“We Are Not Amused”

Spieth_2015Barclays_400x300

The playoffs were exciting, at times even compelling and I want Spieth’s putting stroke for Christmas. However now the season is a wrap I’d like to make a plea to all those broadcast commentators, golf analysts, foot soldiers and tower-sitters to cooperate.

Cease, stop and quit using the clichés and hackneyed words and phrases that cause listeners to hit the mute button. Heck, if Augusta National can ban any mention of prize money, turn golf fans into patrons and forbid references to bikini-waxed greens we should be able to get golf’s talking heads to find another way of describing what’s transpiring on the screen.

At the top of the list is. “He’s got plenty of green to work with.” Couldn’t it once be described as having enough room to land the ball on the green and let it roll to the pin?

But then there’s the phrase particular to the playoffs, “He controls his own destiny.” Well, depending on your philosophy of life this may or may not be true, but the use in a golf context is way overdone. Kudos though to the golf Channel’s Steve Sands who had the unenviable task of explaining the unexplainable FedEx cup points system during the playoffs. He spoke “controls his own destiny” only a few times though certainly ample opportunity was there to have been unlistenable, a contrast with the unprofessional repetition by Dan Hicks.

“That shot’s right in his wheelhouse.” Ok, I get it but how about, “This shot fits his natural swing” for a while.

Thankfully, “He’s got no chance” is no longer heard and truth be told the late Bob Rosburg the 1959 PGA Champion and ABC commentator for more than 30 years did say it on occasion…but only when it was true.

Johnny Miller’s “green light special” needs no comment—just stop it and the same with “chunk-and-run.”

A “ball-strikers” golf course. That has always mystified me since golf is a game of striking the ball so does it mean the course in question is particularly suitable to those players who hit the ball accurately? I thought all courses were. Maybe someone could ask Peter Kostis since he seems to be in love with the words.

Let’s say Player A is 5 under par and Player B is 2 under par with a birdie putt. Often heard is “He needs this putt to get within 2.” Now to me that doesn’t make sense since to be within 2, would be only one stroke back not 2 so what do they mean? I don’t know and aren’t sure they do either.

Finally, can someone please tell touring pros the use of the royal “we” is ridiculously pretentious. The only possible comment is, “We are not amused.”

A Cure Putter for Your Stroke

Cure_putters_CX2_black_golf_8_large_400x300

Let’s face it. We all mishit putts—and that includes all the touring professionals making their living at this game.

So besides getting the mechanics correct (which also means reading the green properly), a major improvement might be found in using a putter that could help compensate for our errors when the ball is struck even a little off center.  

After extensive on the course testing, the Cure putter may be that help. 

When Cure Putters first came out there was a lot of interest because of the variable lie adjustment of the shaft and extremely high MOI (moment of inertia) or resistance to twisting at impact. That second characteristic drew attention because when a Cure hit the ball off center the high MOI stopped the head from twisting as a regular putter does so the ball went more on the intended line.Cure_putters_CX2_platinum_golf_1b_large

In addition to high MOI the original Cures also were heavy in total weight with well above 500 grams possible if using the optional extra weights. Contrast this with conventional putters of around 350 grams and the difference was very noticeable, and of course a heavier putter tends to smooth out any twitches and quirks we might have in our stroke.

This year Cure has new models built with the same idea of heavier weight and very high MOI but with a more traditional look they call the Classic Series and I tested the CX1, a square back blade model. The CX1 has a CNC milled aluminum head, a slightly oversized 5″ blade length and tungsten weights in the heel and toe. Total weight and MOI is adjusted via 6 removable weights in the rear that add up to 42 grams. Either black or platinum finishes are available plus there’s a round back design, the CX2.

First I removed all the weights reducing the CX1 to 334 grams and producing, according to Cure, a MOI of 6,400. After putting with no weights I then replaced two–one each in the positions closest to the heel and closest to the toe to maintain the heel to toe balance. Repeated the testing and then put four weights and finally back to all six which increase the weight to 376 grams and the MOI to 7,200, again according to Cure. The difference in feel was immediately apparent and after the experiments I settled on putting with all six weights in place.

Negatives: Of course you have to like the look of any putter you put in your bag and the CX1 is obviously bigger and looks different than most blade designs so that must be part of the consideration. Secondly, the CX1 is so solid you will really have to pay attention on downhill putts so the ball doesn’t wind up way past the hole. Pricing, at $300, is in the upper range.

Recommendation: The CX1 is really solid and forgiving so after a very short time there’s a real buildup in confidence in how it performs…put this one on your short list.

Team Lefty

phil-mickelson_OdysseyGolf_400x300

The explosion of negative comments on the web concerning Phil Mickelson as President Cup Captain Jay Haas’s pick to the twelve-man U.S. team was predictable. Lefty was number 30 in points and chosen over a bunch of other good possibilities such as Bruce Koepka or even Charley Hoffman, both of whom have played great of late.

Haas also chose his son Bill to the team as the second of his picks but got a bye from the guff writers since Bill was eleventh in points.

But the real problem is if one looks realistically at the ten who automatically made the team you are struck with two facts. There’s the youth and crowd appeal of Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Spieth and Read who all can play lights out and the experience tempered by maturity of Furyk, Zach Johnson, Watson and Kuchar for sure.

But it’s difficult to imagine any of these fine players stepping up to be team leader…a psychological guide star in the team room and on the course.

Mickelson is the only one capable of filling that vital role and what’s more he proved it after last year’s Ryder Cup captaincy of Tom Watson by stepping up—in public—to voice his concerns and criticisms of Watson.

Lefty was raked over the coals but what wasn’t common knowledge then and is now, other Ryder Cup players felt the same only didn’t speak up. It just was Mickelson who understood change was needed and did something about it which is a fairly good definition of leadership.

And this wasn’t a first in his career he has had to withstand slings and arrows. Remember before he won his first major the comments about him never being able to win one. The label “Best Player To Not Won A Major” was coined just for him. He now has five majors and 42 Tour wins. Or, perhaps you remember his comments a few years ago the clubs Tiger Woods was playing as not being the best available and the word storm that followed.

So let’s applaud Haas’ astute judgement adding experience, maturity and leadership by picking Mickelson. And the aging Hall of Famer can still play a little though he hasn’t posted a win since The Open two years ago he has played his way to the third round of the playoffs this week in Chicago, has three top tens this year including a second behind Spieth at the Masters plus a wealth of international team competition.

Besides Mickelson being focus of all the noise has another possibly huge benefit to Haas and the team. The critics (do they ever find anybody or anything they can support?) would just find someone else to pick on, possibility a player who couldn’t cope with all the negatives as Mickelson has shown he can do.

Image courtesy of Odyssey Golf

Competition for Tee Times

bigstockphoto_Practice_Makes_Perfect_571619_400x300Competition for tee times—no, not the frantic calling for an early Saturday slot, once an every week chore. That frustrating ritual is long gone due in part to the number of golfers shrinking something like 16 percent in the last 10 years and roughly 60 million fewer rounds annually. 

The competition I’m talking about is the one between companies whose business is selling tee times, so-called third party sellers, usually over the Internet because let’s face it nobody “calls” for a tee time now days. GolfNowLogo

With 80 percent of golfers playing at public-access courses, selling tee times is big business and GolfNow has been the undisputed leader with reportedly 2 million golfers using them to book rounds at over 6,000 courses. Competition to GolfNow has been from several similar but smaller services online or call centers, often metro or regional, and individual course web sites. 

pga_tourRecently however there’s a new face on the block, a partnership between the PGA Tour and EZLinks called TeeOff.com. EZLinks, a long time supplier of computer services, has an existing tee time service selling times at 1,400 facilities spread across 22 countries used by 1 million players and just purchased GolfSwitch which also has a tee time service.  

GolfNow has had a huge head start and made some key acquisitions but being owned by the Golf Channel obviously gives them the built-in advantage when it comes to visibility plus a ready-made conduit for advertising. And to keep your scorecard straight, the Golf Channel is owned by NBC Universal which is a division of Comcast Communications (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NASDAQ:CMCSK). 

GolfChannelLogoTwo questions need to be asked however. Why is the Tour getting into an already competitive business head to head with one of its broadcast partners and is this whole idea of third party tee times good for golfers and golf courses?

The primary source of revenue for third party vendors is something few outside the industry know about, bartered tee times. In addition to allowing a vendor access to sell tee times at an agreed upon price and splitting the revenue, the course provides the vendor so-called “bartered tee times” for which they do not charge. The third party seller then sells the bartered times and keeps the revenue thus creating a profitable revenue stream which is the heart of their business model. 

This may be what the Tour is hoping to develop or there may be a multi-media strategy behind the TeeTimes.com move but one thing is true. The history of a business competing with its customers seldom produces good results for either and while these may be special circumstances it will be interesting to watch.

Third party vendors give golfers the benefit of making a tee time, sometimes aTeeOff_logot a discount, using a cell phone but GolfNow nor TeeTimes.com are needed if the course has a tee time app or booking page on their web site. So is there any reason for courses to use any third party vendor? 

J.J. Keegan, Managing Principle of Golf Convergence an acknowledged leader in golf operations consulting, responded, “The simple answer is that an efficiently managed golf customer that proper builds and segments their database does not need the service of a third party distribution company for its core marketing efforts. At the right price point and ensuring that the third party agrees with the NGCOA [National Golf Course Owners Association] practice standards to include rate integrity, participation does make sense for the sole purpose of stealing your competitor’s customers.”

If courses continue to barter tee times the agreement with third party vendors may be costing them revenue and profits beyond any potential benefit.

Using GolfNow as an example Keegan pointed out, “Third party distribution companies, like Golf Channel, have no customers. They are merely channeling golfers from the worst operators to the best while making $120 million by doing so for themselves.  A byproduct of their service is that they are effectively lowering the average daily rate the poor operators generate. Hence, they have the unbridled support of the leading managing companies because they understand the third party game and are leveraging it to their advantage. That, in combination with the financial incentives that some management companies are receiving from the third party distribution companies, is why this predatory practice on the unsophisticated will continue.”

Courses are in middle of the competition between GolfNow, Teetimes.com and other third party vendors. They must choose whether to use one at all and if so which one or sign up with more than one. And because of third party discounting of bartered times, all the while they are faced with loss of control of their only product. It all seems like the punch line to that old joke.

How do you make a million running a golf course?…Start with ten million. 

Somewhat surprisingly and especially relevant is, according to Keegan, as high as 70% of barter times are sold during a golf course’s peak period and obviously these are times the course would generate sales at their best rate. Call centers are booking less than 15% of the rounds but offering their times in direct competition to sales efforts by the course.

Again going back to Keegan’s comments, “What started as a proposition to help you sell ‘off-peak’ inventory has morphed into a practice that is selling your peak times at a significant discount, on tee times that historically golf courses have sold them. It is my suspicion that these firms are liquidating up to 10% of your tee times via barter. Call centers, who promise to build you customer database, are probably booking less rounds than you think, yet offering their barter specials in direct competition to your own tee times.”

“Is that wrong? Capitalism creates and capitalism destroys. It is just part of life.”

We will keep following this story, survival of the fittest, which so greatly impacts the financial health of the courses we play.

Bazooka – Back in Black

bazooka460

Bazooka–what a great name for a golf club…one of my all-time favorites and it’s been resurrected by Tour Edge Golf for its latest driver offering, the Bazooka 460 Black. 

But true to Dave Glod’s long standing philosophy of providing high quality and high-tech at affordable prices this new number one wood has a suggested retail that can only be called startling. 

$119.99 

And how does Glod get away with charging less than $120 (OK, a penny less)? It’s easy since he’s the owner and chief club designer for Tour Edge.

It gets better though. 

The B460B isn’t some cheap, thrown together club for the sake of embarrassing all those companies charging three and four times as much—though of course it does—it has the benefit of Tour Edge’s experience and expertise which have made them an acknowledge leader in the industry. Thoughtfully designed and carefully made it’s a high performance driver at a price just plain missing in today’s golf market.

Targeted at players who want affordable performance the B460B has a 460cc titanium clubhead with a fixed sole weight placed towards the rear which produces a high launch to help give the most distance for players of all abilities. Shafts range from an ultra-light 50 grams to 57 grams depending on flex and the 460 Black is available right hand in 9.5° (stiff), 10.5° (senior, regular, stiff), and 12° (ladies, senior, regular). 

Particularly attractive, though not related to the performance, the B460B’s PVD finish is highlighted on the sole with distinctive “camo” panels.