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Opinion & Analysis

How Iceland’s soccer success can translate to golf

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During the recent UEFA European Championship in soccer, Iceland surprised everyone with its performance. The Strákarnir okkar (Our boys) tied Portugal and Hungary, and beat Austria in the group stage before sensationally beating England in the Round of 16. Iceland has a population of only 330,000; England has 54 million.

The Icelandic soccer league has the longest pre-season in the world (7 months) and the shortest football season in the world (May 20-September 30). The possibility that a nation could produce such high-quality football is interesting. To understand the odds that this small nation could come up with a team of this caliber, you can see how the Iceland coaches selected their team (see numbers below):

Total 332,529 inhabitants
Women -165,259
Men<18 years old -40,546
Men>35 years old -82,313
Overweight -22,136
Busy in the whale sightseeing industry -1,246
Busy in earthquake surveillance -314
Busy in volcano surveillance -164
Busy in sheepherders -1,934
Imprisoned bankers -1,464
Blind -194
Sick -7,564
Working in hospital, police and fire brigade -564
Icelandic Football Fans in the stadium -8,781
Team doctor and physiotherapist -2
Team massage therapist and water carrier -2
Busy managing the national football team -7
Rest 23

Even if these numbers not are statistical verified, it does show the distribution of potential candidates pretty well. So how does Iceland so successfully find these candidates? And how can golf clubs and nations be better at finding golf talents?

If we look at what happened for five years ago, Iceland hired the former manager of the Swedish National Team (Lars Lagerbäck). He managed the Swedish national team from 1998 until 2009, leading Sweden to five consecutive Euro and World Cup appearances. Lars was almost always criticized by the Swedish media for being too boring and impersonal in his appearance during the matches. It went so far that Lars was called “the most boring man in Sweden.” This meticulous approach and controlled demeanour, however, has made him a successful football coach in Iceland. Some of the major changes Lars first did was:

  • Full professionalism from the treatment room to the canteen, where a private chef was hired.
  • The team would only travel to the big matches by chartered flights.
  • Every game, the mindset was to win and stick to the game plan no matter what happened.

These changes were just the frosting of the cake. The main reason why Iceland could generate great results in soccer may reside in the number of qualified UEFA licensed coaches per active footballer. The UEFA license is similar to the PGA club professional education for golf instructors. According to the Football Association of Iceland, the number of UEFA educated coaches increased by 400 percent from 2007 to 2016, and 800 percent for the prestigious UEFA A-license. If we then calculate the ratio between the number of UEFA licensed coaches and the number of active Icelandic soccer players, the result would be 1 coach per 27 active player. In the year 2007, this ratio was 1/69. In Sweden the ratio was 1/231.  

If we would compare this to a typical golf club with 1,000 active members, the number of PGA instructors would be 40 per 1,000 members. In Sweden, most golf clubs have one PGA Club professional and an assistant (who hopefully has a PGA education). If we had the coach:member ratio of 1:27, the possibility of finding the future Open champion would be easier.

The Technical Director/Coach Education director Siggi Eyjolfsson said this in a coaching symposium in Sweden:

“To create good players, you need good coaches. To create good coaches, you need good coach education”

How many PGA instructors does your club have per member?

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Other things that must likely have helped Iceland in their success may be the “Viking War Chant,” even called the “Volcano.” Fun fact about the last match between Iceland and France — 99.8 percent of all TVs that were on in Iceland were tuned in to the game.

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Simon Selin PGA Club Professional in Sweden, extensive teaching experience coaching both amateur and professional-level golfers. Coached on the Ladies European Tour 2007-2010 TPI Certified Level 2 Golf Coach "Your swing should fit your body instead of your body to adapt to a type of a golf swing."

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Mad-Mex

    Jul 27, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Just checked, its not April 1st.

  2. Q

    Jul 26, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    So not even close to being relative, it’s crazy cra cra.
    In football, you’re playing opponent teams. Regardless of how well you, yourself and your team prepare, how the heck are you going to know what your opponents will throw at you? This past Euro 2016 tournament was a farce. Too many teams in 3rd place got through, and one of them won the whole thing after playing dour football. Iceland’s success? Everybody’s making too much out of the story, because it feels good, but seriously, it’ll never happen again. It was a fluke happenstance. And they don’t play every week. That was an international team of players whose squad members could change every month they play qualifiers.

  3. DD

    Jul 26, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Objection. Relevance? Sustained.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Is lighter always longer?

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One of the continuing trends in golf clubs – particularly drivers – is the pursuit of increasingly lighter shafts; this obsessive goal has given us the premise that the lighter the club, the faster you can swing it. And that idea is driven by the relentless pursuit of distance at all levels, and for all golfers.

But as long as he is, for example, Dustin Johnson ran away with the Masters because he was exactly that – a “master” at ball control and precision. DJ outperformed almost everyone in the field in terms of fairways and greens. That gave him more birdie putts, better looks because of his precise approach shots, and many fewer tough par saves.

But my topic today is to pose the question: “Is lighter really the key to being longer for all of us “recreational” golfers?”
Let me begin by saying that “recreational” doesn’t mean any lack of seriousness or dedication to the game. Hitting better shots and shooting lower scores is the goal for all of us who care about our golf games, right? What I mean is that we do not make our living playing the game. We do not practice incessantly. We do not spend hours at the gym every day specifically preparing our bodies to optimize our golf skills.

Today I’m going to put on my “contrarian” cap and challenge this assumption of “lighter is longer” on a couple of bases.
First, if you watch every accomplished player, you will see that the body core rotation is fast enough to “beat” the hands and clubhead to the ball. All instructors agree that the big muscles of the legs and body core are the key to power and repeatability in the golf swing. The faster you can rotate your body through impact, the more power you generate, which flows down the arms, through the hands and shaft and to the clubhead. This is a basic law of “golf swing physics”.

The simple fact is, the speed at which you can fire these big muscles is not going to be measurably impacted by removing another half ounce or less of weight from your driver. But what that removal of weight can do is to possibly allow for your hands to be faster, which would aggravate the problem I see in most mid- to high-handicap players. That problem is that their body core is not leading the swing, but rather it is following the arms and hands through impact.

Secondly, speed without precision is essentially worthless to you, and likely even counter-productive to your goal of playing better golf. Even with the big 460cc drivers, a miss of the sweet spot by just a half inch can cost you 8-12% of your optimum distance. You could never remove enough weight from the driver to increase your club speed by that amount. So, the key to consistently longer drives is to figure out how to make consistently more precise impact with the ball.

No golf adage is always true, but my experience and observation of thousands of golfers indicates to me that the fastest route to better driver distance is to get more precise with your impact and swing path, and not necessarily increasing your clubhead speed. And that may well be served by moving to a slightly heavier driver, not a lighter one.

I’ll end this by offering that this is not an experiment to conduct in a hitting bay with a launch monitor, but rather by playing a few rounds with a driver that is heavier than your current “gamer”.

Continuing with my “contrarian” outlook on many aspects of golf equipment, the typical driver “fitting” is built around an intense session on a launch monitor, where you might hit 30-40 or more drives in an hour or so. But the reality of golf is that your typical round of golf involves only 12-13 drives hit over a four-hour period, each one affected by a number of outside influences. But that’s an article for another time.

For this week, think about pulling an older, heavier driver from your closet or garage and giving it a go for a round or two and see what happens.

I would like to end today’s post by wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. It’s been a helluva year for all of us, so let’s take some time this week to count our individual and collective blessings.

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Podcasts

TG2: Reviewing the first major OEM (Cobra) 3D-printed putter!

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The first major OEM with a 3D printed putter is Cobra Golf! I took the new Limited Edition King Supersport-35 putter out on the course and found it to be a great performer. Cobra partnered with HP and SIK Putters to create a 3D printed body mated to an aluminum face that features SIK’s Descending Loft technology.

 

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Opinion & Analysis

You went to play, now you want to stay: Homes near Cabot Links & Cliffs

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At some point, we’ve all had that moment during a vacation where we look around and think to ourselves, “Instead of visiting, why don’t we just move here?” It always sounds a little crazy in the moment, but really, what’s stopping you?

Like many, I have done this myself, and it leads me down a rabbit hole of golf destination real estate to places all over North America where you get world-class golf minutes from home.

So whether you’re a big spender or looking to downsize and find a cozy hideaway, these homes near Cabot Links & Cliffs have it all.

Homes near Cabot Links & Cliffs

Inverness, Nova Scotia

Steps away

$1,495,000 – 12 Mine Road Inverness MLS Number: 202011562

Location, location, location!

This is currently the most expensive house in Inverness NS, and for good reason. It’s steps away from Cabot Links and overlooks the resort. It’s over 2,600 square feet of beautiful open concept living, and with a local address, you get a discount on tee times at the course, although with its growing popularity, you aren’t guaranteed times like if you stay on the actual property.

Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this view every day? Listing: 12 Mine Road – Realtor

Just up the road

$980,000 – 30 Broad Cove Road Inverness, MLS Number: 202010717

If the first one seems a bit crazy, this next one might be right up your alley.

This 4,000 square foot home, is only minutes from Cabot Link and Cliffs and has amazing views that overlook the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It has everything you could want including a large chef’s kitchen and enough room to host friends and family.

Listing: 30 Broad Cove Road – Realtor

Just you and the ocean

$394,000 – 6 Bayberry Road, Port Hood, MLS Number: 202015994

If you like golf but want a little more separation from the Cabot golf resort, less than 20 miles down the road is Port Hood, another quiet seaside town filled with quaint shops and endless views of the ocean.

You can wake up every morning to the sounds of the ocean and the smell of sea air, and when you want to play golf at a top 50 course in the world, you just need to make a relaxing drive along the water to get there—heck, if you are so inclined, and happen to have a boat, you can go almost door to door that way too!

Listing: 6 Bayberry Road – Realtor

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