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Golf Changes Under Covid-19

 

 

In 1979 Gary Adams took out a second mortgage to invest in his concept of a metal headed driver. He began producing TaylorMade “Original One” drivers with 12 degrees of loft in McHenry, Illinois. His idea changed the game. Oh my, how it changed the game.

Through its long and storied history golf has seen its share of drastic changes. Equipment developments, rules changes, course design, agronomy practices and facility management all have put their stamp on the game. Recently the USGA and R&A introduced a revised edition of the Rules of Golf in order to make it simpler and perhaps more friendly to play. Equipment continues to evolve, stealing the headlines from most golf publications. Instruction has latched onto the latest technology in order to educate players and instill improvement.

Now a new, yet much different change has come to the fairways in the guise of COVID-19, a respiratory flu-like ailment that is highly contagious and more importantly, life threatening.

All of us have followed the progress of this virus throughout the world. It has come on quickly, resulting in countries adopting practices that may slow the spread. Elderly, at-risk individuals appear to be the hardest hit segments of the population. Media reports sprinkle stories of the tragic loss of life related to C-19. Numbers and statistics barrage us every day. It’s difficult to decipher their intent. The attempts to flatten the curve of infection may be slowing it some but it comes at a cost. People are self quarantined in their homes and most employers have taken measures to lay off workers. Gatherings are not allowed. The virus has shut down every extra-curricular activity known to us. Sports at every level have been suspended.

This virus has and will continue to impact our lives. Many don’t venture out unless it’s for groceries or medication. Stores are closed. Streets are eerily quiet, much like the environment after 9-11. To call this a change seems to be an understatement. Change doesn’t seem to be a strong enough descriptive.

While I realize there are several other issues that come to the forefront of this virus, this is a golf column. Life has changed and so to, once again golf has changed perhaps in a way we never thought possible.  In all likelihood it may never be the game we knew in years past.

Currently most courses in the US have been closed. Those that are open operate under limited provisions encouraging social distancing and limited contact with common items such as flagsticks and putting cups. Carts are designated as “one player only” modes of transportation. Some are still able to play but it’s not the way it used to be.

With every sport shelved for the present time it’s hard to imagine a MLB game being played in a fan filled stadium anytime soon. Can you see the NFL playing their exhibition games in front of packed stands in August? The US Open in August, especially in New York, seems a bit of a stretch. All of these possibilities are contingent on the safety of all involved. The virus could die out. However, It could also come back stronger than before.

Regardless of what side of the fence you’re peeking over, there is no predicable end to this environment. Obviously I’d like this thing to go away so we could get back to the things we used to do, off and on the golf course. Yet this challenge is likely to define a new normal, one that limits interaction among people and ultimately changes the world socially, economically and medically. We have to be able to face up to these coming changes. Should it not happen I guess you can say at least we were prepared.

The near term looks restrictive. Much like the best advice for golfers, play one shot at a time, we need to take this pandemic one day at a time. The natural reaction is to have this virus 100% under control before resuming normal activities. Silly statement really. What aspect of our lives is 100% under control?

I feel bad for many of the senior players I’ve met and played with over the years. Some have other medical conditions that would be exposed if they were to contract COVID-19. These guys are the salt-of-the-earth players you often find on the fairways. My life has been enriched by engaging with them in dollar Nassaus or fifty cent point games. Their backgrounds and anecdotes are priceless, especially surrounded by a few beers. Good people and good times I hope I’ll be able to enjoy again.

As we look for certainty, there is only one. Our world and golf has changed 180 degrees. What will it look like in 6 months or a year is anyone’s guess.

In order to play and love this game one needs to experience golf’s undeniable attraction. It is demanding, it challenges, instills patience, defines character, teaches perseverance, and in so many other ways it is beyond what words can describe. Only those who have cradled a club in their hands, walked across dew-swept fairways at dawn, interacted with others needling and laughing their way around 18 holes, or felt the magical contact flow up the shaft into the arms and into one’s mind can appreciate golf’s allure. It is up to those of us who have done so to continue to further this game as we walk into the future.

There will be better days ahead and rounds to be played.

Stay safe and healthy everyone.

 

GOLFERS, PUREPLAYGOLF HAS FOUND YOUR GAPP

GAPP — Golf Assimilation Play Process

In order to play a complete game you need to discover GAPP.  Best described as “game-fitting,” GAPP compliments every aspect of a golfer’s pursuit to optimize their play. 

Since the game was invented players have chased a myriad of ways to improve their performance.  Through equipment development, the improvement in playing conditions as well as better instructional techniques today’s golfers play a vastly different game than their ancestors.  But is it reflected in better scoring?  Does today’s personal experience exceed or fall short of expectations?

Let’s look at playing conditions past and present.  Byron Nelson once quipped the greatest technological advancement in his day was the lawn mower.  Granted, if you watch films of players from yesteryear the greens were likely not as smooth as the teeboxes at one of today’s public tracks.  The conditions we play on today are exceptional compared to only fifty years ago.  Fairway drainage is optimized,  grasses and their nutritional needs are better understood, design techniques appeal to golfers of all ability levels while green speeds can run the gamut of fair to US Open ridiculous.  The last point illustrates how precise a superintendent can tweak his layout.  Obviously maintaining a course for the masses is a bit different than preparing a course for a major championship.  Yet it’s easy to say we’re playing on vastly improved conditions today than we were several years ago.   

Equipment has taken a quantum leap from the old hickory shafts and razor thin forged heads Old Tom Morris employed.  Golf balls have gone from pouches stuffed with feathers to projectiles that now fly 300+ yards.  Everything is better.  Every aspect can be fitted to individual preferences.  In a way, you can’t blame your equipment any longer. 

Today’s game is about speed apparently.  Open any golf periodical and the ads jump off the page.

 “Artificial Intelligence and Real Ball Speed.”  “Stop Steering.  Start Driving Faster.”  “Speed Injected.”  “SpeedBack.”

You can match the claims with the manufacturer. 

Connecting speed with lower scores is somewhat of an ethereal challenge.  Sure, speed leads to distance but distance can come in a variety of patterns.  Straight is usually better.  Consistency at times is sacrificed with the distance dispersions.  

I have a problem with golf companies inferring the transitive property of equality  with their clubs.  Remember, if a=b and b=c then a=c?  Can that be applied to if speed = distance and distance = lower scores, then speed = lower scores?  Can we make that assumption based on the middle premise?  Will distance lead to lower scores?  In some cases yes.  Universally, no.

It’s understandable that equipment manufacturers could care less in lowering your scores.  They want to sell clubs.  They want a player to pick up their driver, pound it into oblivion, granting the swinger a SportsCenter moment, and walk away with the cash.  “I hit it 325… into the penalty area.  Damn, it felt great!”

Today’s instruction is also light years ahead of anything that came out of the twentieth century.  There is virtually no aspect of a player’s swing that can’t be technologically analyzed.  Machines that used to formulate how to get a man on the moon now tell you if you squat enough on your downswing. 

I understand that change is inevitable but the one thing that has not changed in 500+ years is the primary goal of a player is to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible.  Nor will this ever change in my mind.  If it does it will no longer be golf.

I feel we have veered away from teaching the one vital principle crucial to golf — how to play it.  We’ve shifted our focus to the technological wizardry that has take a simple game and turned into a maddening science.  It is about speed.  It is about maxing out measurements that won’t fit in the boxes on a scorecard.  Perhaps we’re approaching the point where we tell a student if they can’t achieve the desired swing statistics they should go buy a boat.  It’s impossible for them to have fun with an unconventional swing, old clubs and no speed.  Sound hysterical?  I tend to think not. 

As we move forward (supposedly) with golf instruction in this century, we are missing that vital principle I mentioned earlier.  There is a way to make today’s player better.  Even if they discover their best set of fitted clubs, absorb themselves in Trackman, commit to a physical training regimen that rivals Dustin Johnson, they  can do one more thing.  Players can discover their GAPP — Golf Assimilation Play Process.

Club fitting, ball fitting, fitness fit-ing, we’re all trying to FIT the peg in the hole.  GAPP is game fitting.  It is the part of the puzzle that FITS YOUR GAME TO THE GOLF COURSE.  GAPP examines a variety of aspects that make up a player’s game plus their tendencies and translates them into the optimum play process.   It is the final step in any instructional process.  It teaches a player how to play the game thus optimizing the golf experience.   

I can jump into a NASCAR simulator, max out all the numbers, but it’s doubtful you could put me on the track at Daytona and expect me to win.  There are too many variables that enter the equation.  GAPP interprets those variables for each individual.  

The best thing about GAPP is does not conflict with a  player pursuing any other methods of instruction.  Changing a swing?  Have at it.  Searching for speed?  Go as fast as you’d like.  Want that set of PXG’s?  Pull out your wallet.  When you’re done with all of that, find your GAPP.

For more information, go to getpureplaygolf.com

NFL+GOLF=BETTER OPTIONS

 

A few years ago I wrote a letter to Mark Murphy, President of the Green Bay Packers. My aim was to offer a program to his players and in effect the NFL introducing golf as a life option. He did contact me and indicated he would refer my thoughts to his Director of Player Development.

My reason for contacting the Packers was multi-faceted. First of all I doubted they had ever been approached on this level before. Football players and golf? Sure, a few guys around the league played the game. More and more were being introduced to it through their friends. Yet most players had no clue as to what the game was about. They probably saw it as an elitist endeavor, played by wealthy white guys. Where was the appeal in that?

I wanted to introduce new options through golf.  I wanted players to see the game as a viable tool that could help them in different ways. Golf has been an influential force throughout my life. Sharing some of those examples with Packers players and hopefully players of other teams might improve lives after football. If just one player could benefit, my efforts would be well worth it.

Many of us know the average tenure in the NFL is a little over three years. Players leaving the league need to find employment for their future. It is also known that from time to time players have also been involved on the wrong side of the law with their behavior. Every year we hear reports of players arrested for various reasons. Football is challenging between the hash marks. It may be even more so off the field.  Golf could help players better manage their down time.

Let’s face facts, life is about options. The more you have the better off you’ll be. For young men who have breathed football their entire lives it’s easy to understand they only see a life in the game. Every player views themselves as having a long career, no injuries, plenty of cash, record stats, and one day being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Yet there are very few Aaron Rodgers around. As I said prior, the average career of a player is 3+ years. That likely will take most of them from the age of 22 to 25. What do they do after age 25?

My effort would focus on illustrating the benefits this option (golf) could add to their lives. When they find themselves out of football what connections will they have to move on to that next stage? While they’ve been absorbed in their sport, how many influential people have they gotten to know? How many relationships have they developed with business people outside of football? Have their egos even allowed them to consider that the day will come when they will not be on the field? This is where options kick in. Having more than the other guy is key.

Lots of people play golf. Business owners play golf. The golf fraternity is packed with connections (and options). Imagine the potential of meeting new people through golf — people that are able and in many cases willing to help young football players who are no longer in the game. All it takes is a bit of education about golf and more importantly, the conviction to get up from the PlayStation and head out to the golf course.

In addition golf could be a great player activity for teams to interact with one another. I’m not tech savvy but I’m sure each NFL team could afford to purchase a few simulators for their training facilities. Network these devices to one another and you could have a Packers/Bears match up on the simulated short grass. Play matches with other teams week to week and watch the competitive juices flow. You’d eventually see players picking up the game while working towards improvement.

Golf is also the game of a lifetime. What other sport can you play well into your eighties? The benefits of being outside with others helps add to that quality of life we seek as we age. Golf offers so many different opportunities and benefits it would be hard to start listing them here.

Golf Digest recently came out with an article highlighting athletes from various sports who have taken to golf. Do you think when these players leave their respective sports they’ll be able to use golf as a viable option for aiding their future?  It’s not what you know, it’s who you know applies to the golf community.

I did manage to meet with the Packers on a few occasions. In the end scheduling became a problem. We were looking to add my presentation to their rookie orientation. Apparently the league added a few other mandatory programs that bumped me. Soon after the Director I met with left his position. As of now the Packers don’t have golf as an option.

At the end of this season I will resubmit my proposal to the Packers. Right now they’re absorbed with a head coaching search.  Make no mistake, golf is an option that not only this team can benefit from, but the entire league. That is as solid as a Tiger Woods’ tee shot splitting the uprights from three hundred yards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kohler Golf Abandoned by PGA, USGA

I’m sure like most golf fans last weekend your TV’s were tuned into Jack’s Memorial Tournament as well as the Women’s US Open. Two solid layouts tested the game’s best. Even Tiger Woods made a splash on Saturday. I also wanted to see a bit of Shoal Creek once again.

What I scratched my head about was the earlier date for the Women’s Open. It took me by surprise. Usually this event takes place in late June, early July. Obviously I was unaware they moved this championship up in their calendar year. I’m not sure if this is a permanent change or simply a one time switch. Either way, one man has to also be scratching his noggin too with these date moves.

Herb Kohler, the man that turned a plumbing company into a serious player in the golf industry, might be wondering what he needs to do to catch a break. You might recall last year the PGA announced a move of their championship from August to May beginning in 2019. This decision basically eliminated Kohler from hosting a PGA major championship ever again. The Ryder Cup is coming in 2020 but after that the future of tournament golf coming to the Wisconsin shores of Lake Michigan looks bleak.

It can be argued such a move is indicative of golf’s Me-Too movement. Previous dates of Women’s US Opens and Men’s PGA Championships have been conducted in the middle months of summer. These dates often eliminated southern venues from hosting tournaments due to heat, course conditions and the potential to draw fans out to watch players in 95 degree heat. Sure, it was a bit warm at Shoal Creek last week, damp too. But going forward this won’t deter the USGA from changing their minds.

The PGA has previously contested it’s flagship event in Atlanta, Tulsa, Charlotte, and this year will travel to St Louis. I’ve played in August down in St Louis — it’s brutally hot at times. If the heat doesn’t get you the humidity will. Yet with the money and fame that goes along with winning a major championship today’s players would tee it up in hell if they could get the greens fast enough. Still, it pays to select sights that are conducive to weather and the other factors I mentioned.

Getting back to Kohler, he has hosted events conducted by the PGA and the USGA. He’s welcomed men and women, as well as PGA Club Professionals to his venues, Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits. The events attracted record crowds, turned Sheboygan County into the golf capital of the world for a week and displayed the wonderful facilities and products Kohler offers. This television exposure subsequently brought players to the region for the ultimate golf vacation. You might argue the facility doesn’t need any more airing. Knowledgeable players know all about the four Pete Dye courses and the exceptional lodging available. But if you know Herb Kohler he likes the spotlight, specifically the golf spotlight. The prospect of being shut out of future tournaments opportunities, especially major championships, has to gnaw at him.

Wisconsin has enjoyed being on a major stage since 2004. Last year’s US Open brought the premier major (US Open) back to the Midwest. Unfortunately the low scores probably disturbed the USGA. They want a week of stringent conditions with scores close to par. Erin Hills had plenty of room but lacked in challenge.

For the good of the game it will be beneficial for USGA and PGA to take their championships to new locales. From a selfish standpoint I’ll miss the convenience of going to watch a major that is close by.   Prominent sites in Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit will likely never see another PGA Championship or Women’s US Open.   However I’ll eventually warm to seeing new layouts, watching the players negotiate their games around these courses and perhaps getting the opportunity to go play some of them.

Herb Kohler has done much to promote golf in Wisconsin. Securing three PGA Championships and a Ryder Cup is a quite remarkable. Golf fans in the Badger State should tip their caps for his efforts. Yet, tournament golf is an amoeba. It gradually changes shapes and forms. Schedules and venues will continually be altered. This will continue due to various reasons, the most prominent one being money.

Will Wisconsin’s future include major championships?  Many up here hope so. Your guess is as good as mine. Either way the one thing I’ll have in common with Herb Kohler is both of us will be scratching our heads over the recent schedule changes by the PGA and USGA.  Hopefully a major will find it’s way back to Wisconsin, specifically Kohler.  For what he’s done Herb deserves that accommodation.

 

 

 

Visionary Golf Breakthrough For 2018!

As the calendar flips to a new year, I’m excited to bring you the most visionary, cutting edge breakthrough in golf instruction. With recent technological tools brought to the game, the advancement of equipment, plus proven physical training programs, being able to play at the highest level is now achievable. Imagine cutting strokes off your game, hitting the ball longer, while draining putts from every conceivable distance. It’s happening and it’s happening RIGHT NOW! Let me show you how.

Have you ever read or watched a video proclaiming many of the aforementioned claims? Sure you have. With the start of another year you’re about to be inundated with them again. As you sit on your couch watching the PGA Tour kick things off in Hawaii, you’ll wonder what you can do to up your game this season. A new driver, that sure fire swing aid being splashed in the commercial slots, the incredible one time offer at your local fitness center or perhaps the advanced golf training curriculum being offered at your local medical center can bring improvement.  Let’s face it.  It’s better than doing nothing.  But if you think there is something new out there, I’m sorry to disappoint you. There is not.

Golf, for one thing, is the most difficult game in the world. You can debate this but in the back of your mind you know it’s true. There are no perfect games, ultimate score (I guess you could rationalize 18 as the apex), or fool proof methods available to make you play your best every day. If there were one way to play (not swing), every player would pursue it. Yet because golf is an individual game made up of players of all shapes and sizes, personalities and analytical processes, one size does not fit all.

The one absolute in golf is getting the clubhead on the back of the ball with as much speed as needed combined with a square clubface aimed at the target. That is it, final, game over. It’s that fundamental.

However, when it comes to instruction, the acronym of “more is better” seemingly goes a long way these days . Analysis, categorization, investigation, experimentation, interpretation, print outs, video, Trackman numbers, you conceive it, some teacher is out there conjuring ways of introducing it while charging you for it. Does it do Bill, a 17 handicapper who plays twice a week, any good to compare him to Jordan Spieth’s swing or T’man numbers?  You could argue it might persuade Bill to buy a boat and sell his clubs in his next garage sale. How can he possibly achieve the same movement or stats? All that does is show Bill a comparison. Here is the best in the world and you’re not close.  Great incentive?  You tell me.

There is no question golfers know more about what they’re not doing than perhaps what they need to do at this point in time. Players can access some form of technology that records every conceivable aspect of their game. Tour players know where they excel as well as what needs attention. But that is their livelihood, their bread and butter. They need to focus on details. Most of us don’t.

It is advantageous to know the weak areas of your game. It’s important to know the distances you hit your clubs. You can benefit from relying on your tendencies plus your imagination. Working on visualization and feel is vital. Consistency is an ongoing battle.  But if you’re looking for a shortcut, an easier way to improve, your search will prove exhausting. Unfortunately that realization may dissuade some from taking up the game. On the other hand, those looking for an activity where you meet great people, can laugh at yourself on occasion, enjoy the outdoors, be encouraged by small increments of improvement and embrace the challenge, well this game might be for you.

History tells us, for those who care to delve into it, instructional methods are based on proper fundamentals. Ernest Jones, George Low, Tommy Armour, Percy Boomer, Claude Harmon Sr., Jack Grout, Jim Flick, and countless others taught the players of past generations.  While their approaches may have differed, their ideas are still being taught today. They’ve been dusted off, polished and introduced with new “techno” packaging but they are still the same ideals. Any instructor with a thesaurus can make Ernest Jones’ method sound like the newest revelation in teaching.  I agree there are new ways of interpreting swings and being able to dissect them on infinite levels but in the end, does that help the average player shoot lower scores?

My primary concern and certainly that of PurePlayGolf is whether instructors are actually teaching golfers how to play the game in these modern times. I’ve discussed this at length and won’t bore you with it here. If you should happen to visit one of these “voodoo” instructors, after they give you all of your Trackman numbers and video comparisons to Dustin Johnson, ask them what their strategy is for improving your play. I’ll bet you’ll get a funny look.

Ultimately the revolutionary breakthrough in golf instruction for 2018 is apparent –there isn’t one.  Here’s a hint.  There won’t be one for 2019 either.

 

 

WHAT KOHLER GOLF REALLY NEEDS

As the holidays approach, golf in this part of the country is pretty much concluded.  A few die-hards hope to squeeze out a few more holes for 2017. Major League Baseball has its hot stove league, speculation on player movement and team strategy for next season. Golf too has similar conversations. Maybe you call it the “hot iron” league.

Up in Wisconsin there is still much debate swirling around Kohler Golf’s new fifth course along Lake Michigan. Currently it appears the Town of Wilson, the small enclave just south of Sheboygan, is attempting to gain a temporary injunction against any construction. The “he said — she said” battle is ongoing.  While it is probable one day Herb Kohler will secure the rights to build a new course in Sheboygan County, the question is when?

Why Kohler needs a fifth course is puzzling. The destination already sports four very strong Pete Dye courses offering different topography and vistas. Some say it’s the best collection of holes contained at one destination. However once Mike Keiser introduced Bandon Dunes on the Oregon coast, the debate heated up. Yet that is another topic and one I’ve previously addressed. Being a shrewd businessman, what exactly is Herb Kohler looking for in another golf course?

Some talk centers around the luring of a men’s US Open to the area. While Blackwolf Run has hosted the women on occasion, nothing says the USGA would be interested in a new, unproven site unless it was over-the-top exceptional. I doubt if their Executive Board was thrilled with birdie-fest at Erin Hills this summer. Whistling Straits will likely host its last major competition with the Ryder Cup now that the PGA of America has moved its championship to May. I’m sure when that shoe dropped Herb Kohler uttered a few choice words. But you have to commend him for bringing three major championships to Wisconsin along with the premier international golf competition in 2020.

The fate of Kohler Golf now lies in its ability to deliver guests to one of the finest lodging experiences world wide. You can thoroughly enjoy the place without playing golf. The relaxed setting offers a unique get-away from the rigors of everyday life. Gourmet wining and dining, invigorating spa services, tennis, hunting, hiking or even shopping for bath and kitchen fixtures are some of the available activities. So what is that one thing to further enhance a golfer’s experience? I don’t believe it’s a fifth course. It doesn’t make business sense. Rather I think if Herb wants to add more holes, do it in a par three layout.

Just as the Jones Trail in Alabama introduced the added attraction of par three layouts, others have followed suit. The newest resort golf facility in Wisconsin, Keiser’s Sand Valley currently has two courses and a par three with room to add thirty-six more holes if desired. I’m sure the concept of a Kohler par three has been discussed. They have the land. Here is why it makes sense.

For golfers spending three days or more at the resort the option of a par three attracts the attention of avid players wondering what to do after they have completed their rounds. Playing thirty-six holes in one day at either Blackwolf Run or Whistling Straits is demanding. Replaying nine holes can be done at the Irish, Straits and Meadow/Valleys but is dependent on availability. There are cost and time considerations as well. It usually takes 5 hours or more to play one of the courses. Grab lunch, tell a few tales, down a beer or two and the question comes up.  “What should we do now?”

A par three offering will attract more play from a variety of players — guys, couples, beginners, juniors, families, instructional opportunities, the versatility makes dollars and cents, so to speak. It adds in a different way than a fifth course. It is known to be successful for other golf properties. Why not Kohler?

I’m not proposing this as a way to “keep up with the Keisers”, instead I see it as a way to add to the golfer’s experience. As I said, hanging their hopes on attracting another men’s major championship is unlikely. Revenue is going to be derived from the affluent clientele that walks through the American Club’s doors. The more activities, the better the adventure. It should be considered and something that could be done now without waiting for the legal ramifications to play out along the shores of Lake Michigan.

THE GOLF NUMBERS THAT REALLY MATTER

As golf moves through the 21st century the game has changed on several levels. Perhaps the biggest change involves equipment and the distance increase. As technology continues to evolve at a dizzying pace, it impacts every phase of our lives. “Smart” phones, cars, appliances, HVAC systems, you name it, technology is now a part of it. In sport, technology allows us to dissect every aspect affecting performance. Today you can find the most minute detail influencing everything from cycling to swimming, football to table tennis. I saw a story the other day regarding the Ohio State football team. They are tracking the activity of their players by GPS. Apparently a chip sewn into their practice and game uniforms tracks every move an OSU player makes.   It records whether players are at optimum performance levels during various drills or during actual games. Imagine coming off the practice field with a printout of your activity level. Does this translate into wins every week? I wonder what the reports indicated in Iowa City a few weeks ago.

Golf has also become exposed to technological voodoo over the years. Crude video analysis gave way to digital cameras recording every conceivable angle to the Trackmans of today. Most of you know these new gizmos measure several aspects of the golf shot, how it flies, spin rate, launch angle while illustrating the actual ball flight of the shot and total distance. Numbers are collected, collated and averaged then spit out for the player’s reference.

When I was growing up years ago whacking balata balls with persimmon woods, there was only one set of numbers I cared about. Actually they’re the only numbers I still care about today. It’s those numbers I write down in the little boxes on the scorecard. I honestly can’t say the times I’ve recorded a birdie my launch angle was dead solid perfect nor were the times I made a triple due to a higher spin rate. Birdies and big numbers have a direct correlation to the player, not a computer.

There are times I’ve worked with social players, the folks who tee it up twice a week and want to play better. Maybe they want to take their score from triple digits to the nineties. Perhaps a player is dying to break ninety. Do you think putting these people on a Trackman is going to greatly enhance their development? It may in some ways however they need to learn more about playing the game. Since in most cases players don’t play a round in a succession of perfect shots, why have a machine put pressure on the golfer to produce ideal numbers? Can you see the scenario? A player has a lesson with a Trackman, goes out to play a few holes after, fires his second shot on hole #1 into a water hazard and immediately wonders if his launch angle was to blame. It happens.

Golf is a difficult game and for many it is utterly complex. Some instructors want to maintain this perception. It gives them more areas to address and more lessons to give. Yet in my view golf is about getting a small ball into a slightly larger hole in as few strokes as possible. There is only one set of numbers that count. The other compilation of techno-voodoo numbers can help with some aspects of the game but my concern is two sets of numbers divide a player’s attention. Remember, I’m all about fundamental simplicity. Plus I do best when focusing on one thing — my score.

I’d agree that better players are more apt to tap into techno resources. Certainly players who make their livelihood in golf rely on every resource available to them. The small percentage of people who have the talent to play professional golf is dwarfed by the players who get out two to three times a week. Professionals have the time and the ability to look at both sets of numbers. Amateurs, stick to the golf numbers that really matter — score.  There are plenty of ways to make ’em without the use of technology.

 

PGA Championship Moving To May (?)

Things have been very quiet down in Palm Beach Gardens, home of the PGA of America. Naturally the Open Championship is occupying the major stage at the moment. The association is possibly considering a date change with it’s major championship. It seems the PGA Tour (no affiliation with the PGA of America) would like to wrap their season up early before the full onset of the NFL schedule. They are nudging PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua to make the switch along with the Tour moving their flagship event, the TPC, back to March from May. It all makes perfect sense on paper, paper printed in dollar denominations.

I’ve commented on this issue previously. Frankly, I don’t want to see a change. There are a variety of reasons. I’ll highlight a few of them.

First, an August event offers a summer opportunity for some PGA members to take family and friends to the event. By August, professionals standing behind the counter and on the practice tee could use a break. I’ve taken my family to several PGA’s in the Midwest – Chicago, Minneapolis and Kohler. Attending a PGA in May with family wouldn’t allow the flexibility a summer date provides simply because kids are still in school.

Second, moving the date to May would certainly eliminate a Hazletine, Medinah, Whistling Straits, Oakland Hills or an Oak Hill from ever hosting a PGA Championship. The courses simply would not be ready in time. Taking these courses out of the rotation would be a huge mistake and alienate golf fans in northern locales. That’s not a wise decision when your association is promoting a game that is seeing it’s participation rate decline.

Third, Bevaqua has pointed out past championships have been played in nine of the twelve months of the year. Yet the last time the tournament was played outside of the summer occurred in 1971 at PGA National in Florida. In 1970 it was contested at Southern Hills in Tulsa, in August. Apparently Bevaqua doesn’t think forty-six years is a significant milestone in golf.

Yet another important consideration involves the selection of Ryder Cup/President’s Cup team members at the year’s final major. Nothing against the Open Championship but imagine it being the final major of the year. Now contemplate the impact of players trying to make their teams while competing in rain and 20+ mph winds. You say it’s the same for everyone. Not if you get stuck on the wrong side of the tee time draw.

I could cite additional reasons for not moving the date but those observations have probably been written already. I even see Jack Nicklaus is willing to allow his Muirfield Village host a PGA should the decision be made to switch dates. Now I like Nicklaus and his course is a great track, but Jack, don’t do fans north of Columbus who want to see live golf any favors.

Perhaps the two biggest reasons I am opposed to such a switch revolves around the association and it’s membership. Someone stands to make quite a profit from an August to May switchero and trust me, it won’t be the members of the PGA.  Ahh, but the PGA is a non-profit organization so members are not allowed to partake in any monies gathered by the association. Yet you have to believe Bevacqua’s compensation is tied to bringing dollars into the PGA’s coffers. I would hope the CEO is not looking at this prospective change from a dollar and cents view, but I’ve never met the man and simply don’t know much about him. The only time he did attract national attention was during the silly dismissal process of past PGA President Ted Bishop – an un-professional moment for the world’s largest professional sporting organization.

I have a sickening feeling that once the PGA Championship arrives in Charlotte at Quail Hollow this August there will be a “surprise” announcement. Bevacqua and the PGA Officers (who you rarely see) will announce the Championship will move to May, perhaps in 2020. The PGA website indicates future venues through 2019 being contested in August. After that, things could change.

To me there is only one equitable way to decide whether to accommodate the PGA Tour by moving the event to May. Put it to a vote of the membership. After all, it is our championship.  I’m sure every eligible voting member would like to have a say.

Don’t be surprised to see the major line up change in the near future. In the shadows of the firm breeze and gray skies encompassing Royal Birkdale this week the wheels are turning at PGA headquarters in Florida. One game, played over thousands of yards stands to lose the battle with one played over one hundred yards.

 

 

Bob Lang — An Open Conversation

Many associated with golf understand the special nature of the game that creates a vast array of experiences. Some are casual, others memorable while the truly special ones are life-altering.

In many cases golf becomes a passion. It’s easy to develop this state of mind. First of all, it is a tremendous game. Secondly, you’ll meet wonderful people within its realm. Third, it can take you to some incredible venues and forge memories that will last a lifetime. It doesn’t matter if you’re a competitive player or a casual participant, once golf gets in your blood it’s all good in so many ways.

This story may follow various paths. My keyboard often takes me to unforeseen places. Yet this article is wrapped around the game but it is more about a man, a man I consider to be a friend. Had our paths not crossed at Erin Hills, I know my life would lack a certain spirit. Bob Lang eludes that type of feeling.

This summer the 2017 Men’s US Open golf championship will be contested at Erin Hills, just west of Milwaukee. It is likely to be one of the most, if not THE most, significant sporting events in Wisconsin’s history (sorry Ice Bowl fans). Folks in the Badger state are avid supporters of sport in all shapes and sizes. This US Open will be a tremendous success and I’ll guarantee the USGA will quickly award another championship to the course soon after this one has been decided.

Bob Lang, whether he likes it or not, is responsible for the US Open coming to Erin Hills. Lang built the course but later was forced to sell the property in 2009 when the money ran out. Recently I had a phone conversation with Bob that was much more about life thankfully than golf. As he told me, this year’s Open is the story — the players, the fans, the venue, the game. It is not about him.

Having been a part of this game for most of my life, I’ve met people like Bob. They do incredible things but more importantly, they are incredible individuals. The funny thing is, they’re really just ordinary folks who understand life and opportunity. Lang is a creative sort, philosophical in many ways. While having to step aside from an amazing golf property seems hard to grasp, Bob is pretty much the same guy now as when I first met him. I remember that summer day, Bob holding a rake in his hand with dirt covering his boots, constructing a new teeing ground for the current seventh hole.

I penned a previous article featuring a behind-the-scenes look at what transpired at Erin Hills regarding the change of ownership. In the piece I offered my interpretation as to what happened. I did not interview Bob Lang about the story. In no way did he share anything about the details of selling the property to Andy Ziegler at the time.

Getting to the heart of this story, I’m not going to discuss the US Open being awarded to Erin Hills. During my phone conversation with Lang he made it clear that this summer’s event is only about the players, the tournament and people like Mike Davis, the Executive Director/CEO of the USGA. Several folks in the golf media have contacted Bob about an angle to the development of Erin Hills, but he’s not likely to talk. As he said, it’s not about him.

So what did we talk about you might ask? Well, we talked about life, people, opportunities, family, each of us volunteering anecdotes from our life experiences, some relating to golf. We laughed along the way. There were personal stories shared during the conversation. In truth I didn’t want to hang up the phone.

One of the things I took away from talking with Bob is that he values relationships. He spoke of his high regard for his staff in those days starting out where everyone pitched in and did what had to be done. Sadly I learned one of his former employees, a person I had worked alongside at Blackwolf Run, had passed away. I cannot ever remember this man not having a smile on his face. His enthusiasm was infectious.

For those who have ever worked in the golf business, they clearly see the common thread that sews people together through their love of the game. I believe it’s one of the things that has impacted Lang the most through his experience at Erin Hills. He has plenty of stories and speaks highly of the people who worked WITH him, not necessarily for him.

At one point in our conversation we arrived at the place when Bob simply wanted to build a nine-hole golf course for his friends and family. Nothing over the top, just a place to spend some down time swapping stories over a few good shots and a cold drink. As he told me, the process involved with developing anything goes from idea — dream — execution — reality. So it happened with Erin Hills. The dream changed, as they so often do. In the end to Lang, it wasn’t a bad thing.

After I hung up the phone I sat for a minute to digest the conversation we shared. Anytime you learn a little bit more about an individual that confirms your initial impression, chalk that up to time well spent. If there was perhaps one message Bob may have wanted to convey it would be this:

Don’t allow things that people do overshadow who they are.

Count it as a golf lesson and a life lesson.

This June I’ll be heading down to Erin Hills to catch some of the action on the fairways. Yet I’ll be looking at other things behind the scenes Bob shared with me. Nothing that might interest a casual observer but for me, you know I like those “Now you know the rest of the story,” aspects.

Oh, and by the way Bob, if you happen to read this, thanks for picking up the phone.

 

 

 

 

One Day Closer To Spring Golf 2017

We’ve just turned the calendar page to March, which is a sign spring golf is coming to Wisconsin. Even though it’s snowing outside, spring training is underway with exhibition baseball being played, NCAA hoops is on the doorstep of their tournament and spring is one day closer. I love everything about this time of year except having to compile my tax returns. Oh well, just a minor inconvenience.

Golf in the Badger State looks exceptional this season. The US Open is coming to Erin Hills in June. Mike Keiser is officially opening his Coore/Crenshaw design at Sand Valley in May. The LPGA is conducting their first event in Green Bay at Thornberry Creek while the Seniors will be back in Madison at University Ridge. Gas prices are down so it looks like a great opportunity to travel about and see it or tee it at some of the states best venues.

With its wrap around season (something I still am not used to), the PGA Tour has featured a variety of champions. A few youngsters grabbed titles. Fowler, Spieth and DJ made us not forget about the upper echelon. Jason Day seems to have a bit of a problem getting it in gear so far but I doubt he’ll disappear. The big question continues to hover over Tiger and the state of his health. He gave it a go in two events, was talkative with the media but since his set back in Dubai, TW has reverted back to his ole, silent self. The “comeback” is no longer a topic.

It certainly appears that in this day and age of professional golf the biggest obstacle for players to avoid is injury. In an effort to propell a golf ball further and further, players line up with their TrackMans attempting to record numbers that may not necessarily translate to winning. It’s a different time and a different game.

Who can last a whole season? DJ would be my pick. The guy is simply an athlete. Spieth hasn’t appeared to get real bulky.   I suspect Jason Day might have episodes of unexpected maladies from week to week. Thomas Pieters from Belgium, who played his college golf at Illinois, looks to be an intriguing player from the Euro Tour who could make some noise this season. Plenty of possibilities, plenty of names to consider as we creep towards the first major.

Speaking of Augusta, you know all bets are off trying to pick a winner at the National. Once the invitees drive down Magnolia Lane, the green fountain of youth seeps into player’s swings creating infinite possibilities as to who might don a green jacket. OK, I understand you want my pick. I’m going to go with Olympic Champion Justin Rose. Let’s see how that works out.

Another aspect of this year’s Masters is the absence of one of the games greatest ambassadors, Arnold Palmer. Anyone watching the ceremonial tee shots last April saw the King sitting as Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player fired balls down the first fairway. The faraway look in Arnie’s eyes told all of us the curtain was coming down, as much as we didn’t want to believe it. I’m sure the membership will have some special memorial activities to reflect on Mr. Palmer’s impact at the Masters. I suggested all players entering the press room be asked to remove their caps during their conferences, as a tribute to Arnie. I even sent a note to Mr. Payne recommending that be done. We’ll see what happens.

The equipment front continues to be ultra-competitive. Whether it’s shoes, balls, drivers, irons, putters or bags, the selections are endless.   You probably saw Costco’s Kirkland golf ball garner a bit of attention. Turns out the ball was very good but apparently it served as a way for the manufacturer to reduce existing inventory. If you’re waiting for the Costco shelves to be restocked with those balls this spring, don’t hold your breathe. That venture is all done.

Does anyone believe that paying $300.00 per iron is the right way to proceed when picking a new set? The PXG phenomenon is filtering its way through the tours. Slowly through the amateur ranks the club is starting to appear. It comes down to the old question, can you buy a game? Certainly. The more important question is, with that kind of expense, can you buy a better game? Time will tell. During my years as a golf professional I’ve seen numerous companies come and go. From the days when it was Wilson, Spalding and Hogan to today’s landscape of Callaway, TaylorMade and Ping you wonder if the ultra club niche will serve PXG with longevity.   I’ve never seen or hit them. Eventually I’m sure I will.

As I write, a story broke today detailing some of the proposed rules changes by the USGA and R&A. It is long overdue. Some of the silliness in the rules tends to make the game less enjoyable for new players. It also distracts experienced players. While there is something to be said about a game where rulings are often self imposed, the time has come to move forward and make the game less intimidating for all players.  Even though we might give up those lively grill room rules debates, having a clearer understanding of things would be healthy.

Lastly, what plans do you have for your game this season? Are you looking to play more? What improvements will you focus on? Are you looking at that special golf trip? The main thing I want you to strive for this year is twofold. First, meet a new friend on the links. The relationship may be one that significantly impacts your life. Many of my closest friends share a love of the game. They are quality people. Secondly, don’t discount any opportunity you have to play the game. No matter where, how many holes, or the quality of your play, enjoy the experience. You’re playing the greatest game in the world.

Enjoy the new season. Have fun with family and friends. Visit some new venues.  Above all, don’t forget to PurePlay!