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Opinion & Analysis

No fans, no caddies: How will PGA Tour pros do on their own?



How many of you have ever wondered just how many strokes the gallery and the caddie save a tour pro? Well, we may get an answer to that soon. The PGA Tour has already announced that the first four (at least) events will be played without a gallery, and they are also considering whether or not to allow the players to use a caddie!

Let’s take the disease factor out of this discussion; the human suffering we are all feeling is not what I’m discussing here. I’m more than a little curious to see just how many shots per round, or per four-day event the gallery and the caddie help the score of a player. We can be sure of this: they never hurt. The combination of the crowd and the advice of a caddie clearly serve to help a player. The question is: how much? Perhaps it’s considerable, maybe it’s marginal; but it will be fun to watch to see.

We have all hit errant tee shots or approach shots that end up hitting, say, hardpan or a cart path and gone out of bounds, into someone’s yard, into a pond, or that could not be found at all. When a tour pro hits the occasional foul ball, the five-deep crowd lining the fairway or the green will stop that shot from getting into a deeper hole. So will hospitality tents, TV towers and anything else constructed for the event. The late, great Arnold Palmer was one of the first to recognize this: when in doubt, over-club…somebody is bound to stop the shot.

How often do we see a lost ball on tour? Just think about playing in your weekend four-ball, and you are pretty much out there on your own. You certainly do not have a huge chunk of golfdom or a marshall on every hole running over to look for your slice or hook. At best, you may get a player in the group on the adjacent hole to offer some guidance, but even that is rare.

How about the physical toll on the professionals of toting their own bag? I know they are young and in great shape but it has to have some effect. At 70-plus years, I am well past my physical prime, but I walk and carry as often as I can, and it is a serious five-mile hike that the players likely have not done for many years.

What about club selection, green reading, wind direction, etc.? And remember, the loopers on tour are not just bag toters. They are the creme de la creme of caddies. They may even play the role of swing coach and psychological adviser. Can you imagine a tour pro raking is/her own bunker? Personal rake? No rakes at all? Playing out footprints in the bunkers?

How many have ever had a six-footer and just could not decide on the break or the speed, and therefore missed it? How many have over-clubbed and lost the ball or had an impossible downhill chip off a bare lie (happened to me in Pinehurst twice just today)?

Of course in all fairness, we must admit this: Professional players deserve these advantages. They have all played their way to the top. It is the purest form of competition in that sense. It matters not who one knows, or how fortunate in life one may be, what circumstances he/she were born into…the only thing that matters is the score!

Consider that perhaps 50 million people in the world play golf and less than 500 are making a good living at it! Do that math. No, I’m not questioning the advantages, I’m just wondering how the big guys will fare playing the same game as the rest of us?

What do you think, GolfWRXers?

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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. .



  1. John

    May 6, 2020 at 11:35 am

    I get a chuckle at the modern day sports fan, head buried in the phone..

    Kinda sad..

  2. Edward C

    May 5, 2020 at 12:47 am

    They always say “these guys are good”, maybe we can just find out how good. It will be interesting.

  3. Aztec

    May 4, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    Without caddies, will the players be allowed to use rangefinders for yardage? I think this is probably more important than the other considerations.

  4. WhoaNe11ie

    May 4, 2020 at 10:24 am

    I wonder who ClicGear will sign up for endorsements?
    #enjoythewalk #trolleyfordollars #morelogos

  5. ChipNRun

    May 3, 2020 at 10:43 pm

    How much do fans help?

    Reminds me of our course marshal meeting with the head pro before the 2014 Walker Cup matches at St. Louis CC. (Amateur women: USA vs. British/Irish)

    I asked if any holes were especially challenging for tracking offline shots.

    The pro smiled and said if it was a men’s tournament, there were four landing areas that needed extra watching. For a women’s tournament, however, don’t worry.

    “If the women miss a shot, it’s probably in the first cut of rough. If the men miss a shot, it goes into never-neverland.”

    If Mickelson or McIlroy has a wild tee shot, we’ll see how well they do with the 2-minute search limit.

  6. Martin Barrier

    May 3, 2020 at 7:15 pm

    The top players will continue to score well maybe even better and players toward the bottom that well be a different store

  7. MadMax

    May 3, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    Why stop there? They don’t play the same courses we play, every less than perfect area in the fairway is a “ground under repair”. Let’s see how they do in these conditions:
    1) Greens: Every green is a different speed, some are wet others dry.
    2) Tee boxes: Uneven, some with grass 2 inches long some with none, unfilled divots all over
    3) Bunkers: Some with 1/2 inch of what can be considered sand, other with dirt and pebbles, some wet.
    4) Fairways: Some cut some not, some soaked some dry, unfilled divots, all rough different depth
    5) NO ground under repair

  8. Fergie

    May 3, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    I think not having a caddy is a bit extreme. Social distancing is still possible when you’re passing a club, and caddies could use anti-viral spray when wiping a club. What about spectator-less MLB games? Eliminate the catcher because he’s close to the batter? That would be interesting.

    • Dr. Fauci

      May 5, 2020 at 12:43 pm

      Would be a bit rough on the home plate ump, don’t you think?

    • Dennis Clark

      May 6, 2020 at 3:33 pm

      Let’s take the Corona factor out of this for a minute…how about we play one of these “on their own” events every year? I’ve like this idea for a long time even pre-COVID. I wrote to PGA Tour about it a while back.

  9. csc

    May 3, 2020 at 6:12 pm

    I agree that the guys that are near the top of the leaderboard in these tournaments will be playing well that particular week and these circumstances may not be effecting them much at all. However, there will be several players that are not having a good week near the lower end of the scoreboard and those players may very well be effected by these differences. Especially if one of them is having a bad driving week-lost ball penalties will start adding up fast.

  10. Dan

    May 3, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    The only factor is being very slightly more tired. Caddies barely help score at all.
    Also, I’ve gone for 20 rounds in a row with out losing a ball other then in a water hazard. These guys are not exactly 20 cappers out there guys.

    • John Agel

      May 3, 2020 at 11:05 pm

      Caddies make a monumental difference and how you play. One way in which this is clearly obvious is that if a player and Caddie are on the verge of divorce, the caddy suddenly becomes an object of great attention as the top players start to jockey around picking up that top caddy. Don’t kid yourself they take care of everything before the shot. Then they lay it all out for the player suggest a shot-which club draw or fade, high low, even picking something to aim at. Player will make a choice knowing that his caddy was on the course at sunup to walk the course, to see how it will play on a given day, where the pins are, you fade when to, because your caddy is look at the hole and the ground surrounding it what is the high part what is the low part, where is the danger, how to play the mounds in and around the green. The player takes all of this as givens he knows the guy has been doing job will then decide, he may with the caddy agree just execute the shot. Talk about it if the player has a different idea for playing the shot you may go with what the guy suggested or what he wants to hit. But the caddy has laid it all out for his man to just chooses idea for the cavities
      another really huge part is keeping his man’s head in the game and energized and help him little competitor arrogance. That’s all. Just Carrie the clubs, keep them and golf balls clean. Rake The Bunker you just completely made a mess of then exchange your putter for a

  11. Stanley

    May 3, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    I can guarantee that the players in top 10 will not see any difference in their scores. When they are on, nothing can stop them from going low.

  12. chris agel

    May 3, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    Again, remind me why they cant bifurcate the rules of golf for Tour players. Anyone with any sense knows they play by different “rules” and do not play the same game we play. It would be fun to see them play on their own out there.

  13. Acemandrake

    May 3, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    My guess is that players that need/want the money will always show up. With or with out a caddy.

    They will play well. I’d think that the field scoring average may be a couple of strokes higher than usual.

    The wealthier players may take a more casual approach and play less often. Especially the older ones.

    NOTE: Brandt Snedeker has said he walks & carries his clubs to get in shape after a layoff.

  14. EJ

    May 3, 2020 at 10:58 am

    I think you’re missing the point as it’s easy to shoot that number on a home course. Turn up at a tournament and with practice rounds and you’re playing 6 days in a row. You see all the guys out there carrying their own bags 6 days in a row and shooting 20 under par? Some will for sure, but a lot of those guys won’t be able to.

    • Taylor

      May 3, 2020 at 11:35 am

      I totally get it but there’s not going to be a huge upshot in scoring. You’re still going to have five six guys that have a chance to win (they’re playing well enough and more importantly putting well enough to win) they’ll still 10 under or better. My point is you’re not going to see Rory, Dustin, Brooks, Jim Herman, Joel Dahmen or whoever struggle to break par. Look at scoring from nationwide events (granted they have loopers) but there’s hardly fans and some aren’t televised (which means no tv and hardly any grandstands) guys going 20 under. My overall point is guys will still play extremely well, some players will struggle without a caddie some might not.

  15. Taylor

    May 3, 2020 at 10:51 am

    FYI Tiger and Rickie hold the course record of 62 at Medalist. Luke Donald holds (held?) the course record of 64 at Bear’s Club, and 65 at Jupiter Hills. Granted those were in carts, but there was no caddie, no fans, no tv, no grandstands. I think tour players will be just fine

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On Spec

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



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!



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



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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