Welp, looks like the cat’s outta the bag — apparently everyone is playing golf. At the very least everyone is buying new golf stuff, and at a record pace.
According to Golf Datatech, LLC, U.S. retail golf equipment sales from July through September of 2020 surpassed the $1 billion mark, representing the first-time sales in Q3 have ever exceeded $1 billion, and the second highest quarter of all time (Q2 2008 sales = $1.013 billion). The research firm also reported that Q3 golf equipment sales for 2020 were up a staggering 42% over the same time period in 2019, with golf bags, wedges, and irons leading in sales.
“These month-over-month sales records are unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” says Golf Datatech’s John Krzynowek. “Our Rounds Played data also shows similar record-breaking growth over the past several months, which is a strong indication that avid golfers and newcomers alike are driving the sport to new levels right now.”
Graphic via Golf DataTech.
Outside of a few Corona-related WDs, and the upending of every tours’ schedule, golf has been one of the few things to remain steadfast during the pandemic. Highlighted as one of the safest activities one can do in the Covid era, the game we love seems to be catching on with the masses. Krzynowek says year-to-date sales for total equipment are now up 0.2% compared to 2019, calling
The golf advocate in me is cheering, welcoming all newcomers to the most beloved and hated game you’ll ever play. I hope you’re young, diverse and openminded — unfazed by women wearing active wear, anyone wearing hoodies, and music on the course. Welcome to the family, please just try to keep pace. The weekend golfer in me, on the other hand, is tired of fully-stacked tee sheets and driving ranges at capacity. It’s a good problem to have in the long run, but come on, I am a member.
True or false: All club fitters are the same, stick with the brands you’ve always played.
To be clear, nothing is further from the truth. Just how far we’ve come in club design and fittings is on full display inside the True Spec Golf outdoor fitting container at The Ridge at Castle Pines North. Drawer after drawer of state-of-the-art club heads, walls lined with premium shafts, club measuring machines, and everything else you’d find in a premiere fitting studio packed neatly inside a sleek, unassuming container just off the driving range.
I thought I had an idea of what to expect when the company invited me to its new Denver location for a full bag fitting. I had a custom fitting several years before at a big box outfitter — how different could it be? I wasn’t even considering any upgrades to my bag nor had any notion that my current clubs could be holding me back. But boy was I mistaken.
The two Bs of True Spec club fittings
Within minutes of Master Club Fitter Tyler Yearley’s explanation of the True Spec outdoor fitting process, I knew this fitting would be different. True Spec fitters begin with a series of simple questions to better understand who you are as a golfer — current handicap, strengths and weaknesses, objectives, etc. — before shifting the focus to your current equipment. Yearley walked me through the specs of my current bag using the onsite machines to “blueprint” my clubs, explaining how the length, weight, lie and loft, along with shaft flex and profile, all play a factor in my on course performance.
Blueprint in hand, it was time to get a baseline. After several swings with my six-iron on the Trackman, Yearley had the data he needed to optimize my irons. I’m no stranger to Trackman data, but having an expert eye define the correlation between the numbers and my overall performance was truly enlightening. For years I thought my bag was already built for my game, that all the flaws and inconsistencies stemmed from my swing mechanics. But Yearley explained how minute changes in my specs can have a dramatic effect on my inefficiencies.
“I firmly believe custom fit clubs are the quickest and most enduring way to improve your scores,” Yearley, a former teaching pro says. “Depending on how often you play, it’s worth going through the process every year or two.”
My baseline numbers clearly showed where my current bag is lacking — ball speed/smash factor, and excess spin — none of which I really considered could be dramatically improved with upgraded equipment. I was almost embarrassed at how much I didn’t know about my current setup, not only the specs of my bag but just how much it was affecting my performance on the course. With my hope restored, off we went to select club heads and shafts for testing.
A tried and true testing process
True Spec leaves nothing to be desired when it comes to testing the latest golf tech, with more than 35,000 club head and shaft combinations on hand.Yearley had several iron setups in mind for me given my current specs and baseline numbers, and made room for anything I was curious to try. True Spec is a “brand agnostic” company when it comes to OEMs, meaning there are no incentives influencing their recommendations — their goal is to determine the best equipment for you, period.
“There are some golfers who have always been very loyal to one brand,” he says. “However, it’s actually quite rare that one brand will be the best fit through the entire bag — something we’re starting to see even at the tour level. Our mission is to find and build the best set of clubs for your game, regardless of the manufacturer.”
True Spec’s testing process itself is fun and straightforward. The Denver location offers the added benefit of testing outdoors, taking advantage of real turf to deliver a true feel for the clubs you won’t find hitting off traditional mats. You’ll notice a difference between club setups immediately, though, for the less educated like me, having an expert weigh in helps make sense of all the data. “I don’t like the dispersion with this one, bring it back,” Yearley would say before handing me the next club. “Ball speed is really good here. Let’s see if this shaft gives us better trajectory.” Sure enough, after a few more configurations Yearley had my iron prescription dialed down to two options — one for optimal distance and another built for accuracy. They’re called “master fitters” for a reason, and the proof is in the numbers.
The true difference
From start to finish my True Spec fitting exceed all expectations. By the time I got home an email with a breakdown of Yearley’s overall findings, truncated charts and data from our Trackman session, and an easy-to-read prescription and quote to use when upgrading my bag was waiting for me in my inbox. I wish everything in life was this easy.
All club fitters are not created equal. It was an eyeopening experience, to say the least, and one I’ll look forward to again for years to come. Yearley’s expert insight gave me the tools needed to improve my game without all the sales pitches and awkward up-sells I was used to. With unbiased, experienced master fitters, state-of-the-art testing machines, tools and studios, and more equipment combinations than you’ll want to count, there’s a reason why True Spec Golf is the worldwide leader in custom club fittings. See for yourself at any one of their locations, the results won’t lie.
This promotional post was made in partnership with True Spec Golf. CGB endorses all advertisers, products and services promoted on our pages.
Different but the same — that pretty much sums up the return of live golf broadcasts. Driving Relief, which pitted Rickie Fowler and Matt Wolff against Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy in 2-man skins game benefitting the American Nurses and CDC Foundations, was a welcome sight for all fans yearning for competitive golf. Marquee names playing for *high stakes on a Sunday is what we’ve been waiting for ever since the mid-tournament cancellation of the Players Championship in March. But as great as it was to see the return of some of the world’s best players, one can’t help but think it was a missed opportunity.
After the Players was cancelled nothing but bad news followed for another month-plus, and the pain became all too real with postponement of the 2020 Masters. Dark, dark times. But then, far off in the distance, a faint light began to flicker. The Philly Mick v Big Cat rematch was confirmed — with the added star-power of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — just enough to whet our appetites. Then came our first course, one of the first live professional sports broadcasts in the Covid-era, Driving Relief.
Everyone knew things would be different, for obvious reasons, but it was hard not to get a little excited. I honestly didn’t care who was playing, the format, the course or anything else. Knowing I’d be watching golf on a Sunday afternoon was enough for me, or so I thought.
Sunday cocktail in-hand, I turned on the broadcast. I thought I had kept my expectations in check, but after the initial high from seeing my favorite player (big Rickie guy here) and Co. live on tv wore off, I was left wanting a whole lot more from the event. It wasn’t the players or the the nonexistent crowd at Seminole Golf Club that let me down. It wasn’t the format, camera angles, or shitty audio, either. The biggest let down, really, was being force fed everything not happening on the course, and that there was too damn much of it, like always.
With the scant broadcast experience I do have, I understand there’s A LOT of down time to fill in between the action, even more so when there’s only four players in the field. The best broadcasters are those who make us forget there’s nothing happening for a moment and can keep us engaged until play starts again. The problem with the Driving Relief broadcast was how blatantly obvious they made it. It’s hard to stomach off-camera voices rehashing the same storylines and phone interviews that go on for way too long and interfere with the action we tuned in to see in the first place. (I don’t care if you’re a fan of President Trump or not, that phoner was fucking agonizing.)
It truly was an “unprecedented” event, in line with 2020’s new catchphrase. Not a minute went by when we weren’t reminded of these “unprecedented times’ during commercials and the broadcast, as if everyone watching had an infant’s grasp on the the state of the world. The only respite came when we actually got to hear the the players talking to each other on the course, though we didn’t get nearly enough of that. I wouldn’t even be typing this had there been more focus on the players in between shots, really.
In hindsight, the whole thing was pretty much a new look to the same ol’ golf broadcast — leaving viewers with too much filler and not enough action. Sure, we got to see the guys rocking shorts and casual shirts carrying their own bags down the fairway. We got to see every shot and some banter here and there, too, but every golfer I know will tell you some of the most memorable moments happen in between shots. That’s what I want to see — the self depreciation after a bad shot, the smack-talk, the jokes and everything else, all of it. I want to see and hangout with the characters behind the stats — guys with ‘staches like that are people I want to know. I don’t want listen to the same voices stretching for a new angle on the same story to talk at me about hour after hour when I know the players are having a different conversation.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the event and ready to watch more. But golf had a chance to give the fans, and the world, a completely new perspective of the game. I believe DJ, Wolff, Rickie and Rory were all prepared to play their part in that — look no further than Rickie’s outfit and Wolff’s handlebar mustache. The cameras were there and the mics were hot, but the networks whiffed. At a time when golf is one of the few sports allowed to be played you’d think the powers that be would take advantage of the opportunity and focus on drawing more people in to grow the game, not pandering to the Covid storylines and delivering a quarantine version of the same ol’ broadcast.
Golf gets a second chance on Sunday with The Match, and the opportunity to deliver something truly special is enormous. You have Woods and Mickelson, two modern day icons in the golf world in squaring off with two more iconic sports figures. This is a chance for the sport to produce something they haven’t been able to before, to reach a market it’s never had access to before, a chance to show a side of the game many haven’t seen before — the fun, everyman’s game. Give us more than the scores and analysis, give us more on-course banter and less broadcast filler. Stop giving us hope for a better tomorrow “in these unprecedented times” and make us feel like those days are already here.
For many, golf was already an escape from the cruelties of reality, and even more so today — now’s the time to offer it to a larger audience.
While the ‘Rona continues to wreak havoc on the entire planet, there are some bright spots (in the golf world, at least). Hope remains for a salvaged 2020 Tour schedule, including the Masters, PGA Championship and Ryder Cup, and more and more states and municipalities are opening courses.
Interestingly enough, golf was one of the few *non-essential industries that never really came to a halt due to the pandemic. Up to 23 states had some kind of restrictions in place on courses — some allowing local municipalities and counties to decide, some forcing shutdowns statewide, and many others remaining open. As of Wednesday the majority of the country is open to play, with most of statewide closures concentrated east of the Mississippi. But the trend is shifting, thankfully.
Speculate all you want about the longterm impact on the game, it’s hard to know what we’re really in for. Right now all we know that it’s going to be different — you can already tell.
On the course, things feel almost the same. Almost. Hanging out with the crew is as good as always, but it’s weird not being able to share a bowl, a bottle, or even a cart together. Honestly it kind of feels like you’re a single that’s been paired with another group, even though they could be some of your best friends. I never considered a golf cart to be such an important social space until they took the keys away from us. You miss out on conversation, camaraderie and all the little stupid shit you take for granted. Really, without the social aspect provided by golf carts, it’ feels like a completely different game.
It’s also weird seeing packed parking lots but not being able to walk through a lively clubhouse to check-in, and depressing to see the starter shack shuttered on a Sunday morning, with no one around to ask about the pin locations — very ghost town-esque. We’re told we can’t show up any more than 10 minutes before our tee time — no range, no pro shop or anything else. The cups are modified so we don’t touch the flagsticks, scorecards are gone, etc, etc.. Basically, once you tee off it’s just you, your clubs, a ball, and the course. Call me cliche, but the simplicity of it all is pretty relaxing — something we all need a little more of right now. There’s also something about walking the course that makes the game feel more intimate. I’d never once walked CGB’s home course, King’s Deer Golf Club, before all of this, but fee like I know the layout even better now. You have A LOT more time to think about your game, course management and the highs and lows of it all between shots. It’s an experience all golfers should have in their lifetime (mandated or not).
All that said, we should be thankful we’re allowed to play at all. It’s a luxury many other hobbyists can’t enjoy. But there are, of course, things to consider before you head to you local club.
Make sure to call or check the course website before you book your time for specific restrictions and rules in place — things are changing daily so you want to make sure you have some idea of what to expect when you get there. If you’re new to walking, I’d highly recommend enlisting a lightweight golf bag with comfortable straps, or your own push cart to make the transition a bit easier. Viruses and bacteria can stick around on the surfaces of a golf cart for quite awhile, and the cost to disinfect each one after each round would be exponential, so it’s hard to bank on cart availability. Next, keep pace. It’ll never not be an issue in the game, but when everyone’s walking it’s all the more important. Play ready golf, we’re not on Tour here. On the flip side, be patient, aka don’t be a dick. That’s an easy one. Lastly, support your local courses and the staff. Frustrating as it may be, they’re trying their best in order for us to be able to keep playing. Take care of the course, order food and drinks to-go, buy gift cards and anything else you can do to support them, and do what they say so they can stay open.
I miss seeing the pro shop and restaurant staff and messing around with the cart barn guys. I miss the bev cart and golf carts — and I even somehow miss post-round handshakes. That will all come back, for now it’s long walks down the fairway, and just being outside with my friends that I look forward to most. I’m just glad to be playing once again and savoring the experience more than ever.
Masks are the hottest accessory on the course right now.
Quarantine Day #who knows at this point: It’s been weeks — possibly years — since I’ve set foot on a golf course. I’ve cleaned my clubs and reorganized my golf bag for absolutely no reason, multiple times, and rolled too many 4-foot putts on my tiny indoor putting green to count. Holla if you hear me.
All the social media challenges and endless hours spent on trick shot attempts, at-home workouts and watching replays of the good ol’ days will never fill the void we’re all feeling right now. I never considered a world without golf until now, but I definitely don’t want to live here anymore. At first it seemed courses would continue offering safe sanctuaries as we watched the world come down around us, but as the novel Coronavirus swept across the country it brought unprecedented change with it.
Courses are closed in 14 states, as of now, according to the GCSAA, with limited or restricted access in a number of others. Colorado is on the others list — with some municipalities allowing courses to renew operations under strict health and safety guidelines. With our local muni courses newly reopened we had a chance to jump on the tee sheet, so we took it.
It’s the first time I’ve ever second guessed if I want to golf. I mean, is it selfish to play when others can’t, is it reckless or otherwise controversial? Is it fine within the confines of “safe” play? Is it actually safe to play at all?
Having all the time in the world to overthink the decision it was on to making mental lists. Reasons to play include unrelenting cabin fever, missing the game and my friends, exercise — yeah I’m pulling that card — and the overall need for any sense of normalcy. Reasons not to play include becoming another statistic of the global pandemic, and/or contributing to its spread.
In short, we tee off in about two hours, walking 9-holes. We have to wear masks outside, contactless booking and payment, the clubhouse and driving range are closed, no-touch flags, modified cups, no scorecards, no carts, no nuthin’.
I’m excited to play, really. At most I’ll find a brief reprieve from this thing, at the least least I’ll come away with a golf experience I’ll be telling future generations about. Knowing — or at least believing — that my risk of exposure on the golf course is no greater than when taking my dog for a walk makes me feel a little less reckless. I’m practicing all the recommended social distancing when out in public, and my risk of transmitting it to others is low since I live and work alone at home, and keeping my adventures outside limited to “essential,” barring a round of golf.
It’s a bittersweet feeling — pairing the usual excitement of getting a round in with the anxiety of decision making during a global crisis — or maybe it’s just me.