Prologue – The bicycle ride!
Consider the following scenario, you, or your son, (bear with me on the male angle) play golf and are in that rarified bracket of finding it, well, dare I say it, quite easy? a ton of fun, I mean who doesn’t have fun hitting it 300 yards with a baby draw? and just like Ben (Hogan), can’t wait for the sun to rise to get to the course each morning. The normal progression from here is the race to a plus handicap, win a couple of national championships, represent your country, and finally the Walker Cup, before blazing through Tour School and the tricky choice of where to play with your all access Tour card and “NetJets” timeshare.
Pele once said “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Makes perfect sense to me and will probably stand up for most pathways in life but after decades of seeing, first hand, success and failure, in the golf game, I can assure you that trying to get to the European or USPGA Tours, at present, is akin to trying to get to the moon, In most cases I see young aspiring tour players attempting this feat on a bicycle. Let me enlighten you.
The rise in technology in the last ten years, even in the last couple of years, has seen a massive elevation in what is actually happening in the golf swing. There is technology available, right now, which can record your best swing and help you repeat it verbatim. And it is available even in Ireland! Being a member of a number of biomechanical groups in the States, gives me the insight to appreciate the breakneck speed of what we know now and what will appear in the future in regard to the golf swing, for example, the impact of wrist patterns in the swing are on a major learning curve at the moment and how to teach pace putting is all the rage as two types of putting software, Trackman and Capto, chase this elusive (for most amateurs) goal.
All fine and dandy I hear you say, but how does this affect our young aspiring tour pro? Padraig Harrington got there without all this new fangled equipment, surely we can still, as Ben Hogan liked to say “dig it out of the dirt.” Maybe, but staying in touch with my friends at the Titleist Performance Institute, reveals a plethora of young kids with scratch and plus handicaps, patiently waiting in line, for their chance to head to the moon. The biggest difference is, they have an Elon Musk type benefactor willing to help them and he owns the rocket to get them to their goals. They have the finacial backing to access all types of diagnostic equipment to measure and keep that swing in check. Work ethic, fitness, mental strength, competitiveness, attitude and a good golfing brain can all be learned or at least improved. What about the short game I hear you cry? taken for granted now, dedicated short game coaches know the difference in the release pattern of long and short game shots and drill their students accordingly. Better built wedges also help with enough bounce and grind options to tax any mathematician.
So, is it a hopeless cause for our young aspiring pro? No, but he is starting behind the eight ball, the improvement in standard in golf over the last ten years is staggering, just like the influx of Asian women onto the LPGA Tour, it has become a numbers game.
Line up a multiple and one will get through!
Epilogue – A true cycling champion!
Back in the early 60’s, a young boy hit pebbles with a wooden shafted three iron outside his home in Pedrena, Spain. He wasn’t even allowed onto the local golf course and practised hitting that three iron over the tall trees that bounded the course. It is ironic that this man loved bicycles and always had several in his garage at home as he grew up. He went on to win an incredible 87 times worldwide and is an icon in the game today, the sadly departed genius that was Seve Ballesteros. He was the bane of the American team in the Ryder Cup famously saying “I look into their eyes, shake their hand, pat their back, and wish them luck, but I am thinking, ‘I am going to bury you.”
That is the X-factor that just can’t be expalined no matter how much technology we have to improve our golf. His enviromental circumstances would never have lent themselves to him playing golf to, at times, genius level.
Finally, the GB&I Walker Cup team of 1993 played at Interlachen GC in Minnesota, USA. Twelve of our finest teed it up that week to do battle with an illustrious American team that contained the likes of Justin Leonard and Tim Herron. Only one member of that GB&I team remains on tour today, most never even made it that far.
It ain’t easy even when you do reach the moon!
Got a question this week from Holland! Who would have thought?
“Hi Tadhg, I am thinking of buying some new wedges, what advice do you give your clients when buying wedges?”
Good question and one I get asked regularly, I generally advise my clients to get three utility wedges, 50, 54 and 58 degrees. This will cover a wide range of pitching distances to the green and types of chip shot around the green. Bounce is determined by where you generally play your golf, if you mostly play on parkland courses, I would advise a higher bounce to help you with those lush grassy lies but spread it out between the three wedges. I typically like to see a lower bounce on the 50 degree wedge so that we can use it for pitch and run shots from the fringe. Conversely, a higher bounce on the 58 degree will help in sand and thick lies. For those clients that play on links style courses, I advise a lower bounce option especially on the 58 degree which can have a bounce value as low as 4. As always, go see your local club pro to get fitted for these shot saving clubs.
Quotes of the week.
“Overcoming the mentality of the anxiety you feel over the shots, it’s so much that golf does to you. And the things that I had to deal with over the course of time that I’ve been on tour. You know, I’m just so happy to be where I’m at today. I’m just happy that I won.” Danielle Kang after winning the Buick LPGA Shanghai.
“I didn’t sleep the best but I think I came out and proved a lot to myself, arguably under the most pressure I’ve ever felt coming down the stretch” “A three-footer under normal circumstances is very easy, but not when your job is on the line.” Richie Ramsey after securing his European Tour card for next season.
“It’s been such a long week, so many sleepless nights – and the pressure today.” Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño, also has a place to work next season on the European Tour!
Final word goes to a life long amateur who has never had to worry about making a living at golf, 59 year old Jimmie James, who was raised the fourth of eight children by a single mother. His impressive story revolves around playing ALL of the top 100 grestest courses in America, in just one year! To put that in context, he flew over 70,000 miles, drove over 17,000 miles and spent nearly 60,000 dollars. Finally, he hit 8,796 shots and when asked for one last thought he said, “Without fail, a member at every golf course, except one, told me to tell the people at Golf Digest their course should be ranked higher than it is.”
Maybe, all we can do in life is to stand back and admire those that put their neck on the block to try and make a living playing this great game. As Martin Luther King famously said, “ We must accept finite disappointment, but never lost infinite hope.”
The mantra of the professional golfer!
Thank you and we will talk again Friday!
Tadhg Harrington is a full time, professional golf instructor, and owner of the Harrington Golf Academy, based in Dublin, Ireland. He is a graduate of the Titleist Performance Institute and Setanta College. He is the eldest brother of three-time time Major Champion, Padraig Harrington.
He succeeds, employing empathy, passion and exceptional customer service, teaching above the noise, the quick tips, and the latest fads and is truly unique in the Irish golf industry.
The Harrington Golf Academy provides long term coaching programs designed to bring sensory processing to motor learning skills. Tadhg teaches the long game at Drynam Park Golf Centre and short game at Roganstown GC. His business partner, Ex European Tour Player, Rebecca Codd, also teaches full time at Drynam Park Golf Centre.