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Barney Adams: Stop calling golf “fun”



Industry ads aimed at promoting participation have the same theme, “Play Golf Because It’s Fun.” I disagree with the presentation, but admittedly it takes explanation. Fun is considered, light, enjoyable among other adjectives. Golf hasn’t been around for centuries evoking a unique passion because it’s “fun.” It’s hard and frustrating yet we come back sometimes—even ignoring weather we wouldn’t otherwise be outside in.


Because it’s rewarding! Not on the whole, that’s reserved for the very few who are excellent players. “Rewarding” for the masses will be a well-played hole, even a singular shot. We are rewarded in small victories, not mastery.

How then do we focus on the concept of reward? The answer falls into what we call course layout and must be championed by those organizations promoting the game—the PGA of America and the USGA. I’ll proceed with some typical examples with real data, not opinion.

This is data-centric: Years ago, the former Technical Director of the USGA reported that his study revealed an average driving distance of 192 yards. Who are the 192s? The short answer is they are the overall majority of players who play and financially support the game. Their brethren are not coming on board in numbers, and pure age analysis shows that they are a declining population, albeit with a huge reservoir that is retiring and could decide to play.

They love to watch the 300-yard drives of Tour players and marvel that the average iron into greens is an 8—albeit some 170 yards. Further, these iron shots are struck consistently, high, landing with spin allowing them to shoot for targets within the confines of the green.

The 192 group doesn’t hit 170-yard 8-irons. If they make that good swing, their 8-iron goes roughly 120, and rather than a spot on the green, they are trying to get on the putting surface.

What does this have to do with rewarding? I was recently asked to analyze a course that had installed forward tees, but something was off. The overall yardage was 5,900 par 70, which seemed perfect.

However, there were six holes in various forms of what follows: yardage 354, a 192-yard drive leaves 162 and in each case, it was a forced carry of 162 yards. The 192s don’t have a high soft shot that carries 162 plus yards. They may have an occasional low bullet that doesn’t hold, but the sensible play is to lay up.

This gets old and it’s not rewarding. If their second shot on forced carry holes was, say, 125 yards they would have a chance to hit a solid shot onto the green, and that’s rewarding. We 192s aren’t good enough to hit center face solid shots every time. Give us the chance that we’ll be rewarded with a birdie putt just some of the time and the experience is one that keeps us playing (“fun,” if you will, but more accurately defined).

Further, a 370-yard par 4 with a slightly downsloping fairway into a green wide open in the front—and again we have a chance to be rewarded.

It isn’t a simple distance issue: It’s an understanding of the concept of reward and setting one set of tees accordingly. Golf courses are fairway width, firmness, elevations, hazards and the list goes on. That’s why I say the good folks who promote the game need to embrace the concept. Produce guidelines on how to make courses rewarding.

Years ago, I was very fortunate to be able to play a few rounds with Lee Trevino, arguably one of the greatest ball strikers of all times. He didn’t play “the tees” he picked the ones he wanted, some forward, some back. I asked why and he said, “Barnyard, I just want to be able to hit shots to the green. I always did.” I never forgot his comment, but I didn’t appreciate the genius behind it until I came upon the concept of rewarding golf. It’s exactly what Lee was doing!

Of course, I’m just one small voice. The PGA of America and USGA are the leaders and it’s up to them to turn the concept of rewarding golf into a movement designed to increase participation.

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at [email protected] Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.



  1. Adams fan

    Sep 12, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    Why does this bitter old man still have relevancy or a platform? He created a one-hit infomercial wonder 20 years ago. He doesn’t need a platform like WRX to keep pontificating….waiting for his next “get off my lawn” moment.

    • Barney Adams

      Sep 12, 2019 at 6:08 pm

      My goodness it’s my brother Harry. Never got over my eating his ice cream.

  2. JimmyD2

    Sep 10, 2019 at 11:23 am

    Wow! We should stop calling the game of golf fun because what the scorecard shows as par on some holes may be too difficult for our skill level… Maybe a better recommendation would be to forget about the scorecard and “Just Have Fun”. When I was in the military I used to love visiting family and getting out to PLAY golf together! My father, who only played during these rare visits (and never practiced!) had more fun than any of us. My “happy place” for the past decade+ has been playing a round of golf with my son, especially when we get to play as a twosome. Golf is and should be Fun! As the great philosopher Tin Cup once said, “Sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you’re not good at them.”

  3. Dave r

    Sep 9, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    My wife tells me I’m having fun so I guess I’m having fun.

  4. Todd Dugan

    Sep 9, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    I think of golf as an OPPORTUNITY to achieve a sense of accomplishment by doing something well which is not easy to do well. If it were easy to do well, then the reward would not be nearly as great. But there is a risk, as doing something poorly is disappointing…for me, anyway. There is also a nice social element to playing. I also think of playing golf as a sort of ritualistic “life exercise” in doing things correctly.

  5. scott

    Sep 9, 2019 at 7:28 am

    I think i have fun.
    Only really know when I take the winnings off my playing partners.

  6. Prime21

    Sep 8, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    I’m still confused. Are you saying in order to be fun it has to be easy? EVERYONE on the planet has to have the ability to access a pin? I could counter by saying I can hit high, soft shots and easy courses that allow for run up on every shot are no fun at all. Everyone has a different opinion, whether they are in the AVG or not. Simply because you have an opinion, which is “supported” by numbers doesn’t mean you have the support of the others in your “average” group. Everyone has ‘em, apparently you just get to share yours.

    • JThunder

      Sep 9, 2019 at 5:43 am

      The key point is “average” is meaningless. If you compile “average” in anything, those specs will only fit 1% of the people involved (see: height, weight, etc).

      I know PLENTY of golfers who drive 200 and can hit a high soft shot from 162. I know low handicappers who hit mid-trajectory irons with low spin who would have more trouble (eg, to elevated greens).

      I think the article misses it’s own point; it’s about bad golf course architecture and management. In my experience, those kind of courses alienate golfers, and have to drop prices to compete with better designs. Or they get turned into townhouse sites. I suppose there are areas with fewer choices, so golfers are stuck. Ultimately, courses should be designed around some variety; not all tee shots should require a fade, not all par 3s should be long, not all greens should be elevated. (Just ask the pros about Dubsdread!)

    • Barney Adams

      Sep 9, 2019 at 12:48 pm

      That’s just the point. It’s NOT about easy it’s about a reasonable challenge for the 192s. Courses throw out front tees with no thought so you get 400 yd par 5 holes ( which I call dumb) instead of 390 yd par 4 s
      Look up Moe’s poem by Paul Bertholy. I almost included it in the story.

  7. No Thanks

    Sep 8, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    I’m sorry, but this isn’t “backed up with data”. You have an AVERAGE distance. That average is not the MEDIAN. Those are two different things. But let’s say “192” is the median. We’ll imagine that for a moment, and then say you found one hole, on one course, unnamed, and site that as why things are failing?

    A 5900y Par-70 was mislabeled, and should have been a 5900y Par-71.

    Barney, I don’t even disagree with your premise that it isn’t easy, and maybe should avoid the term “fun”. But you’re way off here calling this “data-centric”. This is literally the opposite of “data-centric” — it’s cherry-picking.

    • Barney Adams

      Sep 8, 2019 at 9:22 pm

      Sorry but I disagree completely and it’s really my fault for not describing the situation better. It isn’t a case of all the holes having to fit the premise though that would be great. Given that we’re working with existing facilities I’m saying “ fix” as many errant holes as you can. Don’t throw out Forward tees that create unrewarding holes by being too easy , dumb holes. Recognize the power of rewarding and react in kind
      As for median vs average. Of course some will catch one and roll out others will pop up short. All you can do is use 192 as a reference point and know what that means in terms of second shot requirements.
      Last; I’ve written about this in various forms for 8 years now. I’m not smart enough to give it up , I believe it will add enjoyment to the game

      • No Thanks

        Sep 9, 2019 at 11:59 pm

        You can disagree completely, but it doesn’t change the point.

        If your example was labeled a Par-5, you wouldn’t have a complaint, would you?

        If that’s the case, then it goes back to the “what is par” question. Are you basically saying that you want shorter approach shots for high handicappers? Because if that’s the “challenge” you’re looking for, that risks the integrity of the course… those hitting from 50-100 further back are still aiming for that approach landing area, and they’ll be looking to put up a second shot the same as the HH.

        This seems like tilting at windmills.

  8. Bob Jones

    Sep 8, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    Sorry, but if you don’t enjoy your leisure time pursuit, if you don’t have fun doing it, then why bother?

    • Barney Adams

      Sep 8, 2019 at 11:10 pm

      Lost my bowling ball

      • Acemandrake

        Sep 9, 2019 at 10:49 am

        Bob Hope: “I’d quit the game but I have too many sweaters.”

  9. cc-rider

    Sep 8, 2019 at 9:45 am

    I did something that I had meaning to do for years over the holiday weekend. I played a nine hole round with wood woods and 1980 hogan apex 2 irons at a classic shorter course. It was a refreshing change of pace hitting the small headed woods and blade irons. I went on eBay afterwards and could not believe how little these real woods sell for second hand. They were literally pennies on the dollar compared to modern equipment. I am not saying that going back to old equipment is the answer, but it provided a very affordable and alternative take on golf in 2019.

  10. steve

    Sep 8, 2019 at 12:41 am

    For the past 10 + years, my handicap has fluctuated between three and six. Obviously, that is better than some and worse and others. That being said, the better I play, the less fun I seem to have as i tend to expect more from myself than i should. It’s a tough explanation to my wife when I am in a bad mood coming home from golf.

  11. Walt Pendleton

    Sep 7, 2019 at 11:58 pm

    Mr. Adams…enjoyed your angle on courses matching age to holes, new tee boxes and relative to the majority of the game’s largest supporters. As you know, most public clubs don’t have the money to build all new boxes but building 3 to 5 new tees on the hardest holes per year would surely help. I have but one question: Why doesn’t the game ask The PGA Tour to help financially or ask the Euro public tracks what they have done to reduce course closings?

  12. Larry Brown

    Sep 7, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Golf only becomes “fun” when you have put in enough work to have a reasonably consistent swing. Until then, it’s just work. Unless you just play as an excuse to get out with the buddies and drink.

  13. s

    Sep 7, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    A lot of you readers are missing the point. My wife is a decent player but having a birdie opportunity is a rare event.. Most of the course we play, the women’s red tee is only about 30-50 yards closer than the men’s white, where I feel “rewarding”. The GIR rate for her is almost 0% in theory. I give her one shot every single hole just to make her feel fun, rewarding, or whatever you call it. Some even say those courses do it because they don’t want women to come because of the slow play… If not, let me ask you a question. Is it a lot more expensive to maintain the teeing grounds farther apart?

  14. rex 235

    Sep 7, 2019 at 1:11 pm


    Wasn’t it Roger Cleveland who in the Cleveland ad- “wanted to make golf more fun?”

    And aren’t you the guy who wrote the Golf World article saying “The wood wood is dead?”

    And now the company you sold out to- TaylorMade- makes a different Driver model every 3 months?

    Especially when the NEW models featured by every company each year are exclusively RH Only?.

    And having a subscription to Golfwrx featuring “New” equipment models you can’t ever get?

    No..that isn’t fun.

    • Geoffrey Holland

      Sep 7, 2019 at 4:00 pm

      The new models are not exclusively right-handed. And I’m a lefty so I pay attention to these things. You never get the full range that righties get for obvious reasons so stop whining.

    • Jake

      Sep 7, 2019 at 5:09 pm

      The “TM releases a new driver every three months” is going on 5 years since they actually did stuff like that.

    • Gerald Teigrob

      Sep 7, 2019 at 6:28 pm

      Take a chill pill or two and call your doctor in the morning! Get your facts straight before you comment next time! Did you know that Acushnet bought out TM since your dinosaur comment?

      • Bill

        Sep 7, 2019 at 11:23 pm

        Might want to check that. Adidas bought then sold TM. Achusnet once owned Titlest but it’s now owned by Fila. Acushnet never owned TM.

  15. The dude

    Sep 7, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Fun…rewarding …= semantics

  16. Doug McManus

    Sep 7, 2019 at 10:54 am

    Completely useless article, Golf is great fun with some highs and lows.
    I can think of a better game. It is what you make of it!

  17. Sebastien

    Sep 7, 2019 at 7:07 am

    Me and my dad have much more fun since I let him play front tee instead of giving him ‘shots’ in our family competition….

  18. NoTalentLefty

    Sep 6, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    The peripherals of golf are fun. Fellowship, equipment wh0r1ng, etc. Barney has a point on the game itself. The challenges of well played shot is not about fun.

  19. Jeff

    Sep 6, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Golf is what you make of it. If you suck and still have fun, then that’s great. I’m usually mad when I play bad, but its a fun game. IMHO of course.

    • Rick

      Sep 6, 2019 at 11:18 pm

      Yes it is what you make it…after I hit 70 instead of moving up another tee box I just added a stroke to every par 4 and 5 and played them as 5 and 6 keeping even the longest par 3 still a 3. I took about a year for my mind to settle in but it did and I now an happy as heck hitting those numbers not maybe as a par but as what I can still do and have a fair chance to do on every hole.

  20. Ben Black

    Sep 6, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    This a lot of what I’ve seen in golf course set up for Amateur players.

    Every week I play with two friends who are 30 years older than I. We play from forward mens tees. The Par 5s play like long par 4s for me and I’ll hit 4 iron and wedge to the par 4s. Why don’t I hit driver on the par 4s? Because the course will EAT YOU UP if you miss the fairway.

    The two older guys hit it 160-180 yards (I GPS’d them on their asking – they were very disappointed it was not 220 yards.) The approach shots, if they hit the fairway,make it almost impossible for them to hit shots that are rewarding. On a 350 yard hole they hit a driver 180 then will have to hit another wood to an elevated green that has a deep bunker at front, bushes behind and scraggly rough all around.

    Even hitting a wedge in from 60 yards can be hazardous with where they put the pins. Some are three paces off the edge of a bunker…

    And the Par 3s for these guys are brutal. Three of them can measure 160-190 yards. Yes, that’s not long if you can hit your mid irons that far, but when can these guys play a fun par 3 that doesn’t involve their driver?

    Sometimes I think the greenskeeper has watched golf on Sunday TV then decided to emulate it.
    I’d rather have a short course with excellent greens than extra tee boxes and longer fairways to maintain. I can play from the back tees, but what’s it worth when your putts wibble wobble on bad greens?

    • Simms

      Sep 6, 2019 at 11:25 pm

      The over 50 women have the same problem all the time once a course hits 5,200 or more they just cannot reach the greens in 2 on 4’s or 3 on 5’s…I have a very smart wife (over 65) she found a great Callaway wedge she hits 50 yards almost without fail and now has learned to play as close to that number then trying to run a 3 or 5 wood to roll a ball onto the green with the front bunker a real factor on those shots. It alone cut her handicap form 21 to 16 in less then 6 months…because women can one putt 100% more of the time then they can get out of a green side bunker.

      • Barney Adams

        Sep 8, 2019 at 11:15 pm

        I wrote from a male perspective because they are the majority and I have relevant data. There is actually a very interesting story on women’s tees and their location.

      • ChipNRun

        Sep 9, 2019 at 4:56 pm

        My wife is 4-foot-9. Barney, she got a boxed set of Adams Ideas about four years ago. Custom fit by the woman in local GG shop, aided by two on-phone sessions with Fort Worth factory to ensure right flavor of petite. (Adams Golf – gone but not forgotten!)

        Anyway, she likes the clubs – especially those things call hybrids which were not available for her last fitting in 1989. (Nancy Lopez Square 2 Petites, FYI).

        So, when we prepare for vacation I purposely look for courses which are less than 5,000 yards from the women’s tees. This gives her some sub-300 yard par 4 holes and hopefully a couple of 95-yard par 3s. Something that gives her a chance to make bogies or an occasional par.

        As a caddie in the previous century and a player up until today, I was take aback by how little a distance break the women got on many of the courses. And of the courses built in the early 2000s, the 5400-yard women’s tees got augmented with shorter boxes about 5000 yards. But, these shorter boxes were merely a semi-flat place in the short rough with a couple of markers spiked into the ground. Not usually a true golf tee that others got to use.

        At our home course, a new greenskeeper came in two years ago. The original layout featured lots of exotic “splash” bunkers which were hard to play AND hard to maintain. Senior golfers and those below average height could injure themselves trying to climb down into these sand pits. I used to have to lower my wife into some of the bunkers, and then hand her a club to hit. The rebuilt bunkers for the most part are flat-bottom. The bank and lip may be several feet high, but at least you can walk in without spraining an ankle.

        Before the redo, rainy season made for tough bunker play, as soil pollution was a problem. In past seasons, the safest play was to pick the ball off the “sand” with a PW rather than blast out. Now, we have true bunkers to play from.

        So, golf goes from being challenging to grating when…
        * Course developers think the local public links can be the next Bethpage Black, and design it for US Open rather Wednesday morning seniors league.
        * So that golfers don’t exploit the lob wedge too easily, new layouts tend to have outlandish bunkers that the average person can’t handle.
        * Too aggressive a layout leads to… that scourge we dare not speak of out loud… SLOW PLAY!
        * The greens crew accidentally sets up the Thursday pins for a scramble, forgetting that it’s a medal play tournament for the local amateur circuit. The #13 hole gets thrown out of scoring because most golfers have a 3- or a 4-putt going after the funhouse cup. (Replay hole #1 and use it as a replacement)

    • Geoffrey Holland

      Sep 7, 2019 at 4:03 pm

      Obviously these guys should be playing from the forward tees. Don’t call them ladies tees. But they’re obviously not long enough to play where they are playing from.

  21. Tim

    Sep 6, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    People who hit it 200 are not hitting the ball with the middle of the face. Well struck, an 85mph swing can result in 212+ yard drive. 90mph can result in 225+.

    Golf is more fun when you hit the ball further. Learn to hit the ball further.

    • Barney Adams

      Sep 8, 2019 at 11:18 pm

      Dear Tim
      I have one word for you; age ! Ps your numbers are off!

  22. Bruce

    Sep 6, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    I play at an RTG facility in Mobile,Al., where the courses host many tour level events and Barney is very right about the design aspect as a big detriment to the 192’ers of the world. This is a quality layout but the local muni, Azalea City, is on older design and is booked solid with 192’ers and not because of cost. The 2 courses are virtually the same money when riding a cart. The reason is at RTG one is required on virtually every approach to hit a high shot with spin to an elevated green. On not one occasion will there be an opportunity to run a shot on the green. Not one. This is a choice in design and as a result the course is under subscribed while the muni is over run with play and conditioning suffers as a result. This parallel is endemic in golf. We are building courses for the most skilled players while ignoring those that are the majority.

  23. JP

    Sep 6, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    Playing good or bad, it’s fun for me. It’s not a frustrating game unless that’s what you make it. For me, it’s a social game and I play with close friends that are awesome to hang out with. I can shoot 150 and I’d still have fun. Again, for me, it’s more about the company I keep than the score I shoot.

  24. darrell

    Sep 6, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    Absolutely agree. Most players never break 90, some never break 100. Is that fun? Most play the wrong tees, ( if you’re not breaking 80), so how much fun is it, to never have a putt for a birdie? Of all the course designers, I prefer Arnold Palmer courses. In most cases, he leaves a “run up” option on most holes…..even the par 3’s. This helps players of all abilities……even pro’s might want to play a low running shot on a windy day.

  25. BobbyG

    Sep 6, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    Adams golf products made the game fun for me.

  26. Ryan

    Sep 6, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    The “fun” aspect of “playing” golf comes from shooting low scores and hitting solid shots. However, that isn’t the only aspect of the game. The true “fun” aspect comes from being outside on beautiful days playing a round with your buddies where you are constantly ribbing each other over the smallest things. Seeing a buddy duff a putt and everyone cracks up laughing. Winning a few skins on them and then treating them to a round at the 19th. Its the friendships that make the game fun for us averages. We aren’t trying to play on tour.

    • Shallowface

      Sep 6, 2019 at 3:20 pm

      When I started as a youngster in the 1970s no one laughed at another player’s poor shots and there was no such thing as ribbing. It simply wasn’t tolerated. Fact is, it’s cruel and disrespectful, and just like when you point a finger at something and you have three pointing back at you, when it’s your turn to be ribbed it hurts three times worse than the amount of “fun” you got from whatever it was you inflicted on someone who alredy feels bad enough. I’ve had a number of young men tell me that the reason they stopped playing the game was that they could no longer tolerate the so-called good natured kidding from “buddies.” It’s unseemly, immature and it needs to disappear from the game. Grow up, kids.

      • Herman

        Sep 7, 2019 at 4:52 pm

        This made me laugh … hope I dint hurt your feelings

      • JThunder

        Sep 9, 2019 at 5:33 am

        If you can’t take “good natured kidding” from your buddies during a leisure activity in which you are not a professional, and this forces you to quit the game, then you need psychiatric help. You’re taking a leisure activity WAY too seriously, and you’re heading for high blood pressure and other stress-induced illnesses.

        • JThunder

          Sep 9, 2019 at 5:35 am

          I grew up in the 70s too, and kids could be brutal to each other. Teasing each other on the golf course would have been the least of anyone’s worries. Maybe you’re thinking of the 1950s, when kids weren’t allowed to speak without adult permission?

  27. StatGrad

    Sep 6, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Just because one person sees it as rewarding doesn’t mean it’s not fun to others. Or some may even see it as both. No need to “Stop Calling It Fun.”

  28. Fergie

    Sep 6, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    You bait people to play golf by saying it’s fun. The rewarding aspect doesn’t kick in until you’re hitting reasonable shots. It’s then that the rewarding aspect kicks in.

    • JThunder

      Sep 9, 2019 at 5:24 am

      I hit the golf ball almost 100% of the time that I swing at it, and it usually stays in-bounds. The same cannot be said for the majority of people in a batter’s box, or playing tennis. The success rate of shooting a basketball or completing a pass are likewise much lower. Are we questioning whether all sports are “fun” or not?

      “Rewarding” being all about the score is akin to “success” being defined entirely by money.

  29. JThunder

    Sep 6, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    The real problem is not defining golf, but defining “fun”. “Fun” – like most everything else – has been relegated to lowest-common-denominator pursuits. A large demographic would define “fun” as attending Nascar and getting hammered; I would not.

    Webster’s defines fun as “what provides amusement or enjoyment”… A lot of people find challenges “enjoyable” – bearing in mind, golf is 100% voluntary for most people who play it. But, yes, if you don’t enjoy this particular challenge, you’ll likely not play the game. (Most video games are challenging and mostly you die before you win; that doesn’t seem to hurt sales…)

    Raise the next generation to view “enjoyment” differently. And to define words correctly (eg, “literally”).

    Declines in golf participation have the most to do with money and time – in that order. The middle class has pathetically little of the first and a decreasing amount of the second because of it. A challenge is one thing; an expensive 4-6 hour challenge is another.

  30. Acemandrake

    Sep 6, 2019 at 11:56 am

    A lot of older courses were designed with wide openings in front of the greens.

    This allowed the option of playing a low, running approach shot; an option appreciated by us slower swingers.

    • DB

      Sep 6, 2019 at 2:49 pm

      The old parks-style courses are great. Not only are they designed for an easy walk, but as you say most greens are wide open from the front. The only time you find a front bunker is maybe on a Par 5 or a short Par 3. There are no forced carries off the tee, it just wasn’t a thing. Slower swingers are free to play their 180-yard worm burner down the fairway on every hole.

  31. Tom Duckworth

    Sep 6, 2019 at 10:37 am

    When I come home from a round my wife asks if I had fun. I am never sure how to answer.

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Opinion & Analysis

The future of club fitting is going virtual



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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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive



I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

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