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Opinion & Analysis

Past, present, and future: Masters week is magical

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It was 1961 when I watched my first Masters broadcast with my dad on a little black-and-white TV (aluminum foil wrapping the “ears”), and the 16th, 17th, and 18th holes were all CBS covered. A guy named Player was at the top of the leader board, and Arnold Palmer’s name was right under his. As a naive kid of 13 knowing nothing about golf, I thought Arnie was leading because I assumed “Player” was the name of the column and therefore Palmer was at the top of the column!

Anyway, that was 58 years ago and I have not missed a Masters since. As a PGA member, I’ve been fortunate to attend the event several times, but other than those years, I have always arranged my weekend schedule to be sitting in front a TV screen from Holy Thursday to Masters Sunday.

This week, I won’t get any older (I’m actually 70 weeks younger than my 70 years). Oh, I’m not fearful of aging, or the fact that I’m a lot closer to the 18th green than the first tee, but this week I just kind of doubt the reality of all that. I’m all too aware of how fast this whole thing is going by, but this week it slows down just enough that the inevitable trickles instead of flies. Because now it’s springtime in the valley in Augusta, Georgia, and the annual rite of passage into spring is mercifully upon us.

I’m a big fan of tradition — I’m not afraid to admit it, and in the Masters we have “a tradition unlike any other.” What makes it such a tradition? Well for one, whoever puts this whole thing together has channeled their elders and has had the great sense and the courage to leave the damn thing alone. In this crazy, hectic, chaotic world, I need something, anything, that stops changing every time I look up or turn a page.  As a golfer, that thing is the Masters in April in Augusta.

The grass will be just as green this week, the holes will be cut in the same places they’ve always been, the pimento and cheese sandwiches will still be wrapped in the little green bags and still sell for a buck fifty, the back nine will still decide the winner, “fore, please!” will still be Augusta-speak for play away, there will still be limited commercial messages during the broadcast, 30,000 “patrons” will still walk the hallowed ground each day, the azaleas will be as gorgeous as always, the spirits of Bobby Jones and Cliff Roberts will still come alive, and we all will feel, in the words of Bob Dylan, forever young!

The Crow’s Nest, the Butler Cabin, Rae’s Creek, The Hogan Bridge, Sarazen’s double eagle, Arnie’s Army, the honorary starters… There’s nowhere else we know the players and events, the thrilling victories, the tragic defeats like we do at Augusta. Everyone is familiar with everything because it stays the same.

“The Masters,” was a name for the event Bobby Jones was reluctant to use because it seemed a bit precocious. Jones didn’t make many mistakes when designing this “toonament,” but I’m really glad he dropped “The Augusta National Invitational” tag. Oh, and he decided to reverse the nines.  Can you even imagine this event, with the most famous back nine in golfdom, being played as the first nine? Horrors!

Every first full week of April, we get to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, we dust off the sticks and head to links. But this week we stand in awe of the sporting spectacle we know as the Masters. Anyway, let the show is about to begin. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do. I’d like to add one final note to the younger readers and maybe first time attendees at the event: If golf is in your soul, treasure every moment this week because the memories will last a lifetime, and you’ll appreciate it more with each passing year.  Believe me, b there will come a time when you drag your feet just to slow the passage of time, and there is no better time to do so than this week. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

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On Spec

On Spec: Talking fitting with Marty Jertson – VP Fitting & Performance at Ping Golf

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This week, host Ryan Barath had the opportunity to speak with Marty Jerston, VP of Fitting and Performance at Ping about all things club fitting. Topics range from the increasing popularity of virtual fittings to what optimization really means for every golfer.

The conversation also covers the new Stack System—a training program developed by Dr. Sasho MacKenzie and Marty to help golfers train for speed and improve performance.

 

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: The softest forged irons you’ve never heard of and the Cobra RadSpeed hybrid!

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Ever heard of New Level Golf? If you are looking for wildly soft players irons, then you should check them out. The PF-1 blades and the PF-2 cavity backs are as soft as anything on the market right now. Great irons for skilled players.

The Cobra RadSpeed hybrid is a solid mid/high launching hybrid with a solid Cobra feel and sound. Pretty neutral-bias ball flight with only a slight draw.

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Opinion & Analysis

The future of club fitting is going virtual

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Thanks to technology, you can buy everything from custom-made suits to orthotics online without ever walking into a store or working in person with an expert.

Now, with the help of video and launch monitors, along with a deeper understanding of dynamics than ever before, club fitting is quickly going virtual too, and it’s helping golfers find better equipment faster!

What really took so long?

The real advancements started in the coaching world around a decade ago. What used to require heavy cameras and tripods now simply requires a phone and you have a high-definition slow-motion video that can be sent around the world in a matter of seconds.

Beyond video, modern launch monitors and their ability to capture data have quickly turned a guessing game of “maybe this will work” into a precision step-by-step process of elimination to optimize. When you combine video and launch monitor elements with an understanding of club fitting principles and basic biomechanics, you have the ability to quickly evaluate a golfer’s equipment and make recommendations to help them play better golf.

The benefits of virtual fitting

  • Any golfer with a phone and access to a launch monitor can get high-level recommendations from a qualified fitter.
  • Time and cost-saving to and from a fitter. (This seems obvious, but one of the reasons I personally receive so many questions about club fitting is because those reaching out don’t have access to fitting facilities within a reasonable drive)
  • It’s an opportunity to get a better understanding our your equipment from an expert.

How virtual fittings really work

The key element of a virtual fitting is the deep understanding of the available products to the consumer. On an OEM level, line segmentation makes this fairly straightforward, but it becomes slightly more difficult for brand-agnostic fitters that have so many brands to work with, but it also shows their depth of knowledge and experience.

It’s from this depth of knowledge and through an interview that a fitter can help analyze strengths and weaknesses in a player’s game and use their current clubs as a starting point for building a new set—then the video and launch monitor data comes in.

But it can quickly go very high level…

One of the fastest emerging advancements in this whole process is personalized round tracking data from companies like Arccos, which gives golfers the ability to look at their data without personal bias. This allows the golfer along with any member of their “team” to get an honest assessment of where improvements can be found. The reason this is so helpful is that golfers of all skill levels often have a difficult time being critical about their own games or don’t even really understand where they are losing shots.

It’s like having a club-fitter or coach follow you around for 10 rounds of golf or more—what was once only something available to the super-elite is now sitting in your pocket. All of this comes together and boom, you have recommendations for your new clubs.

Current limitations

We can’t talk about all the benefits without pointing out some of the potential limitations of virtual club fittings, the biggest being the human element that is almost impossible to replicate by phone or through video chat.

The other key factor is how a player interprets feel, and when speaking with an experienced fitter recently while conducting a “trial fitting” the biggest discussion point was how to communicate with golfers about what they feel in their current clubs. Video and data can help draw some quick conclusions but what a player perceives is still important and this is where the conversation and interview process is vital.

Who is offering virtual club fittings?

There are a lot of companies offering virtual fittings or fitting consultations over the phone. One of the biggest programs is from Ping and their Tele-Fitting process, but other companies like TaylorMade and PXG also have this service available to golfers looking for new equipment.

Smaller direct-to-consumer brands like New level, Sub 70, and Haywood Golf have offered these services since their inception as a way to work with consumers who had limited experience with their products but wanted to opportunity to get the most out of their gear and their growth has proven this model to work.

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