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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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Club Junkie

Club Junkie Reviews: L.A.B. Mezz.1 Max Putter

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L.A.B. Golf pushes the limits of putters and putting to try and help as many golfers as they can make more putts. Lie Angle Balanced putters are different because the face of the putter is always pointed towards your target. We all know L.A.B.’s famous Directed Force 2.1 putter. However, a lot of golfers didn’t like the looks and size of it. So L.A.B. developed the Mezz.1 putter that has a more traditional mallet look that so many golfers use, but with Lie Angle Balanced technology engineered into it. This year, the Mezz.1 Max putter was introduced to make a great putter even better. The Mezz.1 Max is 20-percent larger than the original Mezz.1 and offers more forgiveness and stability.

I have played the Mezz.1 this year and think it is a great putter, so to be honest, I wasn’t that excited to try the Mezz.1 Max at first. That changed pretty quickly once my putter showed up. To start, getting fit for a putter is one of the last things we golfers think about. L.A.B. has a very unique and effective remote fitting process if you cannot get to a fitter in person. You email a short video to them using your current putter and they use their internal genius to get your specs processed. The remote fitting video took me about seven minutes from start to submission.

Once you have your putter specs, you can then order a stock or custom Mezz.1 Max. I went down the custom path of various head colors, alignment aids, shafts, grips, and even a headcover to build my putter. My original Mezz.1 is black, and I wanted to go with some color to change things up and, for whatever reason, the cappuccino color kept grabbing my attention. The cappuccino color online looks more gold, and I was pleasantly surprised that in person the color is more brown and muted than I expected. The color goes well with the matte white Accra shaft and Press II 1.5-degree smooth grip.

Headcovers are now becoming big accessories, and the brown headcover I chose is kind of retro-looking while feeling high quality. Overall, I love the look and my Mezz.1 Max stands out without being too flashy and distracting.

As soon as I got the putter out of the box, I rolled a few putts on the carpet here at the office, not expecting much difference. From the first couple of putts, I could immediately tell something was a little different with this putter. The weight and balance through the stroke is more stable and you get an even better feeling of the putter wanting to keep the face pointed at the target. The other interesting find is that I didn’t even notice the 20-percent larger size that the Mezz.1 Max has over its older sibling. Maybe if I had them both side-by-side I would notice the size difference more, but the Mezz.1 Max on its own looks normal to my eye.

The first putts I hit on the carpet were great feeling and the Mezz.1 Max felt like it wanted to stay on its path regardless of how your hands tried to manipulate it. The same feeling was present on the putting green, and it was far stronger to me than the standard Mezz.1 felt. When you put the Mezz.1 Max on a target, the putter just wants to hit the ball at that target. The other interesting note is that, to me, the new Max has a softer and more solid feel compared to the smaller head. The sound at impact was more muted and had a lower pitch to it, even on mishits. Just like the original, the grooved face puts immediate forward roll on the ball and reduces almost all skipping.

L.A.B. says this Mezz.1 Max is 20-percent more stable, and I don’t think that is just some marketing talk. I have been in this putting funk where I have been making contact on the toe of the putter regularly. This miss has caused me to miss more than a few putts this year, and I hit a few with the new putter as well. Those toe misses still went straight and I wasn’t losing much speed. Those putts left the toe of the putter and either came up just short or just missed my intended line by a small amount. Those misses are a great improvement over the traditional blade that has been my gamer all summer. The biggest problem I had with the original Mezz.1 is that it took me awhile to get used to longer lag putts. This wasn’t the case with the Max, as I felt much more comfortable from long range and was able to get putts closer and reduce the 3-putt chances by a good amount.

Overall, if you’re searching for a new flatstick, the new L.A.B. Golf Mezz.1 Max putter is something to check out. You have a putter that can truly help you make more putts thanks to the Lie Angle Balanced technology, additional forgiveness, and stability.

For more information on my Mezz.1 Max putter review, listen to the Club Junkie podcast, which is available below and on any podcasting service.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: A Tale of Two Misses

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It seems like I somewhat “touched a nerve” with last week’s post ‘A Defense of Blades’, based on the scoring you all gave my take on that controversial topic.

I do appreciate it when you take the time to score your reaction to my work, as it keeps me tuned in to what you really want me to pontificate about. Before I get into today’s topic, I request that any of you who have a subject you’d like me to address please drop me an email at [email protected], OK?

So, in somewhat of a follow-up to last week, let’s talk today about misses. Those too frequent shots that move your scores in the wrong direction.

Early in my life, I was always part of “the group” of low-handicap players who had various kinds of “money games”, but that put me in touch only with other low-handicap players who were highly competitive. Just as I was getting fully engaged in the golf equipment industry in the early 1980s, I was blessed to be a part of a group at my club called “The Grinders”. We had standing tee times every day…so if you could get away, you played. There were about 35-40 of us who might show up, with as many as 6-7 groups going off on Fridays and Saturdays.

These guys sported handicaps from scratch to 20, and we threw up balls to see how we were paired, so for twenty years, I had up close and personal observation of a variety of “lab rats.”

This let me observe and study how many different ways there were to approach the game and how many different kinds of mishits could happen in a round of golf. As a golf industry marketer and club designer, I couldn’t have planned it any better.

So back to a continuation of the topic of last week, the type of irons you choose to play should reflect the kinds of misses you are hoping to help. And the cold, hard truth is this:

We as golf club designers, engineers and fitters, can only do so much to help the outcome of any given shot.

Generally, mishits will fall into two categories – the “swing miss” and the “impact miss”.

Let’s start with the former, as it is a vast category of possibilities.

The “swing miss” occurs when the swing you made never had a chance of producing the golf shot you had hoped to see. The clubhead was not on a good path through impact, and/or the clubface was not at all square to the target line. This can produce any number of outcomes that are wildly wrong, such as a cold skull of the ball, laying the sod over it, hard block to the right (for a right-hand player), smother hook…I think you get the point.

The smaller swing misses might be a draw that turns over a bit too much because you rotated through impact a bit aggressively or a planned draw that doesn’t turn over at all because you didn’t. Or it could be the shot that flies a bit too high because you released the club a bit early…or much too low because you had your hands excessively ahead of the clubhead through impact.

The swing miss could be simply that you made a pretty darn good swing, but your alignment was not good, or the ball position was a bit too far forward in your swing…or too far back. Basically, the possible variations of a “swing miss” are practically endless and affect tour pros and recreational golfers alike.

The cruel fact is that most recreational golfers do not have solid enough swing mechanics or playing disciplines to deliver the clubhead to the ball in a consistent manner. It starts with a fundamentally sound hold on the club. From there, the only solution is to make a commitment to learn more about the golf swing and your golf swing and embark on a journey to become a more consistent striker of the golf ball. I would suggest that this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the game and encourage anyone who loves golf to go down this path.

But today’s post is about “mishits”, so let’s move on the other and much smaller category of misses…the “impact miss”. As a 40-year golf club designer, this is the world in which I function and, unfortunately, to which I am limited.

The “impact miss” is when most of the elements of the swing pretty much fall into place, so that the club is delivered pretty accurately to the ball…on the right path…face square to the target line at impact…but you miss the sweet spot of the club by just a bit.

Finding ways of getting better results out of those mishits is the singular goal of the entire golf club industry.

Big drivers of today are so much more forgiving of a 1/8 to ½ inch miss than even drivers of a decade ago, it’s crazy. Center strikes are better, of course, with our fast faces and Star Wars technology, but the biggest value of these big drivers is that your mishits fly much more like a perfect hit than ever before. In my own launch monitor testing of my current model driver to an old Reid Lockhart persimmon driver of the mid-1990s, I see that dead center hits are 20-25 yards different, but mishits can be as far as 75-80 yards apart, the advantage obviously going to the modern driver.

The difference is not nearly as striking with game improvement irons versus a pure forged one-piece blade. If the lofts and other specs are the same, the distance a pure strike travels is only a few yards more with the game improvement design, but a slight mishit can see that differential increase to 12-15 yards. But, as I noted in last week’s article, this difference tends to reduce as the lofts increase. Blades and GI irons are much less different in the 8- and 9-irons than in the lower lofts.

This has gotten a bit longer than usual, so how about I wrap up this topic next week with “A Tale of Two Misses – Part 2”? I promise to share some robotic testing insights that might surprise you.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: World Long Drive! Go Mu!

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In this week’s podcast we discuss Wisdom In Golf Premium, new ways to help and fun talk about rules and etiquette.

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