I had one of the standout days of my 30 year golf industry career last Friday, when I spent two hours with noted sports psychologist, Dr. Bob Rotella. He and I have had several telephone conversations over the past couple of months, and when my travels put me in Richmond, Virginia – only an hour from Dr. Bob’s home in Keswick – I had to jump at the opportunity to spend some time with him in person.
What brought us together was a SCOR Golf customer who’s a huge fan and also a client of Dr. Rotella’s. Gary thought we should visit and compare notes about what each of us is doing to try to help golfers score better. Dr. Rotella, as you probably know, has worked with dozens of tour professionals, and has authored numerous books on the subject of performance psychology, most notably “Golf Is Not A Game of Perfect”. If you haven’t read any of his works, I highly recommend it.
We spent two hours talking about the performance challenges all of us golfers face, and diving deeply into the technology of SCOR4161 precision scoring clubs and why we’ve done what we have. What I want to share with you today are some of the real “pearls of wisdom” that I gleaned from that very enjoyable visit;
1. It’s all about short range performance. Dr. Rotella told me that tour players hit “10 and a half to 12 and a half” approach shots a round with an 8-iron or less. For the big hitters, they are mostly on par fours and threes, because all the par five holes are two-shot holes. For the shorter hitters, those approaches come on the par-fives and shorter par fours. He went on to express his advice that you just try to not hurt yourself when you have a seven-iron or longer into the green, and you fire at flags with the short irons and wedges. In his words, if you don’t feel like you can knock flags down with those scoring clubs this week, you might as well stay home.
2. The tight fairways scare the pros, too. Over the past few decades, the mower heights on fairways has been moved closer and closer, so that the pros play tighter and tighter lies all the time. I just read where the fairway height at Merion, for example, was at one inch when David Graham won the U.S. Open there in 1981, but was increased from one quarter to one half inch for this year’s Open. That’s a huge difference. So, because the ball is sitting tighter, shots are hit lower on the clubface, which we’ve found in our testing, produces lower and hotter flight. And it makes short range pitch and chip shots scary even for the pros. That’s because they play low bounce wedges to deal with the bunkers on tour. (Which I’m getting to in just a moment.) Watch TV and you’ll see tour pros putting from off the green more often than you used to, and now we know why.
3. Those tour bunkers. I’ve long known that the PGA Tour had a standard for bunker sand. They like them firm and moist, so the players can hit those miraculous bunker shots with lots of spin, and they very rarely get a “down” or plugged lie. As I’ve written before, the PGA Tour knows their “customer” is the television viewer – over 50% of which don’t even play – and they like to see these things. But I have a problem with the best players in the world enjoying bunkers that are not nearly as tough as the ones we all play every week. But what I learned from Dr. Rotella was that the PGA Tour also requires caddies to rake the bunkers from the back side, directly away from the flag – so that the rake grooves run directly at the flag! If they don’t, they get fined. Really? Sheesh!
There’s a lot more I took away, but not enough room here. Would you all like me to share more from my “Morning With Dr. Bob” next week?