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Operation 36: Try to shoot 36 for nine holes no matter your skill level

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Ever tried to take your kids to the driving range? Recently I had my 9-year-old nephew Jack in town. Jack, like most 9-year-old boys is a mixture of curiosity and explosive energy. When he asked me to take him to the range, how could I refuse? One hour later, I had learned a very valuable lesson; teaching little kids is wicked hard. A couple days later, I recounted the story to my friend and fellow Campbell University Alumni (Go Camels!), Ryan Dailey. Ryan, co-founder of Operation 36, laughed hysterically as I recalled the struggles of trying to manage one nine-year-old.

“Been there for sure, my friend!” recounts Dailey, who in 2010 was charged with designing and implementing a program to grow golf among junior players in rural North Carolina, close to Campbell’s campus.

“When we started to look at growing the game, we thought we had one major obstacle; the rural setting. We thought finding kids was going to be hard, but once we had them, we thought they would love us, the game and it would be smooth. Man, was I wrong,” laughs Dailey as he recounts his early days.

“Sure, getting players was hard in a rural setting, but not as hard as keeping them interested! We would spend 2 hours before every class to plan an array of activities to keep their attention for an hour, and spend another hour after sharing ideas on how to make it better next time. We thought we were on the right path by integrating golf and non-golf activities to make it fun,” shares Dailey’s business partner and fellow founder of Operation 36 Matt Reagan, PGA.

Ryan and Matt were stumped more than once trying to create golfers. To get off the ground they started with 3 students and a goal to run a long-term program for 8 months out of the year. They grew to 20 students, 40, 70 and then after year 5…BAM! They lost 30 students! What happened? The fun ran out…

The tagline for Operation 36 is “Creating Golfers.”

“That’s what it boils down to, we are Creating Golfers,” Ryan said. “It’s a lot harder task than you think to guide someone to a point of full engagement in the game of golf. It’s not just motivating them in a class, drill, game or activity. That can be pretty easy with all the fun toys you buy, music you play and endless drills and games you play on the practice tee and putting green.  It’s guiding them on that journey from being motivated in class, being engaged in a drill or activity and then the ultimate, being engaged in the game of golf playing on the golf course. We lost almost half of our program after year 5 because we forgot about the most important part, getting them to play the game of golf on the actual course. Eventually if all you do are games, drills and activities in your programming and you don’t have a set playing component, players will phase out and leave your program.”

So, here’s the game: Operation 36

They tried every playing component imaginable and couldn’t find one that really helped to hook players on the challenge of the sport. They settled in on a format where the goal is to shoot 36 or better for 9 holes. Now students start at 25 yards away from the center of the green and play all 9 holes in a competitive match format.  If they shoot 36 or better, they move back to 50 yards for their next match. If they don’t shoot 36 or better, they remain at the same yardage and keep trying until they develop the skills in class, practice and in match experience to pass.

“We banged our heads against the wall for about a year as we tried to integrate playing golf into the program. After our first Op 36 Match we could see we were on to something for a couple reasons. First, we got around the golf course in under 1.5 hours, where previously even from a forward tee we were pushing 3 hours for 9 holes. Second, the junior golfers who didn’t pass were excited to play again, and the golfers who did pass were asking … what’s next?” says Matt

The original format Ryan and Matt came up with on a drive down US 1 to Pine Needles in 2014 is the same used today. After 50 yards, players go to 100, 150, 200 and then their full tee box based on age. What started out as “for Juniors only” has evolved into a huge success with adults.  It’s a lot easier to learn the game whether you are young or old from a manageable distance where success is experienced right away.

Fast forward to present day. The team at Operation 36 trains coaches globally to implement and manage the program at their own home facility. To date, over 319 facilities use Operation 36 and over 10,000 golfers participate. The team uses the tools, technology and resources to help coaches successfully launch full-service Academies or add a world-class beginner program to their established Academies.

A full 6-level curriculum is included to help coaches know exactly what to teach and when during an Academy Class. Time has been spent coaching over 3,000 Academy Classes to figure out what needs to be taught and how to teach it to have the biggest impact on the player.

To help golfers on the course, golf professionals issue participants with a series of goals to accomplish within the Operation 36 mobile app. The goals are not only educational, but provide a long term roadmap to success. In the next article, Ryan and Matt will share profound results of their having tracked over 2,000 Operation 36 rounds.

“The goal has always been to create a journey or pathway that players plug into and see if they are ahead, behind or right on pace based on their given goals,” Ryan said. “We have arrived at a point now where I can have that conversation with a student and parent. Based on the scores in Operation 36 and the age of the player we share relevant, accurate and impactful data from our research that helps shape decisions in coaching, parenting and training that keep players on track.  I like to compare what we do to a GPS. The student gives us the destination and we use Operation 36 to know where they are on the journey. If they are behind, we motivate them to work harder. If they are on pace or ahead, we communicate that what we are doing is working and let’s stay the course. As our research and number of facilities participating grows, we learn more and more impactful data that only helps parents, players and coaches to be more focused, intentional and motivated. Amazing, effective stuff is coming out of this corridor that we are very excited about, stay tuned.”

To get involved with Operation 36, email [email protected]. To book Matt and Ryan to come speak to your golf association, section or coaching staff, please email Director of Operations Andrew Strom at [email protected]. They are also available to do a certification for your chapter, section, or association and are willing to drive, boat, or fly to get there.

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Brendan is the owner of Golf Placement Services, a boutique business which aims to apply his background in golf and higher education to help educate players, their families and coaches about the process! Website - www.golfplacementservices.com Insta - golf.placement.sevices Twitter @BMRGolf

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Pingback: Operation 36 Golf Login - LoginCrunch

  2. E

    Jul 11, 2018 at 12:17 am

    Oh my I LOVE this. Change the expectations and increase the fun!

  3. Dad

    Jul 9, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    “…and then after year 5… BAM! They lost 30 students! What happened? The fun ran out…”
    That happened after 5 years of frustrating golf and they discovered girlfriends and boyfriends… more funner… 😉

  4. swing dr

    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    This is fantastic, but many courses/ people already do this! A great lesson for parents.

  5. Te

    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    What if it’s Par 35 or 37?
    Dumb idea. Why not just call it Operation Par?

    • Jamie

      Jul 9, 2018 at 6:49 pm

      Obviously you didn’t read the article. 25 yards in 3 shots x 9 holes, then 50 yards in 3 and so on.

    • JR

      Jul 9, 2018 at 7:49 pm

      Bet you’re pissed at 8 minute abs too.

    • Karen Gray

      Jul 13, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      There’s always going to be a negative put downer. You didn’t disappoint. “Helping comments” always welcome. Please revisit your need for extinguish enthusiasm for what these fellows have achieved and the long term journey they’ve traveled. Reconsider your approach and you might be surprised to realize your thoughts are actually being seriously received. Just thinking.

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TG2: Max Homa talks about his club changes, JT’s new putter, Jason Day’s WITB

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This week we have a great interview with Max Homa on some recent club changes. Max seems to love gear and is one of the nicest guys in golf. Justin Thomas has a new putter in the bag and we go through Jason Day’s interesting WITB. A few other equipment news stories from the AT&T this week.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Reviewing Cobra’s Forged Tec irons and Callaway’s new Fairway golf bags!

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Cobra took one Forged Tec iron and split it into two options this year. The Forged Tec X is the larger iron that is pure speed and forgiveness. Almost a full club longer and with tight dispersion. The Forged Tec is for players looking for distance and feel in a smaller package.

Callaway designed the new Fairway 14 and Fairway + golf bags with push carts in mind. A totally redesigned top offers a secure mounting on even the roughest terrain.

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 AT&T Byron Nelson: Outright Betting Picks

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As anticipation mounts for the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, we make one final pit stop at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, to play the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson.

Last year was the first time the tournament was held at TPC Craig Ranch. The prior two editions of the AT&T Byron Nelson were played at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.

TPC Craig Ranch is a 7,468-yard par 72 and features bentgrass greens.  The event historically plays relatively easy, and that certainly didn’t change last year with the new course. K.H. Lee won the event by shooting -25.

The course structure may provide some additional intrigue with the par-3 17th set up like the stadium hole at TPC Scottsdale. The course also has both long and difficult par-4s mixed with driveable par-4s, which should create some exciting moments.

There are 156 golfers in the field this week, and it’s a very strong collection of players. Some notable golfers in the field include Dustin Johnson, Sam Burns, Justin Thomas, Will Zalatoris, Adam Scott, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler Xander Schauffele, and Hideki Matsuyama.

2022 AT&T Byron Nelson Best Bets

Jordan Spieth (+2200) (DraftKings):

When I took my first glance at the odds this week, I thought there may have been a mistake. Coming off of a win and a stretch where he’s played great golf, I fully anticipated Jordan Spieth’s betting odds this week to have a “1” in front of them.

Spieth’s win at the RBC Heritage was impressive, but I was more impressed with the way he got it done. In the past, we’ve seen Jordan contend by gaining strokes putting and making improbable birdies throughout the week. That wasn’t the case at Harbour Town. The 28-year-old gained 13.3 strokes from tee to green which led the field by a whopping 3.0 stroke margin. He’s gained strokes on approach in his past six measured events and has gained strokes off the tee in five of his past six measured events. Shockingly, Spieth has had a difficult time putting this season. If he can regain form with the putter he will be incredibly difficult to beat.

Throughout the past few seasons, the former Texas Longhorn has been incredible in the state of Texas. Three of his past four starts in the state have resulted in a top-ten finish, including a win at last year’s Valero Texas Open.

I typically don’t like betting on golfers to win in back-to-back starts, but if there is anyone who can do it, it’s Spieth. He’s won in consecutive starts twice already in his career and tends to get scorching hot once he starts rounding into form.

Will Zalatoris (+2200)(Bet365):

Will Zalatoris is overdue for his first PGA Tour victory and there’s plenty of reason to believe that TPC Craig Ranch is the perfect spot for him to finally get over the hump.

In Zal’s past five starts, he’s gaining an average of 4.3 strokes on approach and 6.9 strokes for tee to green. His ball striking has been nothing short of exquisite and returning to a course that he is incredibly familiar with should do nothing to deter that this week. In his press conference prior to the event last year, Zalatoris said in regard to the course:

“So I played TPC Craig Ranch a bunch going back, I think, to when I was actually 12 years old. I played in the Ewing Junior Tour regular season championship, played in a foursome with Scottie Scheffler, and I’ve got a lot of great memories here. So I guess I’ve been competing here basically half my life, so really looking forward to, obviously, competing in front of some friends and family this week.”

Last year at the Byron Nelson, Zalatoris led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach by gaining 9.5 strokes on the field. His Achilles heel (putting) was his undoing that week, as it typically is. He lost a paltry 4.3 strokes putting and was the only top-20 finisher to lose strokes putting. If he can manage to putt to field average this week, look out!

Marc Leishman (+6500)(DraftKings):

In the past, I’ve written about golfers who offer some tremendous value on the betting board due to what I call a “missed cut discount”. Marc Leishman fits that description perfectly this week. Although he missed the cut at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, I didn’t see any major cause for concern. Despite missing the cut, Leishman gained 3.1 strokes on approach in two rounds. He bladed a bunker shot into the water which is most definitely an anomaly but cost him three strokes and ultimately, the cut. 

Leishman now heads to a course that should be a much better fit for him than TPC Potomac was. When the 38-year-old gets into trouble, it usually is due to an errant driver. Missing the fairway at TPC Potomac was incredibly penal, and that won’t be the case at TPC Craig Ranch. It also will be much harder to miss the fairways considering they are one of the widest on Tour. 

Throughout his career, the Aussie has played some of his best golf in the state of Texas. He was the runner up at this event (AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest) back in 2018, and finished 21st at this course last season. Additionally, back in 2008, Leishman won a Nationwide Tour event (WNB Golf Classic) by 11 strokes which took place in Midland, Texas. Something about Texas golf undoubtedly resonates with him. 

Leishman is a golfer I love going to on outright bets because of the win equity he offers. He has six PGA Tour wins, so I am confident he will be able to convert a good performance into a win if given the opportunity. I expect the winning score to eclipse -20 this week, and three of Leishman’s six Tour victories have come at -20 or better. 

Matthew Wolff (+11000)(Bet365):

After a nightmare start to his 2022 campaign, Matthew Wolff finally showed some signs of life last week at TPC Potomac. The 23-year-old gained 4.0 strokes from tee to green and finished in 25th, which was his best finish since November. He finished 11th that week at the Houston Open, so returning to Texas may bring some positive vibes to go along with the confidence he gained last week. 

I’ve always viewed Wolff as a player who was capable of having extreme “spike weeks” where he can find himself in contention. It’s unclear whether Wolff is truly trending back towards the lofty expectations he once had or if it was an outlier. At triple digit odds, it’s worth the price to find out. 

Dylan Frittelli (+12500) (Bet365):

I was high on Frittelli the last time the PGA Tour made a stop in Texas, and he had a great week, finishing in 8th place at the Valero Texas Open. 

The former Texas Longhorn seems to find his groove in the state of Texas and also finished 19th at last year’s Houston Open. A low-scoring tournament should be a good fit for him as he is typically a prolific birdie maker. 

The 31-year-old finished 46th last week at the Wells Fargo Championship but he played better statistically than his result shows. He gained 5.1 strokes from tee to green but really struggled with the putter, losing 4.0 strokes to the field. Returning to Texas should be a positive change for his prospects with the flat stick as he gained 3.9 strokes putting in his showing at the Valero Texas Open.

Brandon Wu (+20000)(DraftKings):

Brandon Wu is a young player that I think is going to break on the PGA Tour scene in a big way in the coming years. The 25-year-old won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in 2020 beating an impressive mix of current Tour players. He’s come on strong lately with finishes of 3rd, 33rd, 28th, and 2nd before a missed cut last week at Wells Fargo. The missed cut doesn’t bother me much considering I didn’t love the course fit for him. 

Wu cashed a top ten bet for us in Mexico and I think similar to Vidanta Vallarta, TPC Craig Ranch is a course that has a much more favorable setup for the Stanford product. Since he’s started playing on Tour, the tournaments he’s played best at are all course setups that are on the easier side. He showed us that he is more than capable of keeping up in a “birdie fest” in his Sunday round in Mexico where he fired a scorching hot 63 to grab a share of second place. 

This is a talent play on Brandon Wu. A win will come for him at some point in the next few seasons so starting to invest in him consistently at triple digit odds should pay off.

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