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Opinion & Analysis

The GolfWRX interview: Golf songster Sam Harrop

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Sam Harrop is one of five things that golf with a capital G needs in 2020. I have not the slightest inkling what the other four might be, nor do I much care. I can get through August and September with Mr. Harrop, thank you very much. Let’s qualify this: Sam with a healthy assist from golf’s new twitter darling, Byeong-hun “Ben” An. Harrop writes golf-themed tributes (these aren’t parodies) to classic and modern, popular tunes.

He plays them on the piano and signs along. We benefit. In the case of Benny An, his authentic and graceful appreciation served to authenticate the value of what Sam Harrop does. The lyricist/vocalist/instrumentalist was kind enough to push back from the keyboard and answer our nine questions on his newfound career arc (or hobby, you make the call.)

Enjoy this inteview with Sam Harrop, and also check him out on Twitter and on YouTube.

1. Tell us who you are and how you got acquainted with music, both singing and instrumentation.
SH: I grew up near Oxford in England and was involved in music from a young age. My parents started sending me for piano lessons at 8 years old, and I started singing in the school choir around the same time. I guess you could say music was my first love! I went on to study it at university and now work for a sheet music publisher as my day job.
2. What’s your trajectory in golf? Do you play? How young when you started? How’s your game?
SH: I didn’t play that often growing up or have proper lessons or anything, but my parents occasionally took me to the local pitch ‘n’ putt with my brothers. I started properly playing after university, but never to a very good standard! I’m a lefty and I play off 20 where unfortunately I seem to have plateaued!
3. You’re developing a following with your songs on social media, both YouTube and Twitter. What inspired you to begin this series of musical tributes? 
SH: I honestly can’t pinpoint why it happened, but the day after this year’s Phoenix Open I just got this chorus in my head – “when will Tony Finau win again?” to the tune of the REO Speedwagon song, and over the course of the next few days I started changing all the lyrics of the original song to tell a story about Tony Finau’s pro career with a bit of light humour thrown in. I honestly had no idea how well (or badly) it might be received, but I figured I may as well stick it up on Twitter and gauge the feedback from the golf community I had been interacting with for several years.

4. To date, your tributes have been songs that fit well with the piano. Any chance we might hear a bit of metal, something electric?
SH: Honestly, probably not. If I played guitar too I might be tempted to change it up, but my M.O. is very much songs that work well on piano!
5. Back to inspiration. Do you work from the original song toward a theme/subject, or does the subject/theme drive you to find the proper song fit?
SH: Generally speaking, the subject is the driver behind these. After the Tony Finau song (which obviously started with the subject) I knew I wanted to do one about Anthony Kim as he’s such a legendary talent who disappeared, so I just had a think about what kind of song would work for him and built it out from there. Next up, I knew it had to be one about Bryson as you could write a whole double-sided album on him! So again, I had a think about what song would work (in this case it was swapping “turn around, bright eyes” for “turn around, Bryson”) and built it out from there.
6. If you could harmonize on one of your tributes, with whom would you work, and which song would you select?
SH: Well, I noticed on a recent post by Eddie Pepperell that there was an acoustic guitar in the background. He’s just such a great character on Twitter, you know it would be a fun collab.

7. You called this “an interesting little niche” but I’m thinking music festivals, when this pandemic is behind us. Not Electric Forest or Firefly, but something at a major golf championship, where the host venue has a spare course for the stage. Your thoughts?

SH: I had no idea where this thing was going to go when I started out, but I may have recently started daring to dream that some sort of live performance in conjunction with a tournament or golf event might not be a complete pipe-dream. Serenading the Masters winner in the Butler Cabin would be the ultimate dream, of course!
8. How excited were you when Benny An showed you his wedge on Twitter, with your lyrics stamped on the back? Are there any mountains to climb after that one?
SH: That was incredible, and completely unexpected. I was happy/relieved that he enjoyed the song in the first instance, but the whole wedge thing was mind-blowing! I’m kind of hoping he might send me the wedge when he’s done with it, although I wouldn’t be able to use it of course, being left-handed!
9. What question haven’t we asked, that you wish we might have? Here’s your chance: ask it and answer it, please.
Which 3 golfers would you choose to join you in a dream foursome?
SH: My all-time favourite player is (and always has been) Phil Mickelson – he’s obviously an incredibly entertaining player with loads of stories to tell, so he’d be number one. Secondly I think I’d go with JT. Despite being one of the very best in the world, he still comes across as very down-to-earth, and someone who’d just be great company for 18 holes. Lastly, I’m saying Eddie Pepperell because he’d keep you laughing throughout the round…and we can plan our duet of course! I’ve got to have a fellow Englishman in there, right? I think I’d be too intimidated to play with Tiger in case you’re wondering why he’s not on the list!

 

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Opinion & Analysis

Faldo’s ‘commercial’ dig at Rickie Fowler was narcissistic, unfair and hypocritical

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This week, Rickie Fowler opened up on his current struggles on the course, describing the enormous frustration he’s going through and the toll it’s even taking on his life at home.

Instead of Fowler being commended for his honesty during the most challenging period of his career to date, he found himself attacked. Not just by some nameless, faceless troll on social media either, but by a six-time major winner turned talking head: Nick Faldo.

Replying to Golf Digest’s article on Fowler, the Englishman decided he’d take a swipe at Fowler’s commercial success, saying:

“Good news is if he misses the Masters he can shoot another six commercials that week!”

He then doubled down on the comment, highlighting his own excellent achievements in the sport while knocking Fowler who is still looking for his maiden major win, posting shortly after: “What would you rather have, a boatload of cash or your name in three green books?”

Had Faldo bothered to read the article in question, then he’d have seen that Fowler is extremely hungry and putting in hours of practice to get back to the heights that saw him once ranked inside the world’s top 5.

If Fowler was content to do commercials instead of grinding away on the course as Faldo suggests, why will this week at Bay Hill mark his 6th appearance in the last seven weeks on the PGA Tour?

That schedule just doesn’t fit Nick’s narrative that Fowler is satisfied with things in his professional life.

Sadly, Faldo’s dig at Rickie had nothing to do with his golf game, nor did it even acknowledge how hard he is trying to turn things around.

It was a petty knock at a universally well-liked player from his peers to fans alike because he happens to do well for himself outside of the course as well as on it.

And let’s not forget how good Fowler has been on it, five PGA Tour wins (including The Players), 2 European Tour wins, and 11 top-ten finishes at majors—and he’s still just 32.

All that the Englishman’s cheap shot at Fowler’s commercial success did was amplify the undercurrent of jealousy within Faldo, who spends the majority of his time on social media plugging and endorsing a golf shoe.

Does anyone really think that Faldo wouldn’t snap up Rickie’s commercial opportunities if they presented themselves to him?

To knock Fowler’s current level of play is fair game, but to suggest he’d be happy to miss the Masters so that he can “shoot another six commercials that week” is out of line and does a disservice to the effort he puts in each day to get better at his craft.

Fowler has demonstrated time and time again that he is a class act, an excellent ambassador for the sport, and he deserves much better than a blindsided attack on Twitter from a prominent figure in golf media.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Odyssey Ten putter review and hitting the new Callaway Apex Pro irons

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Reviewing the new Odyssey Ten putters, and I like the overall look compared to last year’s model. The shape is a little more squared off and simple, less distracting. Callaway’s new Apex Pro irons offer a lot of distance and forgiveness in a small package, but do they feel as good as other players irons?

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Understanding CG

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One of the most misunderstood concepts involved in golf club design is that of “CG,” or “center of gravity,” also “center of mass.” While this particular measurement of any golf club head can certainly offer insight into its probable performance, it is not the “be all, end all” with regard to any club’s specific launch or forgiveness attributes.

What “CG” specifically refers to is the exact center location of a club’s distribution of mass, which will generally coincide with that club’s “sweet spot”—but that’s not always true. There are lots of ways to manipulate or manage any club’s exact CG location, and therein lies a “Pandora’s Box” of misunderstanding.

Let’s start back in the very old days, when irons were single pieces of forged steel and woods were made of persimmon. Since there was no science inside the club, CG was essentially a result of how the clubhead is formed—its essential shape.

A typical persimmon driver head, for example, was sized to deliver its ideal weight without any additional weights added. The solid block of persimmon, with some kind of face insert and an aluminum soleplate was all you had to work with. So, the CG was located pretty close to the center of the clubhead from all three axes – vertical, front-go-back and heel-to-toe. If you remember, persimmon fairway woods were smaller and had a brass sole plate to add mass lower in the head and often a lead weight under the sole plate to move the CG even lower to help produce higher ball flights on shots hit from the turf, rather than off a tee.

Traditional forged irons up to the 1960s-70s typically had a CG very close to the hosel, a result of the mass of the hosel itself and the typical design that put “muscle” behind the impact area, and very little mass out toward the toe. An examination of worn faces on those old irons would reveal the wear very much toward the heel. I distinctly remember fighting the shanks back in those days, and that ugly shot usually felt very close to a perfectly struck one, rather than feeling as awful as it looked.

As metal woods and cavity-back irons became the norm, designers were able to move the CG ever lower in order to produce higher ball flight, and more toward the center of the face to put the CG further from the hosel. As technology has continued to be refined, the use of tungsten inserts has further allowed designers to position the CG exactly where they want it – typically lower in the club and more toward the center or even the toe of the golf club.

And therein lies a problem with pushing this insert technology too far.

There is no question that in addition to making contact somewhere close to the CG of the clubhead, ball performance is also a product of how much mass is directly behind the impact point. Let me offer this example of how important that can be.

Let’s assume two identically shaped cavity-back 7-irons – same size, face thickness, overall weight and a design that places the CG in the exact same spot in the scoring pattern. The only difference between the two is that one is a single piece forged or cast steel head, with the other being cast of aluminum, with heavy tungsten inserts in the hosel and toe areas to achieve the same overall weight and CG location.
Which do you think would deliver the more solid feel of impact and better transfer of energy to the ball?

Now, we could take that even further by cutting out the entire center of both clubheads and increase the mass or the weight of tungsten in the hosel and toe to bring each back up to weight. The CG location would not change, but there would be absolutely no mass at all where the ball impact location would be. That would not work at all, would it?

I’ve learned long ago that it’s not just about the location of the CG that makes a golf club perform, but also the amount of mass that is placed directly behind the spot on the face where impact with the ball is made.

Here’s a fun, “non-golf” way to embrace this concept.

Suppose we had a two-pound sledgehammer and another 2 lb piece of steel hammered into a large circular sheet 1/16” thick. And then suppose someone hit you on the head with the exact CG of each one – which do you think would hurt the most?

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