Don’t wait until after they’ve hit the shot to tell them their ball was in front of the tee markers. If you noticed it, that means you noticed before they hit the ball, or else you wouldn’t have been able to tell. Don’t put another golfer in that awkward position, because there’s only two ways of dealing with it:

  1. They take the stroke and re-tee, in which case they’re fuming because you could have saved them the stroke.
  2. You agree to let it go, but then the player feels bad and can’t concentrate the rest of the round knowing it wasn’t completely by the rules.

Golf is a game of sportsmanship, and you should never want another player to incur a penalty. Even if you’re playing against them, calling penalties that you could have saved from happening is a sure way to make enemies in the game.

Wait until the clubhouse to pay

I know it hurts when you’ve lost a money match, and you want to get the payment over as soon as possible, but on the 18th green in front of an audience is NOT the right time to do so.

You need to be sensitive to the fact that some people are uncomfortable advertising that they gamble on the golf course, and others are even more uncomfortable with people knowing they won. Wait until you’re in a more private setting to settle your bets. If they want to then brag to their friends or fellow members, that’s their right.

Take your ball out of the hole before someone else putts

There’s something poetic about the sound of the golf ball rolling around in the bottom of the cup. It’s confirmation that you’ve successfully completed your goal of making the putt, and your award for finishing the hole.

There are only 18 opportunities to hear that sound during a round, so don’t rob your playing partner of any of them.

Plus, you don’t want your playing partner thinking about your golf ball that’s sitting in the bottom of the cup, rather than concentrating on what he or she needs to do on the green. Maybe you’re just trying to speed up play or not get in the way of the other player, but it’s never wrong to just hurry up and grab your ball out of the hole.

Seek instruction, but make sure it’s timed correctly

There’s not a golfer on the planet who will refuse to give advice to a player seeking assistance with their game. Even on the PGA Tour, where golfers compete against each other for seven-figure paychecks, players give each other pointers when asked.

That being said, right after someone hits a shot that spins violently off the front of the green is NOT the correct time to ask, “How do you get the ball to spin back like that?” If the ball spins off the green, I can guarantee they weren’t trying to do that. And if they duck hook a ball into someone’s backyard, that simply isn’t the right time to ask, “How do you make the ball draw like that?”

There’s a time and place for instruction; just make sure it’s not when your playing partner is ready to snap their club in half.

Inspired by Assistant PGA Professional Steven Westphal

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.



  1. Pingback: Tee It Up With Rock Bottom Golf - Unwritten Rules - Golf Blog

  2. Randy Chorvack

    Sep 13, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    I love how you said to make sure that if you say nice shot you use it correctly as not to sound sarcastic. It’s very rude to give somebody condescending praise, especially if they’re trying their hardest. It can even be seen as discouraging, which I’m sure would be the opposite of your intention.

  3. Mmmmm

    Jul 27, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    The fact that you called it “Rules of” Etiquette tells me you should quit this game and get off the golf course and leave us alone, because you don’t understand golf in any way whatsoever

  4. Scooter

    Jul 24, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    I’ve played with folks who miss a putt and immediately rake the ball back to re-try or drop another ball to re-try … before I’ve hit my first putt … very uncool

  5. Suncoast 9

    Jul 23, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    1. Pull that short tee out of the ground after teeing off on a par three or short par four.
    2. If someone says nice shot when you know it wasn’t, just smile and say thank you.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 24, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Hey, I like that short tee left there. I use it if it’s on the correct side of the tee box.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 24, 2016 at 7:31 pm

        In front or in back of the markers… it’s gotta fit the club’s distance. Why let a silly thing like a tee marker interfere? I have actually moved them before… if I can’t get a level stance. Folks, do you know who places the tee markers?! Some hard-working 2nd string greenskeeper grunt who has never played a round of golf in his life. He mowed the tee and was told to place the tee markers in a new position. Bless his heart… what does he know.

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jul 24, 2016 at 7:40 pm

          Ah, my bad. We all thought the PGA and the USGA came in to our little public course and professionally placed those tee markers. I used to think that, too.

    • Jack

      Aug 2, 2016 at 5:15 am

      I got annoyed at a guy that kept saying nice shot when I hit it OB. I told him about it and he stopped. Communication is the proper etiquette. But what bugs me most is the unsolicited swing advice. It’s like WTH, you really think I’m going to get better immediately? Especially when it’s coming from a high handicapper who has no clue what he’s doing.

  6. Sam

    Jul 23, 2016 at 2:22 am

    First hole of a big tourny i was nervous and chipped on from near the green and 3 putted.My scorer said ‘ your short game is really bad’
    I became mad.

  7. Grizz01

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    And this, is how you get into your opponets head.

  8. Bert

    Jul 22, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    Not sure your opening comment is correct; seems like new players to the game know very little about anything except what they may see on TV.

    “There is certain etiquette all golfers are taught when first learning to play the game, such as not to step in another person’s line on the green, and not to talk while another person is hitting. Those are the basics,”

    Who teaches them?

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 9:38 pm

      Always remember to shout, “Get in the hole!” or “Mashed potatoes.” when a member of your group hits.

  9. Nils Nelson

    Jul 22, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Regardless of your on-course experience, read THE GOLFER’S CODE, by David Gould. (Thank you for speaking up, Mr. Montesano.)

  10. Joey5Picks

    Jul 22, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Regarding #9: Was playing with friends once. On a par 3 friend #1 hits his tee shot and as soon as it’s in the air friend #2 says “Nice shot!”. The ball flies the green and goes into the junk. Friend #2 immediately says “oh, never mind.”

    Don’t say “nice shot” until the ball comes to rest.

  11. acemandrake

    Jul 22, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    “Maybe you’re just trying to speed up play or not get in the way of the other player, but it’s wrong to just hurry up and grab your ball out of the hole.”

    ??? Am I reading this correctly? Didn’t he say to take our ball out of the hole before the next player putts?

    What’s wrong with me?

    • Brian

      Jul 22, 2016 at 10:40 pm

      Nah, you read it the same way I did. I believe it’s a typo.

  12. Double Mocha Man

    Jul 22, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    #7. I like to keep my own score. I do it by tracking how many over par I am… on rare occasion how many under. I dislike it when someone else insists on keeping my score. A while back I resorted to telling outright lies to “Mr. Scorekeeper”. I’d say, “Par.” He’d say, “I had you for a bogey.” Well, if you’re counting my strokes why friggin’ ask me?!

    • KK

      Jul 22, 2016 at 7:08 pm

      That’s kind of the rule of golf, bro. It appears your own naivete is the root cause of your problem. Read up.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 22, 2016 at 9:06 pm

        KK… Tell me again what’s naive about keeping my own score.

        • Uncleyianni

          Jul 23, 2016 at 6:44 am

          You both keep score to be there to fix each other’s mistakes. As a kind of back up for each other.

        • Dad

          Jul 23, 2016 at 4:50 pm

          Makes it easier to cheat. Even though I’m SURE you’re a great guy, there’s a reason partners keep score in golf

  13. Bob Castelline

    Jul 22, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    #11 — No such thing at “ready golf” when you’re on the tee
    You gotta hate the guy who strides arrogantly up to the tee ahead of you, despite the fact that he just made double to your par. “Ready golf,” he says as you stand there dumbfounded, driver in hand, ready to play.

    Ready golf is not for the tee, dude.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Ready golf is for the tee if you’re not ready. Also, first one to the 19th hole buys… ready drinks.

      • Bob Castelline

        Jul 22, 2016 at 4:54 pm

        OK, right. But I just said, “as you stand there dumbfounded, driver in hand, ready to play.” Definitely agree on the 19th hole rule.

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jul 22, 2016 at 5:00 pm

          Since you said you were ready, I understand. I owe you a gin & tonic. In the groups I play with we only give tee honors to a guy if he just made birdie or better… then we’ll suck it up and wait.

          • Double Mocha Man

            Jul 22, 2016 at 5:37 pm

            If I’m playing in a strange group I’ll usually wait to see how they play it, or I ask or I just score the lowest so I have the honors anyway. 😉

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 5:02 pm

      Agreed. If you want tee honors get your butt up on the tee.

    • Bob Castelline

      Jul 22, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      Perhaps you missed the part where I wrote, “Driver in hand, ready to play.”

      FWIW, I don’t do any of that crap you just described. So no, you’re not right. Consider getting your psychic gyro calibrated.

      • ooffa

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:39 pm

        Hey Smiz, Bob is lying. He does all those things. You Rock Smiz.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:48 pm

        Smizter… I’m with Bob. I think he was a half step late to the tee box ’cause he was kind enough to put the flag back in the hole.

        And go easy on Ferguson… I grew up there as a kid. One black in my graduating class of over 300. Sneaked onto many a private country club there… Norwood Hills, Normandie, Glen Echo.

      • Brian

        Jul 23, 2016 at 1:23 am

        You are the absolute worst person on the Internet.

        • Brian

          Jul 25, 2016 at 1:11 pm

          You’ll call it a cesspool, but you won’t look into extenuating circumstances that create the “cesspool.” You’re more than happy to point out the bad, but not willing to understand how it became the way it did. Systemic racism, under-employment and/or abject poverty due to systemic racism, fathers not being fathers, mothers not being mothers, and on and on and on.

          Honestly, you could point to just about any low-income area in the U.S. and find similar traits. It’s not just Ferguson, (I’ll go ahead and say it, because it seems like everyone’s afraid to) it’s not just black people, but as long as you enjoy continuing to paint that picture, it’ll never change. We could all, myself included, use a nice step back and exercise some empathy every now and again.

    • KK

      Jul 22, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      Golf is too long as is and is killing the game. No one has the time for wait for you to prance on up to the tee.

  14. Patricknorm

    Jul 22, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    I play a lot of tournaments and for those who do, you know making a four footer for par ( or even a tricky 3 footer) is a skill. Most non tournament matches I play, I putt out. Occasionally I’ll play with a group who has the habit of ” giving me” those 3-4 footers. I’ll politely explain that this is the only opportunity outside of a tournament to have to make them.
    Also, I hate when players stand behind you when you putt to see your line. This happens occasionally even in tournaments and even then I have to request that I not be able to see them in my backswing. Of course when I play with better players this is never an issue.
    I’m only a 7 handicap but it’s never easy scoring unless I putt well. I’ll admit to some minor anal retentive behaviour on this issue. Good article .

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      I love the guys who give themselves 6 foot gimmes. They swipe at them backhanded or while walking. I called a buddy on that once and challenged him to putt out every hole. He didn’t make anything under 4 feet. Next round I relented and let him go back to giving himself putts. He was much happier once again.

  15. Scooter McGavin

    Jul 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Ugh. Such pretentious, whiny crap. Stop asking everyone to walk on eggshells around you because of your “fragile” ego. Be an adult for Christ’s sake.

    • Justin

      Jul 22, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      Completely agree! These rules are fine if you play on the PGA tour, but they are part of the reason why some people stay away from golf. If you play with anyone who does any of these things and you don’t like it, just don’t play with them anymore! It’s really that simple!! If you can’t handle me talking to your ball and you think it’s affecting your game, that’s on you. I shouldn’t have to change the way I play so you can play better. I’m a good golfer who grew up in a “country club” and know all the proper etiquette that some do not. Just because they didn’t grow up in the same environment as I did doesn’t make them bad people. Here is the short list of etiquette that I think about covers it:

      1. If the group behind you is on your ass, and the group in front of you is a hole ahead, let the group behind you through. Also, if you are a foursome and a twosome is behind you, look for an opportunity to let them through.

      2. Be conscious of where you are on the green while someone else is putting. As a general rule, mark your ball and take a look at the line of your putt until the first person to go addresses their putt. At that point, walk slowly off the green out of their vision. DO NOT walk back over to your ball until it is your turn to putt.

      3. To improve the pace of play, do not watch other people hit their shots while standing right next to them. Drop them off at their ball and drive or walk over to yours so you can save time preparing while they are executing. If your ball is very near theirs then this doesn’t apply. If your ball is 20 or 30 yards directly in front of them, know how far they are away from the pin and “estimate” what club you will use to save time. Nothing worse than slow play!

      4. Don’t rush to be the first one to tee up on every hole… you seem like an asshole. And no, you don’t have to play by who has honors, you can simply play ready golf. But, for the people who intentionally rush ahead of you to tee up… you know who you are… stop it jackass!!

      5. Know who you are playing with. If you are playing for business reasons, please act more professional regardless of what you may think the situation calls for. If you are out with buddies enjoying a six pack, please don’t be so uptight. In fact, you may actually play better during the round with buddies if you just try to have fun and lower your expectations.

      • Bob Castelline

        Jul 22, 2016 at 4:39 pm

        Oh, so YOU get to decide what’s proper etiquette and what’s not.

        Got it. Thanks.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 22, 2016 at 4:56 pm

        #3. No can do. I can’t walk over (up) to my drive ’cause I’m 40 yards ahead of ’em. It’s dangerous to be standing in front of these guys. 🙂

  16. Ian

    Jul 22, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Your playing partner (not you’re playing partner). I read somewhere that a baby seal dies every time you use it incorrectly – just saying.

  17. Snoopy

    Jul 22, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    #1(b) – Don’t give unsolicited advice. The next shot after a ball OB right is not the time someone is going to learn to hit a 300 yard draw. If I make double on the first two holes, I’m probably in no mood to let you “show me something…”, and ironically, if my game is that far off, I’m probably not going to be able to implement new ideas properly anyways. I can still just enjoy my round even if I’m not playing well. If I’m not paying you for your advice, keep it to yourself. At least wait until we’re off the course.

  18. Double Mocha Man

    Jul 22, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    I’ve learned to refrain from saying “Nice shot!” too early. Off the tee you hear the solid sound of a ball hit in the center of the clubface and you see your friend’s ball soaring down the center of the fairway. As soon as you utter the “Nice shot” words the ball initiates a 90 degree slice to the right into the weeds.

  19. Modog

    Jul 22, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    When I was a 14 Handy, dude told me I was even par on 17 tee. Knees shook so bad that I was lucky to bogie the last 2 holes. Thanks a lot.

    • talljohn777

      Jul 22, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      The odds of a 14 handicapper being even through 16 are well in-excess of 37,000 to 1, which is what the odds would be if you were just 10 under your handicap through 18 and this would put you in excess of 14 under your handicap. Making the probability of your supposed feat two to three times higher or closer to 100,000 to 1. Sorry, but I call BS.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:06 pm

        Gotta love a master forensic golfer. If I had just made 12 more putts today I would have been under par…

      • Golfdoc95

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:10 pm

        He was playing the back nine only…lol

      • Bob Castelline

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:14 pm

        I’m a 7 handicap. I shot 5-over 40 on the front and 4-under 32 on the back of my home course earlier this year. What are those odds, Columbo?

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jul 22, 2016 at 5:39 pm

          I think that round will fit into the bell shaped curve.

      • mc3jack

        Jul 22, 2016 at 9:42 pm

        It happens. I shot two-under with a triple on my card when I was a 10 hcp. No joke, no gimmes, 6500 yd course. It was the ‘dream round’ everybody hopes for on the first tee. I was ‘losing balls’ because they kept landing in the dishes where the yardage markers were. Freak putts, etc. Sucked when the single who joined us asked me, “What’s your handicap?” on 15 tee, a tricky drive. I told him, “Having to play with you.”

    • ooffa

      Jul 22, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      If I was betting you I would have told you on the 10th tee.

  20. Peter

    Jul 22, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    If I’m part of a gallery, I’ll clap in acknowledgement of a good shot. If I’m competing, I’d say good shot or even great shot, but I’d NEVER clap.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      On occasion I’ll give a hearty clap for someones’s really good shot. I think we all want the same feeling the pros get on the course… even if I’m just a gallery of one.

      On that note, I played this morning and found myself in a fairway trap with a 7 iron in my hands. Had to request a group of about 15 junior golfers on the course taking a lesson to move a bit to the left so there would be no chance of hitting them. Picked that ball off the sand perfectly and landed on the green. What a treat when they all started applauding! That doesn’t happen everyday. Looking back on it I should have signed a few autographs.

      • Bob Castelline

        Jul 22, 2016 at 4:51 pm

        Earlier this year, I hit a blind shot to a short par 5 in an effort to reach in two. Hit it great. The ball was screaming right at the green before it went over the hill and out of sight.

        Right about the time the ball would have come to a rest, this huge roar crescendoes from an unseen crowd. My buddy and I were like, “What? Whoa!”

        As we got over the hill, we could see there was a wedding going on just across the pond from the green. I found out later (from a dude who was bored out of his mind and actually saw the shot) that the preacher said “you may kiss the bride” at the exact time my ball was rolling to a stop on the green, 6 feet away for eagle!

        Coolest feeling I ever had on a course, even though it was totally fake.

        • Double Mocha Man

          Jul 22, 2016 at 5:08 pm

          In my case it woulda been, “You may kiss the birdie, because you’ll never be sleeping with the eagle.”

          • Bob Castelline

            Jul 22, 2016 at 5:17 pm

            I made the putt and thought it would be funny to turn and tip my hat.

            Nobody was clapping. They were trampling each other trying to get to the bar.

  21. Matt

    Jul 22, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Is it wrong that I don’t like people picking up my clubs on the green? If they are left behind that is fine but when you have a handful of clubs and pick up my clubs and they hit against each other or pick up my club with your club, etc. Don’t like it.

    • Bob Castelline

      Jul 22, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      I don’t think you’re wrong. I suppose if I grab the flag and my playing partner is polite and picks up my wedge on the way off the green, that’s OK. But I totally agree — pick it up with your hand, and for God’s sake, don’t put it in my bag.

  22. SpellingBean

    Jul 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    #20 – Piss out of the view of all golfers and surrounding houses e.g. go in the bushes or wait. Nothing kills your game worse that seeing hose.

    • Busterpar

      Jul 24, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Hard to do in this day of houses crowding every fairway and only 1 outhouse/kybo per 9 on a course. When you get old and feeble and are on Flomax like lots of us you’ll understand my point a tad better. I really feel for the women in outings on hot days, they must be miserable.

  23. Kelly

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Really liked the article. I think etiquette is something not discussed enough.

    I do wonder about #10; I’m guilty of this quite often. I usually will say thing like “Get down” to a ball heading toward the bush/water or “Get up” to a putt looking short. I actually think this is good sportsmanship because it indicates to your playing partner that you want good things to happen in his game — I’m on his side, even if we’re competing. I certainly don’t mind when people do it to me. Do I feel guilty when bad things happen as a result of my “instructions”? Well, oddly, yes. I sometimes even apologize saying, “Sorry about that; I thought it was short.” But if we’re really being rational, we both know that my comment had nothing to do with the outcome.

    I very much agree with all the others, except #5, which is a bit silly. I’ve actually never hit someone else’s ball, but when it happens, it’s pretty clear that it was a mistake, so it’s not really an etiquette issue.

    #11 (or #1), be aware of the pace of play. Your playing partners don’t want to have to make up for your slow play. I hate when there are people waiting behind you, and a playing partner is making no effort to keep up or play a bit faster. The result is that the rest of the foursome has to play extra quickly to make up the time.

    • Kelly

      Jul 22, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      Oh, oh, oh…here’s another one. 🙂 Watch your freaking ball! It drives me crazy (I hope my wife is reading this) when people hit their ball into the rough or trees, and have completely no idea about its line. I know sometimes crap happens and you don’t always do this, but that should be the exception, not the rule. If your ball hits the trees, you should know pretty close to exactly where it went in. Take a moment and mark a line.

      On the flip side, watch your playing partners freaking ball because sometimes, number one doesn’t happen. I hate when you hit a ball and either lose it in the sun or just don’t pick it up in the air and your partner doesn’t have a clue because they weren’t watching. Sure, sometimes you have your attention elsewhere, but for most part, it’s your job as a playing partner to help track other player’s shots. At least, that’s the way I see it.

  24. Donald Quiote

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Rule #16 Never say good putt before the ball stops rolling or hits the bottom of the cup.

    • Rancho Bob

      Jul 22, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      Is “Good lag” appropriate after a missed two foot putt?

      • Double Mocha Man

        Jul 22, 2016 at 5:22 pm

        Not if you want to keep all of your teeth.

    • mc3jack

      Jul 22, 2016 at 9:46 pm

      I Looooooove doing this to guys in match play. If it falls, cool. If it doesn’t…hahahahahahaaaaa

  25. Max

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Golfers I hope to never get paired with in my life: Andrew Tursky

  26. JustTrying2BAwesome

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    #10 – Is this really bad etiquette? I do this all the time, as have a few others I’ve played with. I feel like a jerk now, I had no idea.

    Especially on the greens. If my ball needs to go a little to get there, I want as many people as I can get yelling at it. Maybe it’ll listen one of these days.

    • Max

      Jul 22, 2016 at 12:43 pm

      Yeah, I don’t understand #10. This is not an etiquette thing but more of a personal thing with the author and golfers like him. I have played golf for 25 years and am an etiquette snob and this one has never even crossed my mind. More often than not, talking to someone else’s ball is actually polite and show’s that you are paying attention to their game and not just self-absorbed in your own world. It also shows that you are watching their ball and can help find it if in the woods or water. I’d way rather have that than someone who is either too much in their own world that they don’t notice what’s happening in yours or people that are so serious that they barely acknowledge that you are playing along beside them.

      • Mr. Wedge

        Jul 22, 2016 at 1:36 pm

        I guess it may vary from person to person then, because I agree 100% with the author on this one (although personally I’m still guilty of it sometimes). Most of the time it’s insincere.

        What pisses me off the most is the confirmation of your bad shot. You dump one in the water and someone goes, that one’s wet. All I can think in my head is “yeah no sh*t, you ***hole. I know that b/c I hit the F’in thing”.

        • Jack

          Aug 2, 2016 at 5:17 am

          So what you’re saying is that you’re redirecting your frustration at someone who just saw your bad shot happen. You must be a joy to play with!

    • Double Mocha Man

      Nov 15, 2016 at 11:06 am

      You have friends?

  27. Chris

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    #11 first to hole out gets the flag – dont walk back to your cart grumbling about your 7
    #12 if you’re away on the green, don’t expect someone closer to putt so you can get the line b/c they’re “the better putter” (yes this actually happened)
    #13 if your playing partner helped you look for a ball on 3, you help him look for his on 12

    • larrybud

      Jul 22, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Yes to #11 and 13. Never had someone ask me to putt first!

    • Mr. Wedge

      Jul 22, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      #14 If they miss a putt, give them a moment to finish it out (if they want to of course). Nothing worse then wanting to clean it up quickly but by the time you reach your ball someone else is already lined up and making their putt.

      • Steve

        Jul 22, 2016 at 11:50 pm

        So just go up and hit your putt and don’t worry about them. It’s their fault if you distract them during your putt – you have the honors still… They’ll learn real quick.

    • Scooter

      Jul 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      #12 Same goes for the teebox. If you birdied the previous hole, be ready to hit first on the next hole. I’ve seen birdie-men that become slower than death on the next tee and eventually tell somebody “go ahead and hit … I’m not ready” … I always tell them “no way, bad karma pro” just to put the pressure back on them.

  28. Cornwall1888

    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    90% of these are very petty are we really this sensitive?

    Sorry if you’ve had a bad hole I’m going to ask you what you scored prett quick so I don’t forget

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 22, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      How about if you just count everyone’s shots. It’s not that hard. Or let them keep their own score.

  29. Nicholas

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Added rule:

    Don’t touch or remove my clubs from my bag without my consent.

    *I have no problem letting people handle my clubs but make sure you ask first. No need to rummage through when I’m not looking to check them out.

    • Nicholas

      Jul 22, 2016 at 11:59 am

      Negative. They usually like to take a practice swing with them. Happens often lately. Very odd.

  30. Gr

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:41 am

    #11. Don’t walk on somebody’s putting line
    #12. Always make the effort to pat down any spike marks around the cup, after your putt out, even if they aren’t yours

  31. jim

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:39 am

    is it in bad taste to hit the range before a round if you know for a fact the guys you are playing with will not have time to hit the range??

    • Steve

      Jul 22, 2016 at 11:45 am


    • Nicholas

      Jul 22, 2016 at 11:54 am

      Nope, not your fault for making the effort to get to the course early enough to warm up.

      • Nicholas

        Jul 22, 2016 at 12:00 pm

        I am on his side. I’m giving him ‘kudos’ because he’s making the effort to hit the range before the round.

    • Joey5Picks

      Jul 22, 2016 at 7:42 pm

      Nope. Want to warm up? Arrive earlier.

  32. Jafar

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:11 am

    #7 Players are just gonna have to suck it up because in a tournament I don’t have time or patience to coddle someone after they mucked their hole out.

    If they’re that sensitive they should find another sport or face reality.

    That being said I’m also kinda guilty of 9 and 10. So I’ll refrain from that now on thanks to this article.

  33. Ronald Montesano

    Jul 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

    1. I’ve played in a tournament with a guy on two occasions. Dude tells me “I had you for XX after the front nine” each time and I told him this year, “I don’t want to know, so keep quiet.” Th first time, i let it get to me; this year, I closed like a boss.

    2. Tell a guy to replace his ball marker when he has moved it out of the way. I did this from the gallery at a major amateur event, as the eventual champion was about to putt out from the mistaken spot, with no one saying a word. Talk about all eyes on me! Fortunately, I was correct and the champ sought me out to thank me.

  34. Tom

    Jul 22, 2016 at 10:55 am

    #2 I leave mine in the cup for the next hoe out and pick up the pin.

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Beyond limits: Carbon bending and the future of shaft manufacturing



My name is James, and I am an equipment junkie. Like many of you, I am also a (mediocre) golfer struggling to take my golf game to the next level. But since I’m not so keen on hitting the range or the gym, I’m always searching for the next big breakthrough to help me avoid excessive practice and golf lessons.

TLDR: I am back to report that I may have found the ultimate breakthrough involving how golf shafts are manufactured. It will sound mind-boggling and counter-intuitive, but the new technology involves controlling a shaft’s variables of weight, flex (CPM), and torsional strength (torque) all independently of one another. As if this alone doesn’t sound far-fetched enough, it also purports to control the subjective aspect of how stiff the shaft feels without affecting the other variables.

To the best of my knowledge, I never knew any of these were possible, but seeing (and feeling) is believing, though I’m still reeling from my recent experience. Moreover, I dare predict that the sheer novelty of this discovery has the potential to redefine the golf shaft industry as we know it.

Also, the article is long. You’ve been warned.

In A League Of Their Own

Over the years, I have reported on several golf innovations and technologies that made golfers sit up and take notice. Of those finds, let me briefly recap two products that especially stood out before I unveil my most recent discovery further below.

Starting at number three, I present the now-famous Autoflex shaft by Dumina. Introduced in early 2020 during the COVID epidemic, the small Korean company claimed that their shafts didn’t use any flex designations and are to be selected solely based on a golfer’s swing speed. Against conventional wisdom, the company claimed that a super flexible, ultralight shaft can improve distance and accuracy for golfers of all swing speeds. The AF shaft, with its mysterious Korea Hidden Technology (KHT), sounded too good to be true, but more often than not, golfers who braved the steep price and the hot pink color agreed that the shaft seemed legitimate. Many also credit it with creating a whole new category of soft and hyper-flexible performance shafts.

Next in the number two spot is the groundbreaking FreeFlex shaft from SJ Golf Lab, also out of Korea. When the FF shafts surfaced in early 2023, I first thought they were a slightly improved version of the Autoflex. At weights and flex even softer than the AF, the shafts also improved distance and accuracy at a lower price point than their counterparts.

Upon delving further, FreeFlex Technology (FFT) was far more amazing than I could have ever imagined. Against the norm, the inventor of FFT claimed that a shaft’s weight, flex (CPM), and torque are NOT relative to each other and that each variable can be controlled separately. According to SJ Lab, a lightweight, flexible shaft with a strong torque was possible, and vice-versa. The incredulous claim went largely unnoticed at the time, but the folks at SJ Lab recently decided to prove their technology by introducing the ultimate unicorn of a shaft.

Aptly named ‘Hammer Throw’ the rubber-like shaft featured a conventional shaft’s weight of 62g yet measured only 140 CPM to be incredibly soft and flexible. To top it off, it also featured a strong 3.5 torque similar to an S-flex shaft, all unlikely numbers that have never been combined in a single shaft before. The Hammer Throw proved to be a wonder shaft for slower swingers, helping to increase club head speed, distance, and even accuracy.

Ultimately, SJ Lab redefined the concept of ‘shaft customization’ by proving that a shaft’s WT, CPM, and TQ can be controlled independently to any degree.

Featuring SJ Golf’s FFT technology, the Hammer Throw and FF38 also caught the attention of many WLD athletes with swing speeds over 150mph.

Mind-Bending Revelation

The AF and FF shafts are indeed quite amazing, but what I’m about to share with you may be an even bigger discovery than both of them combined.

It was a Thursday afternoon in October when I arrived at SJ Golf Lab. I had just finished a round of golf that morning and felt flush after having bested my buddies on a tough track. I was to cover the story of a new line of putter shafts (based on the Chaos Theory in physics, no less) and was looking forward to seeing if it could help my putting.

I was making small talk with Dr. Choi, the inventor & CEO of SJ Golf Lab, when a courier arrived to hand him a sealed envelope. Inside was a patent certificate for a new golf shaft manufacturing process, which was to be featured in SJ Lab’s latest MetaFlex series of shafts.

“Oh, that sounds interesting” I said politely. “Is it like FreeFlex technology?”

What came next was a barrage of information so contradictory and yet so transformative in its revelation that I forgot all about the putter shafts.

Entering The Realm Of The Senses

Carbon Bending Technology (CBT) is the latest brainchild of Dr. Choi, the inventor of FreeFlex shafts. As incredulous as his FFT may seem, his new CBT technology takes it even further by stating that a fourth variable, the shaft’s level of firmness, can also be controlled independently of the other variables.

“CBT technology involves bending or wrapping carbon in a certain way to control how stiff a shaft feels, independently of weight, flex, and torque.” – Dr. Seung-jin Choi, inventor of CBT Technology 

Take a moment to let that sink in. Not only is he saying that the objective values of WT, CPM, and TQ can be controlled in any manner desired, but he can also control the subjective aspect of how firm a
shaft feels.

If CBT technology is legitimately possible, the implications of his discovery are immense and may well change the way golf shafts are made. Needless to say, such a spectacular assertion begs the question, “How can such an improbable idea be possible?”

As I struggled to comprehend what I just heard, Dr. Choi handed me a shaft and asked me to try and bend it. Grabbing it at both ends, the shaft felt light and soft, and I was able to bend and flex it easily. I was then given another shaft and asked to do the same. The new shaft felt much firmer from the get-go, similar to what I’d expect from a typical S-flex shaft. When I said that the second shaft felt much stronger than the first, I was in for a rude awakening.

“They’re the same shafts” Dr. Choi said. “The only difference is that the second one was treated with the CBT process. Other than that, both are practically the same in CPM and torque.”

“What do you mean these are the same shafts? This one is definitely stiffer.” My eyebrow arched in puzzlement at such a blatant contradiction.

After all, I was holding both shafts in my hands, and no one in the world was going to convince me that these two had the same CPM and TQ measurements.

The skepticism in my voice must’ve been obvious as I was led to a measuring device. I wish I could’ve seen the look on my face at that exact moment when my eyes confirmed both shafts to have the same CPM and torque.

Two same-looking shafts measured similarly in CPM and torque, despite one feeling much stiffer.

Goosebumps broke out on my arms, and my brain felt numb. Stunned, I took turns grabbing each shaft by the ends and bent them over and over again. There was absolutely no doubt that one was stiffer than the other. It wasn’t even close. Yet, if the numbers don’t lie, how was I to reconcile the two empirical facts at odds with each other before my very eyes?

Seeing Is Believing… Or Is It?

After repeated measurements to ensure I wasn’t dyslexic, I regained enough sense to sit down with Dr. Choi to hear more about the sorcery of carbon bending.

ME: How does CBT differ from your earlier FFT technology?

CHOI: CBT came as a result of golfers loving our FreeFlex shafts with the FFT technology but wanting even more. The FFT allows us to control the weight, flex, and torque independently. We used this discovery to design a new breed of shafts that help all levels of golfers increase club head speed and distance. But some of the stronger, faster-speed golfers were eventually turned off from it, as they couldn’t get accustomed to the soft feel and flex. The fear of spraying the ball all over the course was just too much.

To solve this issue, I looked at many factors that led golfers to describe whether a shaft is soft or stiff. Similar to FFT, I soon discovered that a shaft’s stiffness is not relative to its CPM value. By reinforcing a shaft through a special process I call carbon-bending, it can be made to feel as stiff as I wish without changing the original CPM or torque.

ME: (blank stare)

CHOI: Did that answer the question?

ME: Uhh… no? What do you mean the CPM doesn’t change? If the shaft became stiffer, it means the CPM value must have increased, doesn’t it? How we perceive stiffness is subjective, so we measure the CPM value objectively with a machine. That way, we can compare the CPM values of different shafts to see which one is stiffer with the higher number.

CHOI: Normally yes, but like I said, how stiff the shaft feels does not have to correlate with the CPM. They are independently controllable. As I just showed you with the two shafts earlier, both measured at the same CPM and torque. It was only when I applied the CBT method to one of them that it became stiffer than before, as you have seen for yourself.

ME: Yeah, I’m still not sure how that is, feeling firm in my hands but the machine reading it as soft. Is this like the cat in Schrodinger’s box, where the cat is both alive and dead at the same time? This shaft is also both soft and firm simultaneously?

CHOI: Not quite. But how about this? What if the CPM measurement we currently use to gauge and compare stiffness between shafts is not the only method? What if there were other ways that we haven’t considered to control the feeling of firmness?

ME: So you’re saying you discovered a new way to objectively measure how we feel or perceive stiffness?

CHOI: I think it’s better to say that I realized that a shaft’s CPM and stiffness can be independent of each other, whereas before, we thought they were directly relative. It led to look for other ways to make the shaft firmer, which is what I did. In the process, it also made me think, what else are we missing? Maybe we’ve been limiting ourselves in believing there’s nothing new left to discover.

Shaft Manufacturing 101

According to Dr. Choi, the method of manufacturing carbon shafts has remained largely unchanged since 1979, when Taylormade first introduced the first graphite shaft that offered many advantages over conventional steel shafts. Since then, various new materials and technologies have made the shafts lighter and stronger, but the basic shaft-making process remains the same.

The making of a modern golf shaft consists of wrapping layers of prepreg (treated carbon fiber) sheets around a steel shaft (mandrel). As more layers are applied, the shaft becomes progressively thicker and heavier (WT), which makes the flex (CPM) stiffer and increases the torsional (TQ)

The characteristics of a shaft depend on the amount of material and how each layer is oriented on the mandrel. How this is done varies among OEMs.

The current method and its proportional relationship between WT, CPM, and TQ is widely accepted. However, it also presents a big challenge for shaft-makers, whose main goal is to make shafts that improve distance with more accuracy. This is because generating more club speed for more distance necessitates a light and flexible shaft; while improving shot accuracy requires the shaft to be firm in both flex and torsional strength.

To balance the trade-off as best they could, OEMs have continually researched new materials and higher-quality carbon, along with their own, often secret, ways of weaving and arranging the carbon prepreg. A good example to illustrate shaft improvement in this manner is the lighter 50-gram range of X-flex shafts, which were a rarity only a few years ago.

At least for now, 5X shafts seem to be the pinnacle of conventional shafts that can be made with the existing process.

Shaft Manufacturing 2.0

In physics, Force equals Mass multiplied by Acceleration (F=MA). The same can be applied to golf at impact, but since a golf club is designed to be in motion, its dynamic energy is calculated as Impulse=MAT, where T is the time the ball stays in contact with the club face.

Dr. Choi explained that increasing any of the three factors would transfer more energy to the ball (I).

In other words, by making the club head heavier (M), faster (A), and getting the ball to remain in contact with the clubface longer (T), the distance will increase as a result.

Now that we can get faster club head speed (FF shafts), how can the shaft be made to feel stiff while retaining a longer distance? The solution was surprisingly simple, as most discoveries tend to be at first.

“Imagine wearing a pair of skin-tight nylon stockings,” Dr. Choi said. “It’s tight, but you can still move and bend your knees easily.” Truth be told, I’d never worn stockings before, but I nodded to see where it would lead.

“If you were to put on one more, your legs will feel stiff, and with yet another, it’ll now be very difficult to even bend your knees,” he was building up towards a big reveal. “But no matter how stiff your legs now feel with the layers of stockings, you can still rotate them.” Come again?

“When you try to sit down, the legs will stick straight out like they’re in a cast, right? But you’d still be able to twist or rotate your leg [left and right] because the stockings are not exerting force in that direction.”

Dazed at the anticlimactic turn, I tried to recall the last time I had a cast but he plowed on. “The original characteristics of your legs don’t change because of the stockings. They’re still your legs, which are bendy and flexible.”

I may have missed a whole lot there, but loosely translated, CBT technology is like adding tight pairs of stockings to make a shaft feel firmer, but won’t change what the original shaft was in terms of
torque or CPM.

Helical Carbon Armour

Carbon bending involves a new step in the shaft manufacturing process, where a thin strip of carbon is helically wrapped tightly around the shaft to increase stiffness. This new sheath of armor will firm up the feel of the shaft but will not affect the CPM or torque. In addition, Dr. Choi’s in-depth research further showed that the width of the strip band and the spacing between the helical spirals all played a part in changing the characteristics of the shaft in minute ways.

Each shaft has been treated with CBT and using different carbon weave, band width, materials and alignment to display a unique characteristics that can be tailored to a golfer’s swing

The truly mind-blowing prospect of CBT, however, is its ability to create an endless number of unique shafts with specific performance characteristics. For example, the number of new shaft possibilities can reach tens or even hundreds of thousands, depending on various factors, including but not limited to the width and thickness of the band, the spacing and orientation of the helical spiral, the weave pattern of the band fabric, and each of the different materials that all of these factors can be applied to.

“Can you imagine a PGA tour pro being able to dial in a golf shaft to squeeze 99.9% of the performance potential from their favorite shaft, without giving up anything they prefer in WT, CPM, TQ, and now FEEL?” – SJ Golf Lab 2023 

If It Looks And Barks Like A Dog?

Several days later, I returned to SJ Lab to test the new MetaFlex CBT shafts. The lineup consisted of three driver shafts of 5H, 6H, 6.5M, and iron ix90 shafts (H for high kick, M for mid-kick). Again, the MF series is designed for faster-speed golfers who swing at least 100mph to well over 120mph. I purposely asked not to see the shaft specs beforehand, as I wanted to remain neutral in determining how the new shafts felt and performed.

Waggling the 5H shaft first, it felt similar in weight and flex to a typical R-shaft. I usually average a smooth swing of about 95 mph with my FF38, but the 5H shaft instinctively made me try to swing harder to compensate for the firmer feel. The good drives launched high and carried as far, with spin between 1900~2000 rpm. As I warmed up, I was hitting it quite well, despite swinging a bit harder than usual.

I had grown accustomed to swinging smoothly and in tempo with FF shafts, so it felt good to swing hard again and not worry about the head catching up. The overall distance was comparable with my own driver at 240~250 yards, so I guessed the 5H specs to be about 220 CPM and close to 4.0 torque. On the downswing, the shaft reminded me of the many 5S shafts I had been using before being turned onto softer shafts. I imagined I could play it well, but struggle to keep it straight on the back nine when I gradually get tired.

Next, the 6H shaft felt like a conventional 5S on the waggle, but much stiffer like a 5X shaft on the actual downswing. I guessed it to be about 230~240 CPM and 3.5 in torque, as I was only able to turn the club head over about one-third of the time. I got a couple out to 240 yards but the rest of the shots varied from a fade bordering on a slice interspersed with low pulls. I felt the shaft demanded more speed for it to show its potential, and my slower speed wasn’t making it sing as it should.

Lastly, the MetaFlex 6.5M told me right away that it was out of my league. The waggle reminded me of a Ventus or a Tensei shaft, and the actual swing was even stiffer and closer to a 6X shaft. As expected, my shots were mostly pushed dead right, as I couldn’t effectively load the shaft with speed.

When I tried to force the head to turn over, I’d overcompensate to flip the wrist and pull it low left. The few that managed to land on the fairway barely traveled 210 yards with a noticeable decrease in ball speed. I can usually muster enough muscle to make a typical stiff shaft work over nine holes at least, but the 6.5M felt like an iron rod.

Overall, MF shafts’ waggles felt similar to conventional aftermarket shafts and felt even firmer during the actual swing.

I was now ready to see the actual spec measurements of the three shafts.

I could never have imagined such numbers corresponding to the firmness I experienced with MetaFlex shafts.

“There’s no way these numbers are the actual specs,” I protested. “These are softer than my FF38, so how…?” Hearing my voice hit a high pitch, I quickly closed my mouth. I already knew to expect something different, but this? Trying to reconcile the stiffness with such low numbers was just as difficult as it was the first time I encountered this phenomenon.

For lack of a better comparison, imagine picking up a cute kitten to hear it purr, only to be shocked at hearing it bark like a big angry pitbull with its tail stepped on. Does this mean I can no longer use phrases like “seeing is believing,” What will happen to “if it looks like a dog and barks like a dog?”

More importantly, what does this mean for the future of golf shafts?

Implications For The Future

Deep down, I believe every golfer wants to increase their driver distance. It doesn’t matter if you average 150 yards or 300 yards. As golfers, the need to hit it farther is in our DNA.

Since discovering that longer, easier distance (and accuracy to boot) is possible with the advent of AF shafts, I’ve never looked back. When FreeFlex shafts debuted earlier this year, I switched all my shafts throughout the bag and couldn’t be happier. I’ve received dozens of similar emails from golfers who read about my experiences and took the plunge, mostly to their pleasant surprise.

As amazing as the shafts are, some scoffed at the absence of such shafts on professional tours. If they’re so good, why aren’t they used more? After all, a distance gain of 10 yards on drives can mean as much as 5-10 percent closer to the pin on approach shots for shorter putts, which can translate to millions of dollars in winnings. In fact, dozens of pros from all major tours have tried them, some openly and some in secret.

As a recreational golfer, I can live with an occasional OB if it means consistently out-driving my friends. But an elite tour pro for whom a single stroke may be worth millions? Not a chance. Even the best can become a psychological wreck if the shaft flexed more than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. Especially on the back nine of a major on Sunday afternoon.

But for the sake of argument, let’s suppose there exists a shaft that truly offers longer distance and accuracy of the soft FF shaft with the reassuring feel and playability of a stiff shaft. Better yet, what if your favorite shaft can be readjusted to fit all of your needs for maximum performance output and feel preferences? I’d bet my last Pro V1s that elite professional golfers will stop at nothing to have them tested and optimized to benefit each of their own swing metrics and performance. It’s in their DNA.

Dr. Choi also mentioned that he is nearing completion of his state-of-the-art swing and shaft diagnostic system, which can prescribe precisely the type of shaft (weight, flex, torque, feel, kick, kitchen sink?) needed for a player. And he builds it to that specification. Customization to the fullest.

As the company’s name implies, that is the ultimate goal of SJ Golf Lab and Dr. Choi, who hopes his shafts will come as a “Special Joy” for each and every golfer.

All in all, CBT certainly felt to me like the next evolutionary step in golf shaft technology.

So, what do you think? Can we trust the accuracy of the statements made by SJ Golf Lab? I would love to hear from other golfers and knowledgeable shaftoids in the industry, and what it can mean going forward.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: The science of spin



Over my 30-plus years writing about equipment and designing wedges, I must have been asked thousands of times: “How do I get more spin with my wedge shots?” That seems like such a simple question, but the answer is as far from simple as you can get. So, today I’m going to try to break down the science of spin into its separate components.

The amount of spin imparted to the golf ball in any wedge shot will be affected by three basic things:

  1. The ball you play
  2. Your personal swing skills
  3. The specific wedges you play.

Let’s look at each of them.

The Ball

One very simple way to improve the spin you get with your wedge shots is to play a premium ball with a soft cover. The harder and usually less expensive balls typically have a firmer core and a cover that is more durable but doesn’t allow as much spin. You should experiment with various balls to see which gives you the optimum combination of distance and spin.

Your skills

We all know those golfers who seem to spin the ball better than others. That’s because they have honed their skills to make an accelerating, pure strike to the ball most of the time, and to make contact very low on the clubhead – elite players wear out a dime-sized spot on their wedges that is center-face and between the 2nd and 5th grooves. My bet is your wear pattern is more the size of a quarter or even half dollar and centered several grooves higher. You’ll see later why that is so important.

Anyone can learn to be a better wedge player by engaging a golf professional and spending lots more time practicing your wedge shots. I highly recommend both, but also realize that spin is greatly affected by swing speed as well. A strong player who can hit a gap wedge 120 yards is likely to generate much more spin than an equally skilled player who hits gap wedge only 90 yards.

Now we get to the fun part – how the specific wedges you are playing will affect the amount of spin you can impart to any given shot.

The wedges


Very simply, if you are playing a wedge that you’ve had for years, the grooves are likely well past worn out and are costing you valuable RPMs on every wedge shot. That said, no wedge brand has any measurable competitive advantage over another when it comes to groove technology. The USGA has not changed the rules on grooves in over a decade, and every premium brand of wedges is utilizing the best CNC-milling techniques to push those regulations to the limit. There’s just no story here. And my robotic testing indicates the total absence of grooves only reduces spin by 15-17 percent on a dry ball.

The Shaft

Yes, wedge shafts are that important. You should have shafts in your wedges that closely match the shafts in your irons in weight, material, and flex. This is particularly important if you have evolved to lighter and softer iron shafts. The exception to that is if you play X-flex shafts in your irons, take a tip from almost all tour professionals and opt for a slightly softer flex in your wedges.

Clubhead Design

What is much more important to make a wedge “spin-ier” is the design of the clubhead itself. While wedges really didn’t change much for decades, over the past few years, every major wedge brand has begun to position a bit more mass in the top section of the wedge clubhead. This repositioning of mass raises the CG a bit and improves the “gear effect,” which enhances spin on every wedge shot.

While they all are doing so to a different degree, most are held back by their reliance on their tour professionals’ input. Those elite players already spin the ball as much as necessary, and they don’t need or want more spin in their wedge shots. But that isn’t in your best interest.

This subject simply cannot be addressed without referencing my own work in wedge design for over thirty years. My wedges for Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, Ben Hogan and now Edison Golf have put increasingly more mass in the top half of the clubhead to help recreational golfers get more spin on all their wedge shots. I’m flattered that all major brands are finally starting to follow my pioneering of this design concept, because it works.  (Caliper measurement reveals that none of today’s wedges even have as much mass above center-face as my original Reid Lockhart wedges did in the mid-1990s)

Regarding my reference to tour players’ skills and their dime-sized wear pattern earlier, by striking their wedge shots so low in the face, they are optimizing spin on their traditional “tour design” wedges, because it maximizes the amount of clubhead mass above the point of impact. We all know that “thinned” wedge shot that flies low but has sizzling spin – same concept.

To help explain how this CG placement affects spin, look at what has happened in drivers, fairways, hybrids, and now irons.

As the “launch monitor wars” have come to dominate club-fitting (and selling!), the “holy grail” of distance is high launch and low spin. The engineers are achieving this by continuously finding ways to put maximum mass low in the clubhead with carbon crowns, tungsten inserts and thin faces. But good wedge play is all about penetrating trajectories and optimum spin — and all that mass in the bottom of the wedge head is exactly the opposite of what is needed to deliver that ball flight.

Final thoughts

I’ll also leave you with this thought on getting maximum spin on your intermediate-range wedge shots.  You are quite likely to discover you actually get more spin with your 52- to 54-degree wedge than with your higher-lofted 56 to 60. That’s because the ball is less likely to slide up the clubface, which causes loss of spin and higher ball flight. Give it a try to see for yourself.

This has been one of my longer posts, but the topic is worthy of a full explanation. I hope the “science of spin” is much less mysterious now.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s RSM Classic betting preview: Experienced heads likely to contend at Sea Island



The final full-field event of the 2023 fall season has arrived. The PGA TOUR heads just south of Augusta for the RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club (Seaside and Plantation courses) in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

Each golfer will play three rounds on the Seaside course and one round on the Plantation course.

The Seaside course is a par-70 layout measuring 7,005 yards, and the Plantation course is a par-72 setup coming in at 7,062 yards. The Seaside course, which was redesigned by Tom Fazio, plays more like a coastal links, while the Plantation course is similar to a tree-lined parkland course. Both feature Bermudagrass greens and will be very scorable. The past five winners of the event have all finished between -19 and -22.

Some notable players in the field include Brian Harman, Ludvig Aberg, Si Woo Kim, Akshay Bhatia, Cameron Young, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Russell Henley, Taylor Pendrith and Corey Conners.

Past Winners at The RSM Classic

  • 2022: Adam Svensson (-19)
  • 2021: Talor Gooch (-22)
  • 2020: Robert Streb (-19)
  • 2019: Tyler Duncan (-19)
  • 2018: Charles Howell III (-19)
  • 2017: Austin Cook (-21)
  • 2016: Mackenzie Hughes (-17)
  • 2015: Kevin Kisner (-22)

Let’s take a look at several metrics for Sea Island Golf Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds:

Strokes Gained: Approach

The greens at Seaside are big, so it will be important to stick approach shots close to avoid having to make difficult two-putt par saves. In what should be a birdie-fest, golfers will need to stick their approach shots to contend.

Total Strokes Gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:

  1. Sam Ryder (+24.8)
  2. Russell Knox (+22.4)
  3. J.T. Poston (+20.3)
  4. Eric Cole (+18.8)
  5. Alex Smalley (+18.4)

Good Drives Gained

Length really isn’t a factor at either course. Looking at the past winners at Sea Island, they’re all accurate golfers off of the tee who know how to find the fairway. However, over the past few years, “Good Drives Gained” has been a much more predictive statistic at this event than “Fairways Gained.”

Total Good Drives Gained in past 24 rounds:

  1. Russell Henley (+22.7)
  2. Brendon Todd (+21.8)
  3. Tyler Duncan (+21.7)
  4. Martin Laird (+20.6)
  5. J.J. Spaun (+20.5)

Strokes Gained Putting: Bermudagrass

This tournament could become a putting contest if the winds aren’t strong this week. Historically, the winners of the RSM Classic are great Bermudagrass putters (Simpson, Kisner and Hughes).

Total Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda in past 24 rounds:

  1. Maverick McNealy (+27.7)
  2. Chad Ramey (+25.3)
  3. Martin Trainer (+23.0)
  4. Justin Suh (+22.7)
  5. Taylor Montgomery (+22.5)

Birdie or Better Gained

With birdies (and potentially some eagles) likely to come in abundance, pars aren’t going to cut it at Sea Island. I anticipate the winning score to be close to -20, so targeting golfers who go low is the right strategy here.

Total strokes gained in Birdie or Better Gained in past 24 rounds

  1. Eric Cole (+31.4) 
  2. J.T. Poston (+21.3)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+20.9)
  4. Luke List (+20.7)
  5. Justin Suh (+16.1)

Strokes Gained: Par 4 (400-450)

With eight of the par 4s on the Seaside course measuring 400-450 yards, I’m looking to target golfers who excel on par 4s of this length.

Total strokes gained in category in past 24 rounds:

  1. Russell Henley (+21.1)
  2. Denny McCarthy (+13.4) 
  3. Matthias Schmid (+12.8)
  4. Callum Tarren (+12.6) 
  5. Ryan Moore (+11.4)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: App (25%); Good Drives Gained (21); SG: Putting Bermudagrass (21%); B.O.B (21%); and SG: Par 4 400-450 (12%)

  1. Russell Henley (+2200)
  2. Sam Ryder (+9000)
  3. Chesson Hadley (+6500)
  4. Brendon Todd (+5000)
  5. Eric Cole (+3500)
  6. J.T. Poston (+3500)
  7. Stephan Jaeger (+4000)
  8. Matthias Schmid (+6000)
  9. Brian Harman (+2000)
  10. Austin Smotherman (+25000)

2023 RSM Classic Picks

Matt Kuchar +4000 (DraftKings)

There are plenty of players at the top of the odds board who have a strong chance to contend this week, but few have had the recent repetitions that Matt Kuchar has had. The veteran is in fantastic form and felt as if his game was in great shape heading into the World Wide Technologies Championship, where he came agonizingly close to victory.

Kuchar has three top-19 finishes in his last four starts worldwide, including the runner-up in his most recent start. At one point, he had a six-shot lead before making a disastrous quadruple bogey on the 15th hole during his third round. Many expected Kuchar to struggle on Sunday after blowing such a big lead, but he performed admirably and would have won if Erik Van Rooyen didn’t shoot a ridiculous -8 on the back nine.

The 45-year-old currently lives in St. Simons, Georgia so will be right at home playing at Sea Island this week. His history at the course isn’t as spectacular as one would think given how well the course fits him on paper, but he does have four top-30 finishes at the event since 2013.

In five of Kuchar’s six wins since 2012, he’s had a top-5 finish in one of his three previous starts leading up to the win. I believe his start at the WWT was a foreshadowing of a looming victory.

Billy Horschel +4000 (DraftKings)

After struggling for much of the 2022-2023 season, Billy Horschel has finished the top 20 in five of his past six worldwide starts including a T14 finish in his most recent start at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October.

Horschel hasn’t played the RSM Classic with regularity but finished in 2nd place at the event back in 2016 where he lost to Mackenzie Hughes in a playoff. The course is a perfect fit for Billy, who’s not overly long off the tee and putts incredibly well on Bermudagrass.

Billy will come into the event as motivated as ever to contend on a course that he should be able to pick apart. With seven career PGA Tour wins, there’s no doubt that Horschel is a closer who will be able to keep his composure down the stretch.

Harris English +6000 (DraftKings)

After a 2021 Ryder Cup appearance, Harris English has had an inconsistent two seasons on the PGA Tour. However, the Sea Island resident finished the season on an encouraging note, finishing 10th at the BMW Championship.

English has a mixed history at Sea Island, but he does have a 6th place finish in 2020. He finished 29th last year, but a final round 65 may be an indication that the 34-year-old figured something out at the course that he grew just a few hours away from.

It’s a bit concerning that English has been off since August, but he’s played well off of layoffs in the past. Last year, he finished 9th at the Fortinet off a 6-week break. In 2021, he won the Sentry Tournament of Champions off of a 5-week break. This break has been a bit longer, but the extra time may not be a major detriment.

Enlgish is a better player than he’s shown over the past 18 months, and I believe he’s in store for a resurgent season that may start this week in Sea Island.

Taylor Pendrith +6500 (DraftKings)

Taylor Pendrith is in fantastic form. In his past three starts, he’s finished 3rd, 15th and 8th. Despite not seeming like a great course fit at Sea Island on paper, he’s had some great history at the course throughout his career.

Last year, Pendrith finished 15th at the event, gaining 5.4 strokes on approach. He also came into the event while playing some below average golf and still managed to hit it great at Sea Island. In 2021, he finished 26th despite missing the cut in two previous starts as well as the following start. I believe now that the Canadian is coming into the event playing some incredibly consistent golf he should be a serious threat to contend deep into the weekend.

Ben Griffin +7500 (DraftKings)

Just a week ago, Ben Griffin was 22-1 and one of the betting favorites at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. Although some top end players such as Ludvig Aberg, Brian Harman and Cameron Young have been added to this field, I still believe the drop all the way down to this price gives Griffin a ton of value this week.

The North Carolina hasn’t built up an extensive course history at Sea Island just yet, but he did finish 29th at the event last season. The 27-year-old fired an opening round 65 to start his week and then shot two more rounds in the 60’s after a second round 71. His experience last season should be helpful in his pursuit of a victory this time around.

Sea Island should suit Griffin perfectly. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 15th in the field in both Strokes Gained: Approach and in Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermudagrass. His sharp iron play and ability to hole putts on Bermuda make him an ideal candidate for to contend at Sea Island.

Alex Smalley +8000 (DraftKings):

The past five events in the PGA Tour’s swing season have given us winners who’ve already won on Tour multiple times. The fa oll is typically a time for first-time Tour winners to shine, and among the top candidates to accomplish that this week is Alex Smalley.

Smalley has contended a few times thus far in his career and one of those times was at last year’s RSM Classic. A consistent effort of 67-66-67-67 resulted in the Greensboro, North Carolina resident finishing in a tie for 5th place for the week. It’s no surprise that Smalley likes Sea Island given the amount of golf he’s played in the area and his knack for playing well on shorter courses.

The Duke graduate is beginning to round into form, finishing 30th last week at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship fueled by a final round 65 (-6). Smalley has done his best work on easier courses and the course should provide plenty of birdie opportunities for the 25-year-old.

Kevin Kisner +25000 (DraftKings):

Kevin Kisner has been playing incredibly poorly by his standards since his win at the Wyndham Championship in August of 2021, however Camilo Villegas’ win last week showed us how quickly things can change.

Kisner has shown some minimal signs of improvement during the fall season, finishing 62nd and 51st in his two starts at the Fortinet Championship and the Sanderson Farms Championship. More importantly, Kisner gained 1.8 strokes on approach at the Country Club of Jackson, which was his best approach performance since November of 2022. Going back to the Villegas example, while he was in the midst of a twelve-start stretch where he didn’t finish better than 54th, the Colombian gained 4.0 strokes on approach in a missed cut at the Sanderson Farms Championship in a missed cut. Clearly, he found something and went on to finish 2nd and 1st in his next two starts.

If there’s a course that Kisner may be able to find “it” on, it’s Sea Island. Kisner is a former Georgia Bulldog who’s won here in 2015, lost in a playoff in 2020 and has two additional top-7 finishes since his win. At long odds, “Kiz” is worth a sprinkle on one of his favorite tracks.

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