The Little One began with a Big idea. Dan Bonomo wasn’t the first golfer ever to become frustrated with his apparent inability to make a simple golf swing. Something similar caused Karsten Solheim to create Ping and Gary Adams to conceive Metal Woods, which became Taylor-Made. Dan’s objective was a little simpler—”Find A Way” because “Just Do It” was already taken. Verbal or written advice will only help you so much. Sooner or later you have to develop, feel and train yourself to master a functional swing to enjoy golf, and Dan’s constant “over the top” swing was driving him crazy. Dan’s baseball background brought back memories of a training aid for batting: a thin heavy rod that helped hitters “groove” a swing and strike the ball more solidly. Why wouldn’t that work in golf? The Little Club was born in the year 2000. The concept of the baseball rod, the Thunder Stick, helps create a focus on a smaller impact area. The Little Club’s head is just large enough for a golf ball, but otherwise is the normal 7-iron length, loft and weight. “It’s a paperweight,” said Kendall Thomas, head professional at the PGA Superstore in Scottsdale, when he saw the head. An hour later he was hitting balls into a net with the paperweight laughing like everyone else when they realize how easy it is to hit the ball. Obviously a small-headed club would demand greater focus on swing path and timing, leading the player to a more careful swing than they would have with a normal club. That’s the key, according to Tour Professional Gary Birch, who also happens to be an amateur psychologist. “You’re in an unknown environment hitting this club, so you have no unrealistic expectations; you don’t feel you should hit a ball solidly.” But, you do, time after time. You’re essentially swinging the sweet spot, learning through feedback to improve your impact position. Training aids abound, but only a few help you coordinate the whole of the swing. The Little One does that, and amazingly well. When you graduate to your own clubs after a 15-ball warm up with Little One you’ll find your swing a little slower and more controlled, but, like Gary, you will likely add a half club to your usual iron distances. Your club appears so much easier to hit that you’ll swing without any tension. Try the Little One, it may make you a lot better! Or at least, it will win you a few bets while others are laughing.
You can find one for yourself at azgolf.org, or directly from Dan at [email protected]
Just Hit It!
What would you pay for a golf club that is guaranteed to hit every drive 260 yards down the center of the fairway? I don’t mean a club that’s simply more forgiving, that will reduce your hook or your slice or give you more distance on your off-center hits. I mean a beautiful boomer into the middle of the short grass, every single time.
There are already plenty of clubs on the market that make promises like this, and they generally cost $400-500 new. You’ve probably got one in your bag right now. So how much more would you pay to know for certain that you’re going to get the result you want? An additional $500? $1,000? More?
I wouldn’t pay a penny for such a club.
Are you surprised? Let’s think about it for a bit. Yes, the first time you swing this Biggest Big R7-983 Bigfoot you’ll thrill to the sight of the ball soaring into the sky and settling to rest in Position A. Your friends will ooh and aah, you’ll walk a little taller, and you might even play the game of your life—though you’ll still be on your own for the approach shots, the short game and the par-threes. For the first time in ages, you’re not buying the drinks after the round. The ride home feels shorter somehow. Your wife looks prettier. The kids are better behaved.You are TheMan.
But what happens next week? You show up, full of your newfound confidence, swing smartly, sending your opening drive straight and true—and then your brother-in-law steps up with his brand new Biggest Big Et Cetera and the next thing you know his ball is sharing prime real estate with yours. Your step loses some of its spring, your pride and joy feels a little tarnished, and you’re not looking forward quite as much to next week’s round.
And, sure enough, at your next game, the rest of your foursome drags out their Biggest Bigs, and you begin to notice a nasty cluster of divots right down those formerly green paths. Pretty soon, you all agree that there’s really no point in bothering to swing this Biggest Big driving club, so you walk directly from the previous green to a spot 260 yards from the hole’s former teeing ground and each drop a ball somewhere away from an existing divot. Your round is quicker, and your scores are reduced significantly, but you know that something’s not right. You consider sleeping in or cleaning the garage next week. Or taking up tennis.
You realize that the great score you recorded when you first used the club was something you bought, not something you earned. The pride you were feeling seems pretty hollow about now. What’s happened is that the game you once enjoyed is no longer your own.You’ve taken the value of the effort that led you to your best results and exchanged it for the false economy of someone else’s certainty. The only thing such a magic club can do is to take all themagic out of the game itself.
Golf club manufacturers seduce us with the promise of implements that will undo our errors, and lead us down the straight and narrow. They can’t, of course, and that’s a good thing—even though we would like to believe they can. Such fantasies have always been part of this complex game’s charm. And yet, the moment we realize we would reject an all-correcting club is when we move closest to a true understanding of why we play at all.
We’re funny creatures, we humans. We construct our lives so as to eliminate as many obstacles aswe possibly can. And then we take a whole set of artificial difficulties and obstacles, put them directly in our way so we have to maneuver around and over and through them, and we call it a game.
Why do we play golf? What are we hoping to prove when we do? Is it just a pleasant walk or ride in the country, or is there something more that draws us back to the course time after time?
Golf is a game of overcoming challenges. Many of them are internal. But more of them are external: water hazards, sand bunkers, long rough, trees, elevated greens, tricky putting contours, and the sheer distance from tee to green. For every golfer, there’s an ideal mix of difficulties and opportunities that will provide the internal tingling warmth of knowing you overcame the obstacles and didwhat you set out to do.
It’s the job of the course designer to provide those difficulties, ideally a host of options that allow a hard way home for the highly-skilled player and a safer route that requires more strokes but lets the lesser player complete the hole without shame. It’s the job of the equipment manufacturer to create implements that allow the player to enjoy the game. And it’s the job of the governing bodies to maintain and protect the challenge of the game, making sure that it neither becomes so easy that we quit because of boredom nor so difficult that success by our own measure is hopelessly out of reach.
The player has the easy job. There’s a ball in front of you. Just hit it!
Just Hit It is available to order at www.franklygolf.com or Amazon.com.
Make It Simple
By Michelle Evens
"How hard can it be? Swing the club – hit the ball."
These were the simple words of encouragement given to me by Keith Kalny, who during my days as a “cart girl” at the Wigwam Golf Resort, was an aspiring golf pro. He made it sound so basic—so simple. It certainly is not!
Years ago—many years ago—I had the opportunity to work at the SpangdahlemGolf Course in Germany. The scenery was beautiful, and the weather in the summertime was absolutely wonderful. With daylight lasting until 10 p.m., there were many opportunities to play, and my golf game was not too shabby.
Fast-forward to 2008: Playing less frequently, combined with the addition of a few extra pounds and loss of some flexibility, managed to change the swing of my younger days.My golf game could actually be downright embarrassing at times. During bouts of topping, slicing and every other way of sending the ball somewhere other than its intended path, I would often repeat the old, “Swing the club—hit the ball.” If it were only that easy!
People seem to assume that those of us who work for the Arizona Golf Association are actually good at the game. Granted some are, but I needed an overhaul. I decided that getting back to the basics was probably a good place to start. With 6-iron in hand, I ventured into GolfTEC in Peoria. There I met the director of instruction, Peggy Gustafson, an LPGA teaching professional with 27 years experience. She hooked me up to monitors that measure shoulder turn, hip turn, swing path, club head angle and just about every other part of a golf swing that can be analyzed.After a few swings, Peggy took one look at the playback of my swing on the monitor and, in her endearing Texas accent, summed up my problem in one sentence: “You’re making this a lot harder than it needs to be.”
So, back to the basics we went. Just as a mechanic builds a high powered engine one piece at a time to obtain optimumperformance, so goes the building of a proper golf swing. Accuracy and Power can only be realized though the learning and practicing of each component. Correct grip, stance and ball placement, combined with a back swing suited to the individual, proper release point, hip turns, shoulder turns and swing speed all factor into the making of a finely tuned golf swing.
First, we changed my grip to enable a better wrist hinge.Next, we took out some unneeded twists and turns and then shortened my back swing. I was concerned that I might lose power with these changes, but Peggy kept encouraging me to stick with it and practice. The videos of recent lessons and drills that were available on GolfTEC’s website provided an excellent source of review before hitting the driving range.
Then the day came to put it to the test. I joined the Southwest Golf Media Association at the Rim Golf Club in Payson. Even though I’d only had a few lessons up to this point, I just knew I was going to knock at least ten strokes off my game!My boss forewarned me that it would be natural to revert back tomy old swing once I got out on the course.Whether it was natural or the power of suggestion I’m not sure, but that’s exactly what happened.
In lessons to follow, Peggy brought out the big guns. I began to train with some of their unusual golf toys. Included in the GolfTEC toy box were balance aids, weighted clubs and,my personal favorite, the power swing fan. Each week, different components of my swing would be compared to various golf pros on the monitor. Similarities were rewarded with Peggy’s “That’s awesome!” One day, while going over the stats, she mentioned a smash factor number, and this one really got my attention. Although this new swing took a lot less effort, I was actually hitting the ball a lot harder!
In February, I noticed an upcoming charity event on the AGA website. Sanderson Ford was hosting an event at the Wigwam to benefit the West Valley Child Crisis Center. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to once again try the new swing—good course, good cause and scramble format. I called Andy Reece at Sanderson and was paired with three other players.
The day of the event, I was surprised that instead of having a case of the “first tee jitters,” I was thinking about that smash factor. And smash it I did! We actually used my tee shot. Many times throughout the day, I was pleased that I was able to hit quite a few shots that were used during our round. As an added bonus, my fellow players were complimenting my new swing.
Hitting better has incurred a new obstacle, however. Being in a hurry to see just how well and how far I’ve hit the ball, has given me an annoying case of the “lookups.”We all know what that can do to a golf game—the proverbial cat isn’t the only thing that was killed by curiosity. Peggy’s advice on looking down the fairway in that split second before you have even hit the ball: “That ball is not going to get so far away in the few seconds after you hit it that you will not be able to find it.”
I wonder if they have anything in the golf toy bag for this one!
Michelle Evens is the AGA’s club programs manager.
A Better Drive
By Pete Wofford
Today, in a slower golf economy, the trend of who drives the best on the golf course is no longer reserved for tee shots with oversized titanium drivers, but now includes the golf car and who drives the best from tee to greens. In fact the golf car is a booming industry, not from the club manager’s perspective but in the custom golf car marketplace. Now the best driver includes custom golf cars that offer versatility, from the homeowner’s driveway to the clubhouse with all the features often found in your combustion burning multi-geared automobile.
Although the golf industry-supported research groups and foundations admit they don’t track the amount of golf cars in play (or growth or trends), independent marketing firms from outside golf have produced a few outreaching reports.
“While the new fleet golf car [for golf course use] market remains flat, the robust growth is in the personal transportation segment and especially so to in the light and heavy-duty utility segments,” said Dr. Stephen Metzger, a managing director of International Market Solutions. “Further, due to the tight golf course market, the number of used golf cars coming off lease programs will not be sufficient to provide the number of vehicles required for this growing market.”
Metzger’s study projects that new vehicle production will be needed to fill this void, and he suggests new manufacturing facilities may be needed to accommodate this expanding customer base. And the newest manufacturer’s of golf cars are from China, Japan and Southeast Asia, targeting the U.S. market like the automobile industry with lighter, more user-friendly and more affordable golf cars. The implied message is that the way the automobile industry in Detroit is struggling, “heads-up” to Augusta, Ga. (home to Club Car and E-Z-Go golf cars), the competition is not across the street but outside the borders.
Basically the golf car terminology is being replaced with Small, Task-Oriented Vehicle (STOV), or more commonly known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV). STOV products may be powered by gas, diesel or a battery pack. They range from the common golf car and related golf carbased utility vehicles with cargo beds or extra seats and also encompass the heavy-duty, off-road, side-byside vehicles, including the beefy 4-wheel drive UTV products.
An NEV is technically defined as a “Low Speed Vehicle” (LSV) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard as a vehicle: (a) that is 4-wheeled, (b) with a top attainable speed in 1 mile of more than 20 mph and not more than 25 mph on a paved level surface, and (c) with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of less than 2,500 pounds.
“Oh, the golf car industry is upside down from 20 years ago,” agreed Linda Hoffman, co-owner of Tucson’s Golf Cars of Arizona. “It used to be 80 percent of golf cars were fleet or green grass golf course driven and featured simple comforts to help the golfer. Today, the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) golf car manufacturers are limited to growth in a golf course downsizing, belt-tightening economy, and instead the aftermarket custom golf car business is booming with customers anxiously awaiting delivery.”
Ironically Hoffman figures the economy is driving business. No longer is the golf car simply a means for playing golf quickly, but instead an answer to economical issues (gas-saving), environment issues (no fuel burning exhaust), politically correct issues and an answer to planned gated community issues that encourage a slower, retired lifestyle. “The real estate market is keeping us busy with golf car garages that include inhome designs and dedicated 20 amp plugs for ease in maintenance,” added Hoffman.
The custom golf car industry as a whole is enjoying growth, but the aftermarket independent representative, in particular, is targeting non-golfers as well. “We offer a variety of golf car, NEVs such as the Cadillac Escalade, Hummer and even the Roadster that appeal to anybody, not just golfer’s,” said Rusty Jacobson, Service Manager at Classi Carts, Tucson. “Customers come in with a variety of requests, and just like adding features to your personal car from the rims to the paint color, we try to do it all.”
The cost of a custom golf car can range from a minimum pre-owned rebuilt model at $2,500 to a showroom Mercedes quality $18,000. “The baby boomer-generation will really have impact on supply and demand, and pricing,” said Ray Hoogenraad of California-based American Custom Golf Car. “Plus the international golf car is proving to be competitive in quality and price.”
So, when it comes to the best drive in golf, relax and buy a better drive. Remember it’s the journey between tees and greens that makes the final destination worthwhile.
Late Round Purchases
By Pete Wofford
Tis’ the season to go shopping! With the holidays fast approaching and playing winter golf at a premium, now is the time to take advantage of your computer and the hottest trend of “e-tail online marketing.” It is a time for late round shopping, where the only creature stirring is the click of a computer mouse.
The convenience of and access to online golf retail is changing the shopping habits of golfers, globally.Where 10 years ago the local golf shops relying on the hands-on “test-drive before you buy’ approach, the thought of buying golf clubs online was unheard of.
Today the success of e-Bay.com re-selling used golf clubs, and now offering closeout prices on overstocked equipment, and a half-dozen major off-course retail stores publishing online catalogs, the golf industry cannot and does not even attempt to keep up with who is selling golf online.
“The reality of tracking who is buying, and what they are selling would be endless and ever-changing,” said Tom Stine, co-founder Golf Datatech, the industry’s leading consumer research group. “Ten years ago, I don’t think we could have predicted the impact the Internet has had on golf retail, but we do know that shops and manufacturers have found success since volume of sales is up.”
Stine summarized that the competition of the $25 billion golf industry has made the green grass golf shop more customer service oriented, allowed consumers to be better educated when making big dollar decisions and even brought the handyman-working-out-of-the-garage to the market place.
So of the thousand-plus choices online, there are a few premier online golf retail stores that have established the foundation for online buying. Many of these websites are extensions of the off-course retail store, while a few more are simply warehouses sharing distribution information with original equipment manufacturers.
Now is the time to take advantage of online shopping, where the store is open 24-hours, 7-days a week, where guaranteed customer satisfaction is standard, and incentives such as free shopping or out-of-state tax breaks is saving the golf consumer time and gas-money. Listed here are a few of the top online golf shop retail outlets.
In 1975, Carl Paul and his wife Barbara, and his brother Frank Paul embarked on their first consumer retail expansion by creating The Golfsmith Store accessory catalog. In 1976, the company grossed more than $1 million. In 1980, Golfsmith established the Golf Clubmakers Association (GCA), an organization designed to support and guide the growing number of clubmakers around the world. Over the last five years, Golfsmith has further shown its commitment by providing online shopping. Golfsmith.com now features product reviews, “player rewards” frequent buyer discounts, 20-percent team discounts and many other shopper-friendly services like in-store pickup.
The online shopping experience includes personalization with Golfsmith purchases, e-card gift cards that are like credit cards online and the company’s business roots in clubmaking, all the parts, education and accessories allowing you to build your own golf clubs.
HOT ITEM: Captain Kirk’s Putter
From Golfsmith is a pop culture icon that offers unprecedented forgiveness. This fully USGA conforming, officially licensed collectible shares its looks with the classic 1960 television series Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 starship. With the highest moment of inertia the NCC-1701 is the most forgiving putter offered by Golfsmith. Most of its weight is positioned in stainless steel heel and toe weight cylinders, which gives the CNC-milled putter head its unique look—and also serve as alignment aids. The aluminum body features an advanced urethane face insert for soft, solid feel at impact. ($249; golfsmith.com)
Golf Galaxy opened its first store in 1997 and pride’s itself on being the first and only interactive golf store. With 77 stores in 29 states, each averaging 17,000-square feet in size, Golf Galaxy offers superstore selection and pricing with PGA and LPGA on-staff golf shop knowledge and service. The toll free support service allows additional access when placing orders. The retailer also sells pre-owned clubs and offers club trade-ins good toward any in-store purchase. And the affiliation with GolfWorks, and Ralph Maltby.com studios allows detailed customization of equipment, including repairs.
The holiday specials include novelty head covers, tabletop dice/golf games and apparel. The Golf Galaxy gift card is good forever, and it is redeemable online, at a retail store or used over the phone. Book a lesson here or buy personalized golf balls—the site has much more to offer beginners and scratch golfers.
HOT ITEM: SkyCaddie SG5
The hot product heading into holiday sales SkyGolf ’s SkyCaddie SG5, the newest and the company’s most advanced GPS range finder. The ultimate in simplicity, the SG5 is hand-held, lithium rechargeable battery and water–resistant case. You’ll always know how far you are from the center of the green. Even if you can’t see it. ($429.99; golfgalaxy.com)
Credit the success of eBay shopping, and the PGA of America Value Book affiliation for the million-dollar growth of 3balls.com. Basically this 10-year-old site is for used clubs with some new overstock models. Founders Leigh Bader (a PGA member) and Joe Ricci took trade-in clubs in their small Boston suburb golf shop. After too much inventory and realizing the market for old, collectable and used clubs, the golf professionals put the stockroom on eBay’s auction. Needing to put a dollar value on used clubs prompted the PGA Value Book, with which consumer’s can see the price of their garage leftovers.
To name just a few holiday deals include, Cobra’s HS9 drivers that were $480—now $140, Bridgestone’s GC Hybrid that was $150—now $80, and Ping’s G2i Craz-E putters for $89.50.With purchases of more than $100, customers receive free shipping, and one-year subscription to Golf Digest.
HOT ITEM: Titleist Iron Deal
On 3balls where used clubs come first a set of Titleist 704.CB irons in very good condition cost only $249.50, a significant savings from the original manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $896.
Clearly one of the most comprehensive golf equipment sites on the web, The Golf Warehouse is offering everything from the basics (clubs, carts, shoes and apparel) to newfangled gadgets such as range finders, all competitively priced. There are plenty of closeout specials (just click on the Hot Deals tab), but selection is the story here: all of the major brands from Callaway to Taylor Made to Ping. Product pages have crisp pictures from multiple angles and extensive features and options lists. Receive e-mail alerts about sales and specials. The site now has a 30-day playability guarantee: If you don’t like what you bought, you can return it for store credit. Not surprisingly, TGW has a whole section selling cutrate demo and returned equipment.
HOT ITEM: TaylorMade r7 460 driver
One of the limited-offer discounts seen online was the TaylorMade r7 460 driver. For example, the original manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $500, and with a few clicks of loft and shaft selection, TGW’s price comes up $224.99.
Pro Golf, Inc., on the web offers more than 40 years of off-course retail at 110 golf shops in 30 States, and in Canada, Puerto Rico and Ireland. Like other sites, the discounts, closeouts and variety of collectibles, books and videos, can prove to be a good value for the savvy shopper. Unique is the company’s Affiliate Program where you can build your own online sporting goods store and earn up to 7 percent commissions. Besides the abundance of golf choices, several links within the site can steer visitors toward the sporting good selections, such as outdoor games.
HOT ITEM: Nike SasQuatch SUMO2
Progolf.com is featuring the Nike SasQuatch SUMO2 driver on its hot list. With free shipping and “bill me later” options of credit, what was an originally suggested retail price of $479.99 is now $299.99.
Golf Around the World—which is designed by Gary Wiren, PGA Master Professional and leading authority on golf instruction, and now managed by his son, offers credibility and the most comprehensive collection of the finest golf training aids available today. Not all golf swings are alike, and the variety of training aids found here will appeal to different students. The website is not the most creative, but it is basically a catalog of the company’s 9-to-5 warehouse.
HOT ITEM: Power Swing Fan
Specials range from the $250 Stuart Appleby-endorsed sliding platform called The Leaderboard to the $55 Power Swing Fan that simply creates resistance in the full swing.