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Opinion & Analysis

Women: The Real Answer to Golf’s “Grail Quest”



I know, I know, you’ve heard just about enough about what we need to do to grow, or even save the game of golf. You’re tired of hearing about slow play, the short attention span of millennials, the aging baby-boomers, the consequences of overdevelopment, or the aftermath of the Great Recession. And you just can’t stomach one more pundit claiming all we need is for Tiger to start winning (or even playing) again, and/or how we really just need the next Tiger to come along and save us.

If it isn’t obvious by now that pinning our hopes on either of those scenarios is a fool’s errand I don’t know what is, but then what’s left? Well, maybe there is one thing you haven’t heard discussed, and when it comes to the health of the game, that one thing might just turn out to be the “Holy Grail” of player development and retention.

Sigmund Freud once said, “The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?'” Now I’m no Freud, so for me to suggest that I have the answer to that eternal question would be, at the very least, a bold supposition. I have, however, been at this close to 30 years, and as the chairman of one of the PGA’s Player Development Committee’s, I am particularly invested in the answers to that age-old conundrum, at least from a golfing standpoint. And that is why myself and others working to grow this great game find ourselves on a proverbial “Grail Quest” to find these answers, and maybe even some new questions.

The game of golf in the U.S. has been attracting new participants of both genders at roughly the same rate for close to 40 years. Unfortunately, the glaring differences in numbers when it comes to retention would make it truly appear that once introduced, women very often find the existing golf landscape much closer to Mars than that of Venus. So as the game’s participation numbers began to dip in the past decade, its stewards began investing more than ever to find out what could be done differently. And as a group, women specifically were targeted, and questions that go more than skin-deep began being asked to find out what is truly behind golf’s historical inability to retain women players at the same rates as men.

Studies done by the PGA of America have isolated where we can start pointing fingers, and as it turns out, there are a myriad of issues that collectively conspire to keep women from progressing from the enthusiastic beginner to the core golfer that supports the game long-term. Shorter courses, more relaxed dress codes, available day-care, a focus on fitness, less time commitment, and less expensive equipment are all among the reasons most often cited by women who either don’t play or who don’t play more. And when you combine those issues with the fact that the U.S. doesn’t have a nationally funded overriding organization charged with the growth of the sport as you do in many other countries, it’s no small wonder that many other countries see women participating at much higher rates. And while these are all critical pieces to the puzzle, they are absent one rather central piece to solving it. But before I disclose that missing link, I need to relate the quick story of how I almost accidentally discovered the ultimate answer to this all-important question.

A few years ago I had a vacancy amongst my staff of professionals and began to search for a candidate. During that time, numerous ladies at my facility suggested I hire a woman. I said that I would love to, and in truth had already contacted the LPGA and our local women’s division of the PGA, but as the resumes began pouring in they all had one thing in common. They were all from men, a fact that didn’t surprise me considering how few women club professionals there are. A month went by, and I was already in the interview process when I was finally and unexpectedly contacted by an LPGA Member who was moving back to the area and looking for a club to call home. And while reasons both legal and political obligate me to mention she was not just a woman, but also the most qualified candidate, I would be remiss if I didn’t add that many of our members were thrilled about the fact that she was. Now, we already had a robust women’s program, and an active ladies’ membership, both of which I felt she would augment, but as much as I had expected when I hired her, I wasn’t quite expecting what happened next.

Women who had never taken a lesson started signing up for them, including many whom I had never even seen at the club. Participation in our ladies’ programs, the same programs we had been running for years, jumped overnight, and the perception of my skill as a buyer seemed magically transformed. I was even approached at off-premise social functions by members from other clubs asking about instruction once it became known that I had hired a woman professional. Now most of us in the industry have at least a tacit understanding of what is known as the “intimidation factor,” but even as a three-term member of the PGA’s Board of Directors, I had obviously underestimated how powerful it really is.

The comedienne Phyllis Diller used to say, “You know why the pro tells you to keep your head down don’t you? It’s so you can’t see him laughing.” A funny line from a funny lady, but when this process brought to light the fact that some ladies had been traveling almost 30 miles for lessons at another facility who already employed a woman professional, it really started to hit home how much the him in that joke is the biggest part of our problem. So I stopped laughing, because it really got me to thinking.

As an industry, we are asking why women account for only 20 percent of golf’s players in the U.S., but if we really want to change that shouldn’t we rather be questioning why they comprise less than 5 percent of our nation’s golf professionals? Membership in the LPGA’s Teaching and Club Professional Division stands at roughly 1,500. The PGA of America counts roughly 27,000 members nationally, and while some of those are women, it is still a very small percentage. Thanks to Title IX in the U.S., there are now almost as many women as men playing golf at the high school and collegiate levels, the most common early training ground for men club professionals, yet for some reason those women largely aren’t looking to the industry as a potential career path. And while I know that my having a woman on staff is somewhat unique in the industry, I know the benefits of it wouldn’t be unique to my facility.

In the end, finding that “Holy Grail” entails more than just answering the questions of what women say they want. It means listening with the goal of answering questions they didn’t even think to ask. If we want to make a serious impact on women’s participation, the PGA of America and LPGA need to start aggressively recruiting more women into the business with the long-term goal of having at least the same percentage of women who play the game in our professional ranks. More women in the business is not just good business, it is the answer to our “Grail Quest.” It will bring (and keep) more women in the game, and with those women will come the girls (and boys) of our next generation.

It’s time to stop looking to Tiger, or even for the next Tiger, if we’re looking to make the golf healthy again. Because the real next Tiger more than likely calls herself something like Cheyenne…  at least that’s my bold supposition.

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Mike Dowd is the author of the new novel COMING HOME and the Lessons from the Golf Guru: Wit, Wisdom, Mind-Tricks & Mysticism for Golf and Life series. He has been Head PGA Professional at Oakdale Golf & CC in Oakdale, California since 2001, and is serving his third term on the NCPGA Board of Directors and Chairs the Growth of the Game Committee. Mike has introduced thousands of people to the game and has coached players that have played golf collegiately at the University of Hawaii, San Francisco, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, University of the Pacific, C.S.U. Sacramento, C.S.U. Stanislaus, C.S.U. Chico, and Missouri Valley State, as men and women on the professional tours. Mike currently lives in Turlock, California with his wife and their two aspiring LPGA stars, where he serves on the Turlock Community Theatre Board, is the past Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Turlock. In his spare time (what's that?) he enjoys playing golf with his girls, writing, music, fishing and following the foibles of the Sacramento Kings, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, and, of course, the PGA Tour. You can find Mike at



  1. Brains a golfer

    Jul 22, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    I would agree that having more Women PGA club professionals and assistants would grow the game. Most young players, juniors and older men ( me ) should strive to hit the ball like an LPGA player. I watched the US women’s open, and almost every drive was in the fairway – Isn’t Fairways and greens the goal? I suppose every man dreams of the 300 yard drive and a sand wedge to the green- but how likely is that? Maybe playing the right set of tees, and hitting a smooth driver and 8 iron (like the Ladies) is the way to both get better AND have more fun.
    After playing golf for 30 years, i realize that for 20 of those years i was trying to swing like the PGA pros or scratch golfers. Now that i am older i take MY swing.

  2. Tom54

    Jul 5, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    I agree a mixed team event with a decent purse would definitely get the gals attention since their paydays are pale compared to the men. Those of you that dismiss their quality of play have not seen a LPGA event. They can flat out play!! Yes they can’t bomb 350 us tee balls routinely like the big boys but I’d be willing to bet they would impress even the skeptics. I know this sounds sexist but there is nothing wrong with watching pretty ladies play this game we all love. Next time one of their events is nearby do yourself a favor and check these gals out. You’ll be impressed for sure.

  3. ctmanic

    Jul 5, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Yup, good article. All great points. Female golf pros and just let them wear more normal clothes that aren’t designed for a freaking cheerleader are great starting points. But a clubful of entitled men acting like lewd teenagers, just sucks. Women are safer in a biker bar… …and that is not a freaking joke.

  4. asugrad1988

    Jul 5, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    This past weekend there was the European tour golf tournament, the Senior Open, the PGA tournament and the LPGA’s KPMG major. How many people are going to watch the LPGA over the other three tournaments. That’s four tournaments on the weekend and I would bet the farm that the LPGA was the least viewed.
    My solution would be to have LPGA tournaments during the week, say Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday if it’s a four day tournament. I think a lot of people would watch the LPGA if it was the only golf on television.I don’t think it would matter much if the golf came on at 2:00 pm or 5:00 pm if it’s on the west coast. I don’t know anyone at my club that watches any tournament live anyway regardless of what tour it is. Way to many commercials. If the Golf Channel is doing the broadcast like they do almost all of them, then they have the weekend to travel to the next tournament.
    I think the LPGA should try 2 or 3 tournaments in the middle of the week and see how it goes.

    • Za

      Jul 6, 2017 at 2:19 am

      You know the majority of the world still work Mon thru Fri, bud. LPGA already don’t get enough money through selling tickets to their events. So how are they going to bring in that money during the week? It’s not all about television, although it is already hard enough to get sponsors commercials to get the events to even get on TV.
      I think you should shut up for a year and see how it goes.

      • setter02

        Jul 7, 2017 at 8:19 am

        LPGA isn’t a gate driven Tour, if it was, it would have folded up long ago. Its actually not a bad idea given it would have coverage time that wouldn’t compete with other Tours, and not much other sports are on in the mornings and early afternoon (save some mid day baseball). I think you should shut up for a year and see how that goes…

        • Za

          Jul 7, 2017 at 8:05 pm

          I work in TV. You don’t know how it works. Every sporting event at this level is majorly viewer-oriented, and that includes tickets. If it didn’t have problems with viewership even on TV, then you wouldn’t be addressing this issue with the above suggestions.
          It’s bad enough that day-time TV during the week is driven by commercial moneys of home-products for the housewives who stay at home. Golf can’t support itself with just those kinds of sponsors of home products.
          I think you should sit on a bicycle without a seat and swivel

          • Laff

            Jul 7, 2017 at 8:47 pm

            lol swivel

          • setter02

            Jul 8, 2017 at 2:14 pm

            Awww poor baby got his feelings hurt. You have a potential captive target market that is trying to get more females into this game. Good thing crazy ideas never pan out or are tried, I mean where would this world be with all the beige people like you running it pro? Maybe try and use your supposed ‘expertise’ to solve a problem rather than continue to be a part of it, I mean you are that good aren’t you pro?

  5. ders

    Jul 5, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Vancouver BC has 3 municpal short par 3 courses, neighbouring Burnaby has 2, West Vancouver has 1, Ricmond has 1. They are less than $15 for 18 holes, most are hazard free and are always packed anytime it isn’t raining. Midweek during the day is all seniors, evenings and weekends are drunken teens and twenty-somethings – most are male but you do see a lot of female players.. Make golf cheap, fun and relaxed and people will come and the game will live on. This won’t “save golf” if by “saving golf” you mean supporting a bloated golf industry, exclusive clubs and 7000+ yd courses but people will play golf if its available to them.

  6. Big Wally

    Jul 5, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    This is a never ending argument. Every time it is a “problem” that is the fault of men and patronizingly the responsibility of men to fix it. Women aren’t stupid. They can decide for themselves what they want to do and with whom and they do.
    If there was such a great opportunity for women teachers- where are they? Couldn’t the LPGA and PGA of America let them know they are in such huge demand? Or is the truth closer to supply meets demand?

  7. Bruce Ferguson

    Jul 4, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    I think more network (non-Golf Channel) weekend coverage of LPGA events would give more exposure of the game to women. Alternate LPGA/PGA Tour coverage on the networks. GC will re-run PGA Tour coverage later, anyway. Practically all tour coverage on network television is men’s golf. No wonder most women have a preconceived notion that golf is a man’s sport. Golf is a perfect sport for women.

    • Mb

      Jul 5, 2017 at 3:44 am

      But the attendance figures and the sheer TV viewer ratings doesn’t support financially what women’s golf bring in to justify more coverage. No major channel is going to spend money on things nobody watches. That’s why shows get cancelled. In the case of golf, the tournaments go on, just not with TV coverage. Advertisers won’t cough up the dollars if nobody is going to watch their commercials.

  8. Jesus Woods

    Jul 4, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Put a bunch of old women on the course hitting 40 yd drives (when they don’t completely miss the ball) and putting out for a 16 and see how much it “grows”

    • BlubberButt

      Jul 5, 2017 at 10:39 am

      How is that different than a bunch of old men hitting 40 yard drives and putting for 16?

      • Kevin

        Jul 24, 2017 at 2:44 pm

        Because the women’s drives would find the fairway

  9. Matt

    Jul 4, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    How about a world tour of US, Europe and Asia’s premier men’s tournaments? We need a global tour for golf to grow. The regional PGA tours could be more grassroots, combining q-school,, and some of the smaller events currently in each regional PGA Tour.

  10. Jacked_Loft

    Jul 4, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Mike, I think you make a viable point.

    At my home course there are 4 (from 10 pros or 40%) fully quailifed female professionals, and they’re always booked out. The number of female players here accounts for about 30% of the total membership, and women from the surrounding clubs use us as their practice grounds.

  11. Nath

    Jul 4, 2017 at 3:44 am

    I clicked on this article to look at the pictures, hmm dissapointed. Just like my local course nothing to see there either, yea golf sucks when its soo dry.

  12. Mat

    Jul 4, 2017 at 1:55 am

    This is absolutely true. I’ve gone out of my way to find women instructors for my wife because the simple fact is that women play a more efficient and less power driven game. They also have boobs, and that can be an uncomfortable subject. So can hips. And if you think this is overblown, how’s Curves (and other female only gyms) doing? Why do you see women playing those exec courses more? And usually from the mens tees?

    I would love nothing more than to get my wife playing more. She caddies for me far more than she plays, and I really love and hate it at the same time. And guys, at least the ones that aren’t sexist jerks, understand that they have a lot to learn from the women’s game wrt efficient body motion and swing control.

    Great article, and absolutely true.

  13. Alex

    Jul 3, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    Sexism of any kind is not the answer.

    • Dec

      Jul 4, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      “yer blind or neutered or religiously suppressed…. or a politically correct leftist post-modernist liberal troll.”

      You really don’t know anything have no decency, huh? You’re so clueless you probably wonder how Obama won the election, don’t you? SO sad.

  14. Rex

    Jul 3, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Sigmund Freud. Isn’t that the guy who got attacked by the lion in vegas?

  15. ooffa

    Jul 3, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    OMG, you’re scary. Not in a good way.

    • Ude

      Jul 3, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      NO its you who is {{{{scary}}}} and ^^^^sick^^^^

  16. S

    Jul 3, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Ohhhhhh you’re one of them Seinfeld losers! Figures

    • Traj

      Jul 3, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      You’re the biggest juvenile here who can’t resist bashing the geargeads here who actually have fun with the equipment designs. How pathetic do you want to be? A loser who quotes stupid things from a stupid show like Seinfeld, that’s who.

      • ooffa

        Jul 6, 2017 at 9:59 am

        You know what he meant. Please do not admit you are not smart enough to recognize a typo.

  17. Shallowface

    Jul 3, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    It has never ceased to amaze me how poorly the business of golf has treated women players. When a course ‘s original design has become too long for the average lady due to a poor original design or the fact that it is maintained much wetter than it used to be, do they build a new forward tee box? No. They just drop a couple of tee markers someplace down the fairway, often presenting a sidehill lie. Overly deep rough is another issue. If it’s too deep for me, it’s WAY too deep for a lady. Last, but certainly not least, is the lack of decent restroom facilities. Often times there is NOTHING on either nine, not even a port-a-let. A lady can’t sidle up to a tree like a guy can, and in this day where everything is subject to being videoed a guy has to be careful where he marks his territory. Nothing says “don’t play here” to women like not having decent facilities, and a course developer who was so short sighted that he didn’t include that in his planning deserves to fail. It’s just one more example of how the game is dying by its own hand. If the management of the game wants to know why it is failing, the answer is in the mirror.

    • freowho

      Jul 4, 2017 at 5:34 am

      Good post. Golf courses are still built for the top 1% of golfers and everyone else has to adapt. Having a handicap doesn’t help you get out of a 6 foot deep bunker, stop the ball rolling off the other side of the green or replace the 6 golf balls you have lost. Players are willing to accept that I played bad and deserve to have a bad score but they don’t accept that because I’m a bad golfer I should have to spend all day raking bunkers, looking for my ball, holding everyone up and embarrassing myself. You also don’t 10 bunkers per hole to seperate good and bad golf. 1 well placed bunker or a well designed green will seperate good and bad golf.
      The clubs that survive will be those that understand how to keep the majority coming back for another game.

    • setter02

      Jul 4, 2017 at 7:22 am

      Yeah I hate people who know their basic target market and serve them, but didn’t figure out how to appease the finicky unicorn golfers… Personally I’d hate to have to design a course where the vast majority of female players still hit driver into 120y par 3’s, and come up short… You design a course from the back up, not the other way around, a 4k set of tees is always going to be a complete after thought, as it should.

      • Shallowface

        Jul 4, 2017 at 5:03 pm

        If your “target market” is 1% of any group (and I am in that 1%, by the way), you are doomed to fail. You don’t design a course from the back up if you are designing for recreational players. From what I see, it’s the 7000 plus tees that are the complete after thought, as they are being added to existing designs today due to the USGA’s total failure to regulate equipment. But when they are added, they are level and actually look like tee boxes, unlike what is often done for ladies.

        With your mindset, you must be in the golf business. I love women and love seeing them on the golf course. It’s interesting to say the least how many men I’ve run into over the years who don’t feel that way.

    • ooffa

      Jul 5, 2017 at 7:14 am

      WHAT is wrong with you? You should consider not posting if you are going to continually say inappropriate or foolish things. Let someone else read your posts before hitting enter. Hopefully that person will help prevent you further embarrassing yourself.

  18. Tom Duckworth

    Jul 3, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Great read I would really like to see some events on TV with men and women golfers playing as teams it would be great TV, make it almost a Ryder Cup type of event with teams playing for their countries. There also needs to be a women’s Masters. I have a granddaughter that loves playing and is on the cusp of being a very good golfer but only sees men on TV and her friends tell her golf is an old mans game. She plays in a summer league and she is about the only girl playing.
    I have found a a LPGA teacher in my town and plan to take her to meet her for lessons.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work? Part 1



Of all the clubs in our bags, wedges are almost always the simplest in construction and, therefore, the easiest to analyze what might make one work differently from another if you know what to look for.

Wedges are a lot less mysterious than drivers, of course, as the major brands are working with a lot of “pixie dust” inside these modern marvels. That’s carrying over more to irons now, with so many new models featuring internal multi-material technologies, and almost all of them having a “badge” or insert in the back to allow more complex graphics while hiding the actual distribution of mass.

But when it comes to wedges, most on the market today are still single pieces of molded steel, either cast or forged into that shape. So, if you look closely at where the mass is distributed, it’s pretty clear how that wedge is going to perform.

To start, because of their wider soles, the majority of the mass of almost any wedge is along the bottom third of the clubhead. So, the best wedge shots are always those hit between the 2nd and 5th grooves so that more mass is directly behind that impact. Elite tour professionals practice incessantly to learn to do that consistently, wearing out a spot about the size of a penny right there. If impact moves higher than that, the face is dramatically thinner, so smash factor is compromised significantly, which reduces the overall distance the ball will fly.

Every one of us, tour players included, knows that maddening shot that we feel a bit high on the face and it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s not your fault.

If your wedges show a wear pattern the size of a silver dollar, and centered above the 3rd or 4th groove, you are not getting anywhere near the same performance from shot to shot. Robot testing proves impact even two to three grooves higher in the face can cause distance loss of up to 35 to 55 feet with modern ‘tour design’ wedges.

In addition, as impact moves above the center of mass, the golf club principle of gear effect causes the ball to fly higher with less spin. Think of modern drivers for a minute. The “holy grail” of driving is high launch and low spin, and the driver engineers are pulling out all stops to get the mass as low in the clubhead as possible to optimize this combination.

Where is all the mass in your wedges? Low. So, disregarding the higher lofts, wedges “want” to launch the ball high with low spin – exactly the opposite of what good wedge play requires penetrating ball flight with high spin.

While almost all major brand wedges have begun putting a tiny bit more thickness in the top portion of the clubhead, conventional and modern ‘tour design’ wedges perform pretty much like they always have. Elite players learn to hit those crisp, spinny penetrating wedge shots by spending lots of practice time learning to consistently make contact low in the face.

So, what about grooves and face texture?

Grooves on any club can only do so much, and no one has any material advantage here. The USGA tightly defines what we manufacturers can do with grooves and face texture, and modern manufacturing techniques allow all of us to push those limits ever closer. And we all do. End of story.

Then there’s the topic of bounce and grinds, the most complex and confusing part of the wedge formula. Many top brands offer a complex array of sole configurations, all of them admittedly specialized to a particular kind of lie or turf conditions, and/or a particular divot pattern.

But if you don’t play the same turf all the time, and make the same size divot on every swing, how would you ever figure this out?

The only way is to take any wedge you are considering and play it a few rounds, hitting all the shots you face and observing the results. There’s simply no other way.

So, hopefully this will inspire a lively conversation in our comments section, and I’ll chime in to answer any questions you might have.

And next week, I’ll dive into the rest of the wedge formula. Yes, shafts, grips and specifications are essential, too.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Amazing Session with Performance Coach Savannah Meyer-Clement



In this week’s episode, we spent some time with performance coach Savannah Meyer-Clement who provides many useful insights that you’ll be able to implement on the golf course.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 RBC Heritage betting preview: Patrick Cantlay ready to get back inside winner’s circle



Just a two-hour drive from Augusta National, the PGA TOUR heads to Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Hilton Head Island is a golfer’s paradise and Harbour Town is one of the most beautiful and scenic courses on the PGA TOUR.

Harbour Town Golf Links is a par-71 that measures 7,121 yards and features Bermuda grass greens. A Pete Dye design, the course is heavily tree lined and features small greens and many dog legs, protecting it from “bomb-and-gauge” type golfers.

The field is loaded this week with 69 golfers with no cut. Last year was quite possibly the best field in RBC Heritage history and the event this week is yet another designated event, meaning there is a $20 million prize pool.

Most of the big names on the PGA Tour will be in attendance this week with the exceptions of Hideki Matsuyama and Viktor Hovland. Additionally, Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry, Gary Woodland and Kevin Kisner have been granted sponsors exemptions. 

Past Winners at Harbour Town

  • 2023: Matt Fitzpatrick (-17)
  • 2022: Jordan Spieth (-13)
  • 2021: Stewart Cink (-19)
  • 2020: Webb Simpson (-22)
  • 2019: CT Pan (-12)
  • 2018: Sotoshi Kodaira (-12)
  • 2017: Wesley Bryan (-13)
  • 2016: Branden Grace (-9)
  • 2015: Jim Furyk (-18)

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Key Stats For Harbour Town

Let’s take a look at key metrics for Harbour Town Golf Links to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach is exceedingly important this week. The greens at Harbour Town are about half the size of PGA TOUR average and feature the second-smallest greens on the tour. Typical of a Pete Dye design, golfers will pay the price for missed greens.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.27)
  2. Tom Hoge (+1.27)
  3. Corey Conners (+1.16)
  4. Austin Eckroat (+0.95)
  5. Cameron Young (+0.93)

Good Drive %

The fairways at Harbour Town are tree lined and feature many dog legs. Bombers tend to struggle at the course because it forces layups and doesn’t allow long drivers to overpower it. Accuracy is far more important than power.

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Brice Garnett (88.8%)
  2. Shane Lowry (+87.2%)
  3. Akshay Bhatia (+86.0%)
  4. Si Woo Kim (+85.8%)
  5. Sepp Straka (+85.1%)

Strokes Gained: Total at Pete Dye Designs

Pete Dye specialists tend to play very well at Harbour Town. Si Woo Kim, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Webb Simpson are all Pete Dye specialists who have had great success here. It is likely we see some more specialists near the top of the leaderboard this week.

SG: TOT Pete Dye per round over past 36 rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.27)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.24)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+2.11)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.89)
  5. Sungjae Im (+1.58)

4. Strokes Gained: Short Game (Bermuda)

Strokes Gained: Short Game factors in both around the green and putting. With many green-side bunkers and tricky green complexes, both statistics will be important. Past winners — such as Jim Furyk, Wes Bryan and Webb Simpson — highlight how crucial the short game skill set is around Harbour Town.

SG: SG Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+1.11)
  2. Taylor Moore (+1.02)
  3. Wyndham Clark (+0.98)
  4. Mackenzie Hughes (+0.86)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.83)

5. Greens in Regulation %

The recipe for success at Harbour Town Golf Links is hitting fairways and greens. Missing either will prove to be consequential — golfers must be in total control of the ball to win.

Greens in Regulation % over past 24 rounds:

  1. Brice Garnett (+75.0%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+69.9%)
  3. Corey Conners (+69.0%)
  4. Shane Lowry (+68.3%)
  5. Patrick Rodgers (+67.6%)

6. Course History

Harbour Town is a course where players who have strong past results at the course always tend to pop up. 

Course History over past 24 rounds:

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+2.34)
  2. Cam Davis (+2.05)
  3. J.T. Poston (+1.69)
  4. Justin Rose (+1.68)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (+1.59)

The RBC Heritage Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (24%), Good Drives (20%), SG: SG (14%), SG: Pete Dye (14%), GIR (14%), and Course History (14%)

  1. Shane Lowry
  2. Russell Henley
  3. Scottie Scheffler
  4. Xander Schauffele
  5. Corey Conners 
  6. Wyndham Clark
  7. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
  8. Matt Fitzpatrick
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Ludvig Aberg 

2024 RBC Heritage Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2000 (FanDuel)

With the exception of Scottie Scheffler, the PGA Tour has yet to have any of their star players show peak form during the 2024 season. Last week, Patrick Cantlay, who I believe is a top-5 players on the PGA Tour, took one step closer to regaining the form that’s helped him win eight events on Tour since 2017.

Cantlay limped into the Masters in poor form, but figured it out at Augusta National, finishing in a tie for 20th and ranking 17th for the week in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. The former FedEx Cup champion will now head to one of his favorite golf courses in Harbour Town, where he’s had immaculate results over the years. In his six trips to the course, he’s only finished worse than 7th one time. The other finishes include three third places (2017, 2019, 2023) and one runner-up finish (2022). In his past 36 rounds at Harbour Town, Cantlay ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Total per round at the course by a wide margin (+2.36).

Cantlay is winless since the 2022 BMW Championship, which is far too long for a player of his caliber. With signs pointing to the 32-year-old returning to form, a “signature event” at Harbour Town is just what he needs to get back on the winning track.

Tommy Fleetwood +3000 (FanDuel)

I truly believe Tommy Fleetwood will figure out a way to win on American soil in 2024. It’s certainly been a bugaboo for him throughout his career, but he is simply too talented to go another season without winning a PGA Tour event.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, Fleetwood made a Sunday charge and ended up finishing T3 in the event, which was his best ever finish at The Masters. For the week, the Englishman ranked 8th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 10th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 16th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is a perfect layout for Fleetwood, and he’s had relative success at this Pete Dye design in the past.  In his four trips to the course, he’s finished inside of the top 25 three times, with his best finish, T10, coming in 2022. The course is pretty short and can’t be overpowered, which gives an advantage to more accurate players such as Fleetwood. Tommy ranks 8th in the field in Good Drive % and should be able to plot his way along this golf course.

The win is coming for Tommy lad. I believe there’s a chance this treasure of a golf course may be the perfect one for him to finally break through on Tour.

Cameron Young +3300 (FanDuel)

Cameron Young had a solid Masters Tournament last week, which is exactly what I’m looking for in players who I anticipate playing well this week at the RBC Heritage. He finished in a tie for 9th, but never felt the pressure of contending in the event. For the week, Young ranked 6th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 6th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Despite being one of the longest players off the tee on the PGA Tour, Young has actually played some really good golf on shorter tracks. He finished T3 at Harbour Town in 2023 and ranks 20th in the field in Good Drive% and 16th in Greens in Regulation in his past 24 rounds. He also has strong finishes at other shorter courses that can take driver out of a players hand such as Copperhead and PGA National.

Young is simply one of the best players on the PGA Tour in 2024, and I strongly believe has what it takes to win a PGA Tour event in the very near future.

Corey Conners +5500 (FanDuel)

Corey Conners has had a disappointing year thus far on the PGA Tour, but absolutely loves Harbour Town.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, the Canadian finished T30 but ranked 20th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. In his past 24 rounds, Conners ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 3rd in Greens in Regulation % and 24th in Good Drive %.

In Conners’ last four trips to Harbour Town, his worst finish was T31, last season. He finished T4 in 2021, T12 in 2022 and ranks 8th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course over his past 36 rounds.

Conners hasn’t been contending, but his recent finishes have been encouraging as he has finished in the top-25 in each of his past three starts prior to The Masters, including an impressive T13 at The PLAYERS. His recent improvement in ball striking as well as his suitability for Harbour Town makes Conners a high upside bet this week.

Shane Lowry (+7500) (FanDuel)

When these odds were posted after Lowry was announced in the field, I have to admit I was pretty stunned. Despite not offering much win equity on the PGA Tour over the last handful of years, Shane Lowry is still a top caliber player who has the ability to rise to the top of a signature event.

Lowry struggled to score at The Masters last week, but he actually hit the ball really well. The Irishman ranked 1st for Strokes Gained: Approach on the week and 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. As usual, it was the putter that let him down, as he ranked 60th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is most definitely one of Lowry’s favorite courses on the PGA Tour. In his six starts there, he’s finished in the top 10 three times, including third twice. Lowry is sensational at Pete Dye designs and ranks 7th in Strokes Gained: Total in his past 36 rounds on Dye tracks. 

Lowry is perfect for Harbour Town. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 2nd in Good Drive% and 5th in Green in Regulation %. If he figures it out on the greens, Shane could have his first win in America since 2015.

Lucas Glover +12000 (FanDuel)

This is one of my weekly “bet the number” plays as I strongly believe the odds are just too long for a player of Glover’s caliber. The odds have been too long on Glover for a few weeks now, but this is the first event that I can get behind the veteran being able to actually contend at. 

Glover is quietly playing good golf and returning to the form he had after the understandable regression after his two massive victories at the end of 2023. He finished T20 at The Masters, which was his best ever finish at Augusta National. For the week, Lucas ranked 18th for Strokes Gained: Approach and 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Over his past 24 rounds, Glover ranks 9th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 13th in Good Drive %. Harbour Town is a short course that the 44-year-old will be able to keep up with the top players on Tour off the tee. He’s played the course more than 20 times, with mixed results. His best finishes at Harbour Town include a T7 in 2008, but recently has a finish of T21 in 2020.

Glover has proven he can contend with the stars of the Tour on any given week, and this number is flat out disrespectful.

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