Review: “Back On Course-A Return on Investment”

The new book “Back On Course” has the subtitle “Drive Business Performance Through Golf” and it discusses some interesting points beginning with the natural matchup between the social and competitive aspects of golf and business.

Authors Connie Charles and Dave Bisbee do a masterful job of explaining the why and how any business can achieve a positive return on investment by using golf the game and golf the experience to further relationships with customers, vendors and employees.

Formerly golf was recognized as a tool for business. It was played by top and would-be top executives and viewed as an integral part of business relationship building. However, times change. Activist investor scrutiny of corporations followed by the economic downturn of the past ten years gave business golf a negative connotation. “Elitist” being one of the common descriptions and corporate leaders came to no longer look at the game as an opportunity for advancing the interests of their companies.

It was something that could be ditched to offset increasing expenses and as a sop to those characterizing golf as something only rich white-guys did.

The concept of return on investment seemingly took a back seat to being politically correct or at least seeming to be sensitive to public opinion as represented by commentators and corporate critics.

Charles and Bisbee recognized the decline of golf as a tool in the corporate arena often makes relationship building more difficult and puts up barriers to communication between companies, their customers and prospects. In addition, today golf can certainly use increased corporate participation at several levels including charitable giving and additional revenue for golf courses.

Having known Bisbee and Charles for a number of years, it is evident they are serious business people, knowledgeable in what it takes to advance a company’s interests and receive a commensurate return on invest.

“Back On Course” stresses return on investment for both corporations and individuals.

Charles is CEO of Strategic Solutions International in Newark, Del. and an expert in corporate team building. Bisbee is the general manager and director of golf at Seven Canyons Golf Club in Sedona, Ariz. and a well-respected instructor. They have an online portal, imapGolf.co, for individuals to improve their performance on and off the course using the same tools Charles has on her corporate site imapMyTeam.

One of the most intriguing ideas in “Back On Course” is that of the five hour meeting or interview, i.e., taking a prospective customer or employee to play golf which with a bit of the 19th hole neatly takes up half a day. From personal experience I know of no way to learn about the true character of someone more quickly than playing a round of golf. Insights into personality, character and attitude are evident and easily observable. They also get to know you, the basis of building a mutually beneficial relationship.

If you are in a corporate decision-making position or simply want to improve your interpersonal skills to further your career using golf, buy this book. In fact, you’ll probably buy copies for colleagues.

“Back On Course—Drive Business Performance Through Golf” by Connie Charles and Dave Bisbee is available on Amazon for $24.99.

The Significance of the DJ Rule

The “DJ Rule.” The modification of the Rules of Golf by the United States Golf Association that took effect January 1 is important. In fact, it could be said as being very significant and not just as a simplification of the Rules we play by.

If you remember, in the final round of the U.S. Open last June, Dustin Johnson lined up a par putt on the fifth green and before he addressed the ball it rolled backwards, i.e. away from the hole, a tiny distance. Johnson immediately told a referee walking with him and fellow competitor Lee Westwood and the official simply asked if he had soled his putter behind the ball.

Johnson answered, “No,” which was quickly confirmed by Westwood. The official was satisfied and told Johnson to play on with no penalty.

Everyone thought that ended the incident until later as the duo walked on to the twelfth tee. Senior rules directors informed DJ there was a problem, namely there might be a penalty stroke added to his score for the incident seven holes previously.

According to the version of Rule 18-2 in effect at the time, on the putting green if a player caused a ball to move whether he meant to or not, he must put the ball back and add a stroke to his score. To complicate it further the rule contained the wording “more likely than not” as the standard the committee should apply in making their judgement.

The situation went from bad to worse since neither the average fan nor Johnson’s fellow competitors felt it neither sensible nor fair to overturn an on-the-spot referee’s judgement hours later. However, the Rules of Golf do specifically give the Committee the right to change a referee’s decision after a round based on their evaluation of the circumstances which often comes from studying videotape of the telecast.

A wait of seven holes to tell DJ he was in the crosshairs was beyond reasonable. The possibility of a penalty stroke left Johnson and the entire field in limbo as to where he and they stood in the most important championship of the year. To put it simply, the USGA wasn’t showing its best.

The incident proved again the myriad complications of the Rules of Golf cannot be passed off simply as the way to maintain the integrity of the game when it is a sport played out of doors with constantly changing conditions. Common sense should be factored in and thankfully Johnson, the phlegmatic South Carolinian, was able to overcome the uncertainty to win by four strokes though the record book shows the final margin was three.

Effective January 1 the USGA changed the language of Rule 18-2 so if the ball on the green is moved accidentally, whatever the cause, the player puts it back without a penalty…what I’m calling the “DJ Rule.” It fixes the previous inequity properly and is more realistic, more sensible and fairer.

Which brings us to the reasons why the DJ Rule is so significant.

First, the USGA was responsive to the howls of protest by everyone from golf fans to PGA Tour players. The Rule 18-02 change is eminently more realistic and perhaps best of all accomplished without waiting for the usual molasses-in-January quadrennial rules review. Quite properly the words “more likely than not,” used as justification in accessing the penalty on Johnson were dropped. No longer will Johnson or any player be convicted by inference and extrapolation rather than facts.

Secondly congratulations to the USGA who, without compromising the spirit of the game, are “significantly” reworking the Rules of Golf to make them more user-friendly with a preview of the changes next month.

Hopefully the redo will be along the lines of, “You start here and hit it until it goes in over there.”

Images courtesy of the USGA 

PGA TOUR Superstore – Bucking the Trend

In addition to a soft demand particularly for hard goods, golf retailing has had to endure some difficult times typified by the bankruptcy of Golfsmith, Sports Authority and Ben Hogan Golf plus Nike Golf’s decision to close its club and ball business.

PGA TOUR Superstores however, are bucking the trend. The Atlanta-based retailer is profitable and showing strong sales growth with an active program for adding new locations to the current 28. Three more stores are scheduled to open this year.

The company is privately-held by AMB Group, one of the family businesses of Arthur Blank that own the Atlanta Falcons football team, Atlanta United of Major League Soccer Team and the soon to be completed Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta. Blank was cofounder of Home Depot, retiring in 2001 as co-chairman.

In an interview at the PGA Merchandise Show Dick Sullivan president and CEO of PGA TOUR Superstores talked about their success and plans for the future. Sullivan joined the company in 2008 after successful stints at both Home Depot and the Atlanta Falcons.

Brand identity is a must, especially in the competitive business of selling retail golf equipment, so we began by asking about the use of perhaps the best know name in golf, PGA TOUR. Sullivan responded, “We have a 50 year license with the PGA TOUR for the name and are very happy with the association with the Tour and in fact handle the e-commerce for them off their website. We want people to feel the link between us and the Tour as being real and important.”

Sullivan continued by saying he wants his stores to be high in wow-factor so when a golf consumer walks in the first time their reaction is “WOW!” because of the large amount of floor space, the interactive and brightly lit open layouts and well-stocked shelves.

With stores averaging over 45,000 square feet a big part of the growth has been realized by maximizing revenue whether in sales of clubs, apparel or services. We questioned how the revenue per square foot compared with other retailers and though he was reluctant to share specifics Sullivan did say that, “Revenue per square foot is up to double of other golf retailers.”

Experiential is the word the company uses to describe a visit and Sullivan said sales mix in a given store depends on the local market but, “Last year (2016) we gave 45-50,000 lessons so we have a strong presence in helping golfers get better.” Also interesting and somewhat unexpected is some locations sell more ladies’ apparel than men’s.

In 2016 PGA TOUR Superstores had over seven million customers and that will presumably grow in 2017 not only from same store growth but from increasing the number of locations. Sullivan expects to have 50 stores in five years so the rate of openings will be steady but not spectacular.

Realistically the growth into new markets and opening of new locations in existing markets is driven often by the cost of real estate. “It has to make sense for us and some areas [commercial real estate] are pretty expensive and it’s hard to make the numbers work,” Sullivan told me.

The almost mystical reputation of Home Depot’s customer service is a benchmark for Sullivan and the employees of PGA TOUR Superstores and this starts with knowing golfers and what they want and need. The connection is made through store employees.

According to Sullivan, “The employees on the floor who are closest to the customers are at the top of the PGA TOUR Superstore pyramid and the CEO is at the bottom. Employees tell us what we need to do.” They are the ones dealing with the golfers so they understand what the customer wants and needs.

He followed that comment quickly with, “If you do the right thing the numbers will follow,” which certainly is a refreshing change from the bean-counter orientation of some other operations.

Anecdotally, on a recent visit to the Orlando store to purchase some golf gloves the display rack had none in my size. When I asked a store associate if they had any he ran…ran mind you, to the back and returned almost immediately with what I needed.

I don’t recall ever experiencing that level of enthusiastic service much less physical exertion ever in any golf store, big box retailer or green grass shop.

On average PGA TOUR Superstores have 14 hitting bays with the latest swing analysis software and graphics along with custom fitting of clubs, club repair, re-gripping. “We run Saturday clinics for juniors to build the interest of youngsters in the game hopefully making them lifelong participants but also to engage the parents in a meaningful way with their children, the game of golf and our stores.”

So how is it working? As noted previously PGA TOUR Superstores is bucking the trend with continued growth and profitability and for example, “Some snowbound locations have to use beepers like in restaurants to notify when a practice bay is available which have swing analysis software. Each location has PGA Professionals on staff.”

When asked for a description of their ideal target customer Sullivan responded, “The avid golfer is of course first for us. We want them to find everything they want and for them to come back.”

From my experience it would seem a lot of golfers will be doing just that.

Images courtesy PGA TOUR Superstore

Another PGA Show in the Books

After covering the PGA Merchandise Show for more than 20 years the variety of products still amazes me and particularly the new items from the latest in tech gadgets to ways to more efficiently attach things to your golf bag.

The 64th industry-only Show concluded last Friday its three day run in the Orange County Convention Center located in suburban Orlando. As always it was preceded by the Demo Day to beat all demo days for PGA Professionals and the media at the Orange County National Golf Center’s immense range.

For the week the event that grabbed the most attention was the announcement by TaylorMade-adidas Golf CEO David Abeles just after Show doors opened the first day of the signing of Tiger Woods to an endorsement contract. It created a buzz overshadowing a later announcement by Callaway Golf that Michelle Wie had become a part of their staff.

Reed Expositions, who run the Show, have not released attendance yet but many old timers felt the numbers may have been down from the last couple of years. However, with 1 million square feet of exhibit space and 10 miles of aisles not counting the dozens of off floor meeting rooms, it’s hard to tell. What is for sure is the number of exhibitors remained approximately the same as the past three years—around 1,000—with 271 first time exhibitors. Reed said the number of PGA Professional in attendance increased three percent to more than 7,500.

This is the largest meeting of the golf industry or as they say, the “Major of the Golf Business” and this is certainly true though some well-known companies were absent, in a couple of cases conspicuously absent. Nike Golf of course was not exhibiting clubs since they have closed their club and ball business to concentrate on golf apparel but Nike apparel was a no show as well. Ben Hogan Golf, after an effort to reinvigorate the iconic brand was not present and this week declared bankruptcy.

Less surprising was the absence of PXG owned by Bob Parsons who has said publicly the buyers and PGA Professionals coming to Orlando are not the target market for his ultra-expensive clubs with a set listing at over $5,000. Also among the missing were Mizuno Golf, Bridgestone, True Temper and Aldila.

Among the major items attracting attention were drivers from Wilson Golf (Triton), Callaway (Great Big Bertha Epic), TaylorMade (M1 and M2), Cobra (King F7 and F7+) and Titleist (917 D2 and D3). New golf balls included the Callaway Chrome Soft X, TaylorMade TP5 and TP5x, Volvik S4 White, Srixon Z-Star/Z-Star XV and Titleist’s latest Pro V1 and Pro V1x.

There were 423 companies in the apparel category, a number that continues to grow along with the size of their displays. Services plus accessories seem to be about the same, perhaps with slight growth, which means the club company portion of the Show is declining since the total number of exhibitors remains the same. However, the club category includes companies from the largest multi-line manufacturers to grip, shaft and ferrule makers and one-of putter producers.

Besides the Woods/TMaG announcement often heard discussed on the floor, in the media center and after hours was the non-sale of TMaG which has been on the block since last May. Parent adidas hasn’t said a word and no buyers have been forthcoming though a rumor that Woods and Michael Jordan were interested was thoroughly discredited. With business a little better and a Tiger in the stable might adidas consider keeping the top metal wood maker?

Another oft heard comment there has been no superhot-must-have product introduced and there are a couple of reasons why. Club companies all use top flight technology already so the spread in club performance has narrowed plus restrictions on allowable performance by the USGA has definitely put a damper on innovation. But probably the biggest reason, and golf club designers have known this for some time, products were reaching both the USGA limits and limits imposed by the laws of physics. Change therefore is more incremental rather than a “breakthrough.”

Individual golfers still will gain the most benefit and better performance for them by using custom fitted clubs.

In the golf business orders are often written before the Show so the purchase cycle is not as dependent on face to face meetings as once was the case with possibly the exception of soft goods. The focus of the Show has changed to placing a major emphasis on the continuing education courses for PGA Professionals.

For most attendees though it is a worldwide and industrywide meet-and-greet with a sprinkling of deal making. Costs of attending are high, booth space is expensive and even large companies must figure how to get the most return from the expense. This is not a negative but something that needs to be continually acknowledged and improved by the PGA and Reed Expositions.

PGA Show Attention Grabbers

Each year at the PGA Merchandise Show with its 1,000 exhibitors and thousands of products we look for a few items to highlight for our readers. Here are a few that grabbed our attention as we walked the 10 miles of aisles in Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center. There are no clubs or balls in this listing…that will come later as we complete our testing and reviews.

Bermuda Sands—Finding good looking, reasonably priced golf shirts is sometimes difficult so take a look at Bermuda Sands, it’s a great brand to consider. For example there’s the Elite polo for $60 with a sophisticated subtle stripe, self-collar and three button placket. This one looks equally at home on or off the course.

Golf Pride–MCC ALIGN grip ($10.99) is best reminder grip we have seen. It has a raised ridge with a firmer feel flanked by channels down the back of this cord/rubber all-weather model. Though grips to facilitate proper hand position have been around for a long time the combination of the already popular MCC hybrid grip and alignment aid is a real winner.

Zero Friction—The DistancePro GPS Glove is the convenient combination of a glove which, we wear anyway, and a distance measuring device. We like the lightweight and 400 hours battery life of the GPS plus the fact the glove is one-size-fits-all. Two gloves and the DistancePro GPS unit which is switchable between the two list for $129.95.

New Balance—The NBG2004 is an athletic-style cleated golf shoe with a great look and lots of features such as two year guaranteed waterproof upper, New Balance’s proven comfortable REVLite midsole and a wider area for your toes to help with balance while swinging. Three color combinations of white/red, black/green and grey/blue available at $99.95.

SkyCaddie—At last someone has put a GPS rangefinder and shot tracking watch together with a mobile app for Bluetooth connection to your smartphone. For $349.95 the SkyCaddie LINX GT has those features plus comes preloaded with thousands of courses and, if you choose, it can use data from smart tags, one of which comes in the package.

Under Armour Sunglasses—There are hundreds of sunglasses on the market but we were drawn to the UA Igniter 2.0 which happens to have a very nice feature not found on competing brands…an adjustable nose pad. It doesn’t maybe sound like much but just a seemly small touch like that can make all the difference in fit, comfort and wearablity. Polarized, super light titanium self-adjusting frames for $144.99.

Sun Mountain—Known for their high quality, functional outerwear, golf and travel bags and push carts new for 2017 is the Speed Cart GT which folds down to only 37” x 16” x 13” at weight just over 17 pounds. The bag bracket is a new design to better hold golf stand bags plus there’s a new mobile phone slot and it comes with umbrella holder, scorecard holder and padded storage tray for $209.99.

P2 Putter Grips–Golfers talk a lot about putter grips, mostly about size or sometimes about feel, but perhaps most important is really the position of the hands in relation to the shaft. P2, based in Ireland, did lots of testing to come up with a design that forces the hands and wrists upward slightly, i.e. more arched, by positioning the shaft towards the bottom of the grip. The new Tour model ($35) is 50% lighter and the tacky feel is excellent.

ECCO-The new CAGE PRO model’s outsole doesn’t use cleats but does use their SPYDR-GRIP that takes advantage of pivot point for gripping. The BOA closure is both comfortable and helps to make for a perfect fit that helps performance. Waterproof with the textile upper bonded with a custom polyurethane. A choice of either black or white for $230.

 

Images courtesy of the manufacturers

 

Learn How to Achieve the Ben Hogan Waggle

By JORDAN FULLER

As a student of golf for over 25 years, I have seen hundreds of golfers in pursuit of the perfect swing.

If there’s one thing my experience has taught me, it is that there are a few common roadblocks that inhibit most golfers from reaching their potential. A perfect example of this is the “static address” – the idea that you must be motionless while standing over the ball before you start your swing.

Professional golfers have proven that the dynamic address, or “waggle”, can result in cleaner impacts resulting in superior range and accuracy. This tutorial will help you understand the motion of the waggle and how to use it to optimize your golf game.

Introducing The “Waggle”

There have been several golfers on the PGA Tour who have employed the waggle: Sergio Garcia, Jason Dufner, and one of the greats of the game, Ben Hogan. It is used while approaching and addressing the ball before the backswing begins, and is designed to help you visualize your backswing, resulting in a more fluid motion.

Should You Use The Waggle?

The waggle is a simple tool designed to help golfers of any experience level improve their drives, fairway play or short game. You should try the waggle if you:

Are too rigid over the ball before your swing begins

Have trouble bending your knees at address or lock your arms during your swing

Rotate at the hips during your swing

Do not finish your backswing at the same point every time you swing

If you are unsure whether or not you meet these criteria, try recording yourself with a camera the next time you’re at the driving range. If you cannot reliably predict where your next shot will land, you might try the waggle to help improve your consistency.

How To Waggle

The waggle is an easy motion designed to relax you and take your mind off of your swing, so don’t overthink it.

There are two criteria for a successful waggle:

Keep shifting your weight from foot to foot at regular intervals

Keep the club head in motion, practicing the initial part of your backswing

Follow the step-by-step instructions below, and you will be waggling like a pro in no time.

Step 1: Address the Ball

The waggle is a dynamic golf stance which will have you moving from the moment you address your ball to the moment you hit it. Begin by addressing your ball with your current golf stance.

Step 2: Be Dynamic

Once you are properly set up in address, begin shifting your weight from foot to foot while keeping your head, torso, arms and feet in the same positions.

If your club head is moving with respect to your ball during this step, you are moving too much.

Do not shift your entire weight from foot to foot – imagine splitting it 80/20 as you shift your weight from one direction to the other. The purpose of this is to get you accustomed to the weight shift in your backswing, and to create a rhythm prior to your swing.

Pro Tip:

Some golfers like to lift their feet while waggling. This isn’t necessary, but it may help you feel more comfortable. Try out both options (lifting your feet or keeping them planted) and see which works best for you.

The best way to visualize this movement is to think of tennis players receiving a serve. Before a serve, you will see them swaying from side to side to cover as much ground as possible. You do not need to sway in this fashion, but you do want to create a rhythm.

Step 3: Practice Your Backswing

Once you have created a rhythm for your backswing, pull the head of the club back approximately a quarter of the way into your backswing using only your wrists.

If you are right-handed, this motion should occur while you are shifting your weight to your right foot. The reverse is applicable for lefties. The club head should never reach higher than your knees during this step. An ideal waggle will keep the club head off of the ground at all times, so make sure that you begin and end each waggle before or above your ball.

Pro Tip:

If you are unsure whether or not you are doing this right, pay attention to the index finger on your dominant hand. The first knuckle (the knuckle you knock on doors with) should be directly over the ball at all times, even while you are drawing back the club head.

If your index finger’s knuckle is not hovering over the ball, you are using your arms instead of your wrists to lift the club. This will result in inconsistent backswings and inaccurate shots.

Step 4: Imagine Your Backswing

Once you have mastered the steps above, use each lifting motion to imagine where your club will go when you begin your backswing. If the motion is inconsistent or you feel that one waggle was more powerful than others, do not be afraid to step back and try again from the beginning.

The point of the waggle is to relax your body prior to each and every shot, increasing your consistency regardless of your swing’s technical ability.

Step 5: The Final Address

By this step you should:

Be shifting your weight from foot to foot at regular intervals

Be lifting your club head, practicing your backswing

Have regular waggle intervals in preparation for your shot

Once you are comfortable in this stance, have picked out your target and are satisfied with the beginning of your backswing, momentarily address your ball one final time by placing the club just behind it, resting on the ground. As soon as your club touches the ground, initiate your backswing and strike the ball.

In Summary: The Waggle

I hope you have enjoyed reading this tutorial on the waggle. I have found that it is an incredible tool for beginners since the entire golfing world is constantly pushing the idea of “the perfect swing”.

Look at the pros on the PGA TOUR today and tell me which swings are identical. I think it’s better to find a swing style that fits your needs. The waggle is a great tool for relaxing even the tensest golfers to help them build consistency, distance and accuracy into their game with a very minor change to their stance. Try out the steps outlined above and see if it helps you with your game!

Note: Jordan Fuller is a golf advocate who loves to teach beginners on the weekend. Passionate about everything golf, it is after seeing beginners always make the same mistakes that he decided to create an universal source of knowledge on golf, called Golf Influence.

 

 

 

 

10 Rounds with the L2 MOI MAXX Putter

A putter with lots of forgiveness, a large sweet spot and high resistance to twisting puts you on the road to making more putts since impacting the ball even a little off center, as we all know happens fairly often, can easily mean a missed putt.

Enter the L2 MOI MAXX putter the most recent model from Lateral Line Putters LLC. where forgiveness, a big sweet spot and high MOI are the whole idea.

Taking the L2 from the shipping box you notice right away the weight—it’s heavy–in fact the head weight is 620 grams. Contrast that with a “normal” putter with a head weight of around 350 grams makes the L2 more than 250 grams heavier and, as far as we know, the heftiest putter on the market. Designer and company president John Ambrose says a putter such as the L2 with a head of over one and one-third pounds makes for a smoother stroke and more putts going in the hole.

Not only does the head break the upper weight limit it is also physically huge—measuring a full six and one-quarter inches from heel to toe compared to putters we are more used to with heads such as the classic modern blade that are a little over four inches. The extra-large center shafted head due to its size (and weight) also exhibits a sweet spot Ambrose says is eight times that of most other putters, a full three and on-half inches wide.

On the course the dual alignment lines on the head visually bracket the ball so aiming is relatively easy and because the L2 has a flat sole along with the heavy head, it actually stands up by itself on the green. It is possible therefore to align the L2 while in the address position then, leaving it standing, to walk behind the line and make a final adjustment. The putter grip is extra-long with a square cross section which complements aiming by putting the hands in the proper placement.

But the grip size has another purpose as well. As Ambrose puts it, “By adding a 200 gram, 16-inch grip to the L2, we moved the stroke motion feel past the hands and wrists and into the arms and shoulders. This allows for a smooth, pendulum motion and discourages the yips.”

After ten rounds on several different courses, all with Bermuda greens and speeds ranging from medium to very quick, we got used to the feel of the L2 which is decidedly different than a “normal” putter. Hitting a seriously off line putt almost never occurred both because of the effect alignment lines and the fact virtually wherever the ball struck the face it rolled with a solid impact. The weight of the head meant the putter was always on line when the stroke finished.

As advertised the L2 is forgiving, perhaps the most forgiving we have ever tested though admittedly that’s a subjective judgement. What is without question though, if you are having problems making solid contact, beset by the “twitches” or still looking for a replacement for your banned belly or broomstick there could be some distinct benefits from this putter.

Negatives: Some may find distance control difficult because the hit is so solid with so much mass behind it. We found on downhill (particularly downhill side hill putts) and on fast greens getting the proper speed could be problematic. The flat sole, while aiding alignment, sometimes catches the grass when putting from Bermuda fringe into the grain. And as long as we are picking nits, the large square grip caused comment from everyone who tried it, not necessarily negative comments but it does take some getting used to. Finally, one players opined that carrying the extra weight L2 for a full 18 holes would be like putting three more clubs in the bag. As I said, picking nits.

Recommendation: If you need help with making solidly impacted online putts the L2 MOI MAXX could very well be the answer. The price is $169 at L2putters.com and shipping is included in the price.

It’s Furyk vs. Bjorn

By ED TRAVIS

The selection of Jim Furyk as captain of the U.S. squad is the latest in the run up to the 2018 Ryder Cup to be played against the European team captained by Thomas Bjorn over the Le Golf National in Guyancourt, France, a suburb of Paris.

Comparing the two captains is an interesting exercise though it probably doesn’t offer any significant insight as to who will win the 42nd playing for Samuel Ryder’s trophy.

Bjorn, from Denmark, has been a stalwart of the European PGA Tour counting 15 wins in his career though has never won on this country in 116 starts and his best finishes in majors have been ties for second, twice in the British Open and once in the PGA Championship. At the age of 45 he has played on three winning Ryder Cup teams – 1997, 2002 and 2014 – and has the reputation of being very vocal with his opinions, sometimes to his detriment. In addition Bjorn has been a vice-captain for the Euros on four occasions including their loss last year at Hazeltine.

The Dane’s overall record 3-4-2 in Ryder Cup play is less than eye-popping but then neither is Furyk’s at 10-20-4.

Furyk has lots of Ryder Cup experience having been a member of nine squads, two of which (1999 and 2008) won.

At Hazeltine this past fall Furyk was one of Davis Love III’s vice captains but Furyk’s best Ryder Cup moment was undoubtedly his singles match on Sunday against Sergio Garcia in 1999. Ben Crenshaw’s team overcame a four point deficit the final day achieving an unlikely victory with Furyk’s 4 and 3 win over Sergio Garcia being a highlight.

At 46 years of age Furyk is still an active member of the PGA Tour giving him current knowledge of the younger players and the Pennsylvania native can still really play. At this writing he is 37th in the world ranking points and last year at the Travelers Championship shot 58 in the final round–the lowest score ever on the PGA Tour. He has won 17 times on Tour including the 2003 U.S. Open and to go with his 58 in 2013 became the sixth player to shoot a 59.

As far as a successful defense, it’s worth noting the last time an American team was able to do it was 1993 which coincidentally was the last time they won outside of the U.S.

If you are looking for early form 21 months out there aren’t any overwhelming nor outstanding factors except for perhaps one thing. The decisive 2016 win by Team USA over Team Europe 17 to 11 probably saved the Ryder Cup from a loss of interest by fans here in America as well as potentially a loss of player enthusiasm. After all, it’s tough to get up for a team that had lost eight of the last ten Cups.

“Reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated”

“Reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.” So said Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company President and CEO Scott Walker in a press release announcing a company restructuring. The voluntary action aimed at cutting costs and streamlining operations included the layoff of most of the company employees, approximately 30, according to a copyrighted story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram by Steve Kaskovich.

Walker continued in the press release, “While our organization does not look the same today as it did in 2016, we are confident that the changes we are making will make us a stronger and better company in the future.”

The release stated that at present Ben Hogan has not declared bankruptcy nor have any lenders foreclosed on outstanding debt.

In 2015 the iconic Ben Hogan brand was reintroduced at the PGA Merchandise Show with a new iron model, the Ft. Worth 15, by the new Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company LLC after having been off the market since 2008 with Terry Koehler as president and CEO. Koehler had negotiated a licensing agreement for the name with clothier Perry Ellis who had purchased the brand from Callaway Golf in 2012. Perry Ellis continues to make and market apparel under the Ben Hogan name. Koehler formerly worked for Ben Hogan in his original company was also president and CEO of Eidolon Wedge Company.

Walker replaced Koehler as president and CEO of the Fort Worth, Tex. based operation in August 2016.

Three different iron models, one wedge model and one hybrid model are currently in their catalog.

A check of OEM’s scheduled to exhibit at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando starting Jan. 24 showed Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company as not having contracted for display booth space but meeting room space off the main floor has been reserved.

The original Ben Hogan Company was started by Ben Hogan in 1953 to manufacture clubs to his exacting specifications and quickly gained the reputation of the ultimate “player’s irons.” Hogan died in 1997 at the age of 84 having sold his interest in the manufacturer some years earlier.

Keep Your Head Still…or Maybe Not

“Keep your head down. Keep your head still” are perhaps the most often heard bits of swing advice to recreational golfers from their playing partners. The trouble is, both admonishments are wrong and attempting to keep the head still especially with the chin firmly pressed downward can result in poor ball contact, a loss of distance and control.

The “head down” problem is a function of the setup position but easily fixed by correctly addressing the ball with the chin up and the derriere pushed out slightly so your weight is balanced and you’re in an athletic position…think of a shortstop preparing for the crack of the bat.

The “head still” is a little harder to fix since if the head does move, how much is OK and how much is not? Teaching professionals will tell you that the head moving slightly (maybe 2 inches?) towards the right on the backswing is correct. On the downswing the head moves back to the starting point and when the club actually hits the ball the head is moving slightly back to the right again which is described as “staying behind the ball.”

The amount of head movement and in what sequence is difficult to learn even with the help of an instructor but now there is some new technology called the PowerPlane to give you the feedback you need.

PowerPlane is simple to use, just attach the hat clip above your left ear (assuming a right handed swing), place the sensor on the clip (it’s magnetic) and set up to a ball with the PowerPlane unit parallel to the line of the shot.

If your head is out of position at address or if it goes too far in either direction during the swing the unit beeps.

We tested it and it works actually showing two of the testers they were set up too far forward at address meaning they effectively were positioning themselves for a reverse pivot. It also quickly showed there was a lot of movement on the downswing by the single digit handicap tester, sending him back to the pro shop for more range balls.

We like that the PowerPlane was equally good if you are having problems with head movement during you putting stroke or when chipping. The sound of the beep is particularly telltale for the lookup before impact either with a putter or wedge.

Negatives: Some may feel the price of $189 is a little expensive.

Recommendation: If you have conquered the problems caused by keeping your head down toward your chest and need help for fat and thin shots plus want more distance from better contact the PowerPlane can go a long way to solving the problem. For additional technical information and to purchase visit PowerPlaneGolf.net. Included in the purchase price is free shipping and a PowerPlane hat and there’s a 30-day money back guarantee.