If you know anything about golf, you have heard the name Titleist. They have a worldwide billion-dollar ad campaign that tells you they are the best golf ball in the world. If you watch an ad or open any golf magazine, you will see the best players in the world smiling with a Pro V1 or Pro V1x in their hands.

Titleist currently holds the title of the most popular ball in the U.S. and holds a massive lead over whichever “johnny come lately” is trying to topple this giant. Yes, Titleist is the iPhone or McDonalds of the golf ball world. However, just because you outsell the other guys, does that mean you are the best available product.

Callaway ChromeSoft and TaylorMade TP5 are trying their best to unseat the reigning champ, with Srixon and Bridgestone rounding out the current top 5 sellers. Mizuno RB Tour is a brand new addition to the market and made a huge splash with their first North American offering in over a decade.

Without getting into the weeds of ball data and overall performance, let me apply simple and easy logic to a discussion that can be more volatile than an Adidas-Nike debate. Find a ball that fits your budget, and you enjoy playing and stick with it.

Unless you have a single-digit handicap, you do not consistently deliver the golf club the same way. That means variation in ball flight, spin, and distance has more to do with your swing than your ball. So if that’s a fact of golfing life, why does the ball matter?

Easy, finding the best ball for you means you can remove a variable. If you play a lake ball or a ball found in the rough, can you blame your swing because it flew short or left? Upgrade your game by playing new balls and the same type of ball every time. You will start to understand when you made a mistake; you will become better just by knowing what to expect.

If your budget or feel allows you to play a tour ball, pick the one that you enjoy the most. Some studies show that a high greenside spin ball with tour characteristics will lower your scores. So unless you still send them into the water or OB regularly, play a tour ball. If a $4 ball is out of the question, most manufacturers make a middle-level ball. Titleist has TourSoft, TaylorMade has Tour Response, Callaway has ERC. Then again, maybe that Ram, Warbird, or “lost and found” ball is all you’ll ever need.

Titleist, Bridgestone and Volvik all have online ball fitting systems. These are based on several characteristics of ball flight and can be a great way to narrow down what ball you might like to play. In the modern golf industry, the biggest names in golf don’t really have bad products. Every driver from the top 10 companies will perform pretty well. The same can be said for the top 5 or maybe even 10 golf ball brands. Without question Titlest Pro V is the gold standard, but the lead on the field is no longer a chasm, but perhaps a tiny crack.

 

Some people live for the specific sounds or smells of their first love. That sport that drew you in before those evil hormones complicated your life. It could be the thing that you loved to do with a parent. Rooting for their favorite team, that is now your favorite team. Spending Sunday morning detailing the family car, and listening to all the little “facts” that made Ford better than Chevy, or Chevy better than Mopar.

Maybe for you, it’s the crack of a wooden bat as it launches a home run deep into the stands. It could be the smell of roasted peanuts or signing “Take me out to the ball game” that gets your blood pumping. It could be the sound of a naturally aspirated V8 revving on the line before it screams down that paved quarter-mile.

It doesn’t matter, and you may not realize that you have a thing, but trust me, you do! It could be an instrument, needlepoint, or reading, but something out there is your happy place, and I would wager that you most likely learned it from someone.

Ever since I came to Tulare Golf Course, my happy place is the first tee box as the sun comes up. The whoosh of a properly swung driver, the snap of the clubhead hitting the golf ball at full send pace, and the sun cresting the horizon is perfection. That is regardless of the course you are playing or in any country. A freshly mown green, free of ball marks, and rolling pure is just the cherry on the top of this perfect Sunday.

This past month without a golfing soul on the course, my perspective sharpened. Like a lot of us, I may have started to take the beauty of golf and golf courses for granted. Without the sights and sounds of golfers playing the game they love, what is the beauty of the course? It might as well be an oversized public park at that point.

Yes, the golfers make the golf course, and I promise, we won’t ever forget that.

On March 24th, Tulare County required us to close regardless of all the protocols we instituted to keep everyone safe. The debate on whether or not golf courses should be essential is open to conversation. We are biased at the golf course, but our answer is YES!

That Monday started like most of the days in March. A little busier than our average and perfect golf weather. Everything we would hope for on a golf course, and a brilliant week in the future.

One phone call changed the whole outlook of the remaining days of March and the future of the golf course. Tulare County insisted that we shut down immediately, and threatened penalties and fines. The claim that we were non-compliant is up for debate like so many things during this pandemic, but we complied by shutting down all future business.

March 25th brought several decisions that required quick thinking. We employ almost 50 employees between our Shop, Cart Barn, Maintenance, and 9 Iron staff.  As a family-owned business, we attempted to find a way to keep all employees working. Unfortunately, there was not a way to do this without endangering the whole company. We had to put the oxygen mask on the business before we could reach out to the employees.

The only reasonable direction was to lay off all hourly employees and allow them to apply for their benefits immediately. The management staff communicated with employees and kept them updated on changes, but as most of you know, we could not open until April 27th. That was more than a month after our closure.

I am proud to announce, without exception, our employees have gladly returned to work as we notified them. We brought all hands on deck for the reopening. Bringing in almost double our staff as we expected a rush. We opened nearly a week ahead of the Governor’s proclamation that golf is essential. All the same faces, and maybe a couple of new ones, will continue to greet you with a smile at the Pro Shop and 9 Iron Bar & Grill.

While they were away, three members of management attempted to maintain 160 acres that would usually take ten people. For Brett Miller, the GM and Alex Barberena, the Superintendent, it was business as usual. Brett is the former Superintendent and quickly got back into the old routines of mowing, irrigation repair, and spraying chemicals.

Alex became saddled with training the new guy. Robert Nava is the Pro Shop Manager and Custom Club expert at the course but has minimal experience in grounds maintenance. After several days of mowing and learning other aspects of maintenance, Robert helped Alex, and Brett developed a plan to get as much work done as possible with the skeleton crew. A select number of volunteers also assisted during the month-long shutdown.

During the closure, we took advantage of the open course and took care of two large projects. Golfers know that aeration is a necessary evil that temporarily scars the greens, for the future benefit of healthier grass.

Not only did we aerate, but we also brought a company in to “drill and fill,” an extreme form of aeration. The crew uses a very large machine to drill holes in the green and then fill with clean sand. Both processes help the roots on the bentgrass “breathe” and grow healthier.

We are working on several new and exciting things at the golf course, and I never know what to blog. New tech, new equipment, new renovations all seem exciting. I spend most of my days pushing paper and talking with the golfers to make sure we hear their excitement and their concerns.

Recently we have ramped up our pruning and chopping down of trees. It’s the season for these general clean-ups because the grass is relatively dormant this time of the year. In a Central Valley summer, we need to water and mow our fairways twice a week; as you can imagine, this doesn’t leave much time to do anything else.

I’ve mentioned in articles that one Eucalyptus tree can drink as much as three gallons of water an hour. As you can imagine, the more trees we have, the more expensive it is to water as well as the fact that we need to prune and maintain the trees for them to be as healthy as possible.

Heavy branches can be dangerous as they self prune and fall. Overgrown trees can harbor several pests included stinging insects and rodents. That on top of shading grassy areas that need sunlight to live, which creates dead spots on the course where you have bare lies and tree branches preventing you from advancing the ball.

That is the crux of the issue; can all this cutting and pruning make the course “too easy.” Our 15th hole is a medium length par 4, a soft dogleg right, right around 400 yards, and is currently the #4 handicap hole. That means our members believe it is the fourth most difficult hole to play. The massive amount of trees on the right side of the hole and strategic bunker placements make this hole easy if you find the fairway and less so from the rough.

With over twenty trees taken out and a completely new look of manicured Silver Eucalyptus, the hole is inarguably more beautiful. However, from the tee box, you no longer have a feeling of dread of getting trapped in the trees with nothing but a punch out as an option.

My counter to this argument is that you still have to hit a brilliant shot to get out. Most likely, a soft fade around a tree, with enough height to still land it softly on the green. It’s not a “gimme” type of shot. As a public course, we want our pace of play to be steady and three minutes searching for a ball and a disaster shot after finding it only slows the course down. Play a round of golf and let us know if the more manicured course has lost its bite.

 

As with all our blogs and articles, let us know what you think in the comments.

How important is launch monitor data?

All the pundits on Golf Channel and YouTube try to sell us on the idea that we can’t be a good golfer without data. You will never hit it long or straight unless you know your AoA (Angle of Attack) or your FTPR (Face to Path Ratio) or any other extreme data point. We see these magical orange boxes, and strange grey things with “Photovoltaics” and “Doppler Radar,” flashing lights, and buttons. Beep, blup, boink! And yes, scientific progress goes boink!

Dynamic loft, spin loft, and static loft, what do they mean? As a custom golf club fitter and lover of golf tech, we can pull the layers back on all of these terms and what they mean to the average golfer. My question is if you play a round of 18 and have to grind out an 89, do these mathematical formulae help or hurt? Your static loft on your Mavrik Max seven iron is 30 degrees; you flip your wrists before contact and add loft, creating an additional dynamic loft of two degrees. You now have 32 degrees of loft at the impact on a club that generates less spin than others so the ball flight is penetrating and doesn’t spin up, so very little spin loft added. Granted I am using round numbers to prove the point, how much did that information help?

The other side of this argument is this. That was on swing one, and the standard deviation could be something like 5 degrees either way, just on the dynamic loft. Now we add path and face angle and the deviations of those numbers. Unless you can consistently provide similar numbers with minimal deviation there is a very limited purpose for $20,000+ launch monitors. Personal Launch Monitors are a different category and may serve a purpose with drills and training; the same for data-driven tech like Arccos. Data is not intrinsically bad.

I do club fittings here at the golf course, and our Professional Instructors teach on the driving range. We have no plastic mats to hide mistakes, and no net to hit into, just blue sky and green grass in front of you. If I hand you a seven iron custom built for you, you can watch the ball flight and how it lands on the range. If you doubt it’s better than your current club, we can go out to a known distance and hit into an actual green. I have taken a customer to the 150-yard marker on our tenth hole and pulled out the laser rangefinder to test all kinds of products. You hit three balls from 158 yards out, back pin today, with your club and 2 are short. I hand you the latest and greatest custom fit super duper seven iron, and you put two on and one close. Does it matter to you that one iron had 600 more rpm or that the new iron launches 1.5 degrees higher?

The same situation with the new golf ball, you can argue all day that the Titleist Pro V1 is the best ball ever, and it is #1 in golf, but maybe you should be playing the Mizuno RB Tour or the Srixon Z Star. It could be that you are a Pro V1 player not a V1X player. Let’s find a good wedge distance and test 5 of each on the green you play on. Maybe you are correct and the Pro V series is #1 because of performance, not the billion-dollar marketing budget. Perhaps Tiger Woods is right and Bridgestone is the best ball in golf, then again maybe you need to play a ball that suits your price point and feel, and stop worrying about what Tiger, Phil, or DJ play.

I am a tech-head, and I love gadgets, we do have a SkyTrak Launch Monitor at the course because data does have value. In my opinion, though, after I stopped using Arccos and SkyTrak to “fix” my golf game, it became more enjoyable and magically when its more fun you improve. In summation, if your instructor or club fitter can’t help you without a launch monitor, maybe they don’t understand the game as much as they should.

The Value of Golf

With the holidays upon us and the New Year right around the corner, everyone I know is counting the money we have for the small things in life. As biased as I am about golf, even I have to freely admit that golf is a luxury, not a necessity. My only qualifier to that idea is this, so is every other sport.

When I talk to parents about getting their kids into sports, I’m told that golf is far too expensive. Of course, I would never tell anyone how to spend money, or where the value of their money is; however, facts are facts, and golf is no more expensive than the major sports played in Tulare County.

We have an amazing baseball/softball community, and soccer is almost as popular as football, but we could never argue these sports are less expensive than golf. With the average Easton baseball bat priced at $300 and a fielder’s mitt averaging $150, how can we argue about price?

Football is easily several hundred for our kids in a year, and soccer is the same. That is unless you become competitive and travel. Travel teams are one of the best ways to test our children’s abilities against the best possible competition and explain why Tulare County constantly sends teams to the national stage in multiple sports.

Travel teams are also a major expense to families and have created a perpetual need to fundraise. Entry fees, lodging, food, and the other costs involved in entering a weekend-long tournament can stop an athlete from competing before they start.

What does all of this have to do with GOLF! With golf specifically, nothing. With the argument that golf is too expensive, everything!

For less than the price of a premium bat, you can get a full set of youth clubs; for less than the price of a midrange fielders mitt, you can outfit your child in the latest golf apparel. If you are not in Tulare where we don’t charge anyone younger than High School age for range balls during the day, there are still plenty of programs for your child to learn to love golf.

Youth On Course is a program for kids between the ages of 6-18 years old and allows members to pay $5 or less to play golf on 1,200 courses all over the United States. For more information on this program, please visit www.youthoncourse.com. We at Tulare Golf Course not only fully support their mission to grow the game, but we are also a Youth On Course member.

We have small leagues locally that can give your child a real competitive environment to grow in. Unfortunately, Tulare Golf Course hasn’t found the right person to help lead a youth team for this league. You can contact Steve Maaske at Exeter Golf Course for more information.

For less than $500 annually, your child can play golf, a sport they will be able to play for the rest of their lives. If they grow to love the game, the opportunities for scholarships are less impacted then the other sports I’ve mentioned, which could be considered a return on your investment. I don’t recommend any athletics be geared as the only way to make it to higher education, it steals the fun out of the sport, but it is a nice potential side benefit.

Golf is also one of the only sports where Grandpa, Grandma, parents, and children can all play on the same field at the same time. You don’t have to yell from the sidelines when you are right next to your child, supporting them, and showing them the values of being a good sport, and the importance of integrity.

The value of family playing together and spending time together is greater than any other thing golf can offer, and hopefully, when you are a grandparent, we can host you and your grandchild for a round of golf.