It’s the start of a new decade: out with old USGA handicap system, in with the new, supposedly simplified, World Handicap System.
Effective in the US January 2020, the WHS puts an end to the half dozen systems used around the globe in favor of one standard calculation. In an effort to make it easier for anyone to get an official index, the new system only requires 56 holes to be recorded (down from 90), and only the top eight of 20 rounds count (down from 10) — meaning a couple blow up rounds won’t hurt as much. The WHS is updated daily, too, which is certainly a nightmare for tournament committees but convenient for players keeping a close eye on their index.
Among the other changes, the old Equitable Stroke System is no more, replaced with the “net double bogey” standard (Double Bogey + any handicap strokes received on a hole). And the WHS even takes weather into account with the “playing conditions calculation.” The PCC determines the impact of your score based on the average of all scores posted at that course on that day (emphasizing the importance of daily updates and other player data). Lastly, soft and hard caps are now in place to safeguard your index should the wheels start to come off — as they so often do. Explained by Golf.com and Steve Edmondson, the USGA’s managing director of handicapping and course rating, if your index worsens by three points in a year, further decreases will only be calculated at 50%. That’s the soft cap. The hard cap comes into play when your index worsens by five in a year.
By all accounts, American golfers won’t see a dramatic change to their existing indexes under the new WHS — one or two stokes if anything, according to the USGA — but the new system could change how many strokes you’re getting or giving out on the tee box by a lot.
Here’s the old USGA formula to determine strokes: Course Handicap = Handicap Index x (Slope Rating/113)
And here’s the new WHS formula: Course Handicap = Handicap Index x (Slope Rating/113) + (Course Rating – par)
The biggest change to the formula is, obviously, the addition of course rating and par. This change is an ode to regions predominately playing Stableford, where points are counted as opposed to strokes. According to Dean Knuth, the USGA’s former Director of Handicapping — who has the badass nickname “The Pope of Slope” — the new formula creates a problem for American players, mostly because par is hardly indicative of how difficult, or easy, a course plays.
From his op-ed in Golf Digest:
“Where this issue becomes noticeable is how the new formula changes course handicap values from tee to tee … For example, where once a course handicap was a 12 from the back and middle tees, and an 11 from the front, under the new WHS calculations there will be much larger variations — as many as 18 shots in some instances — between tees. Part of the reason for this is that during the calculation, an approximation is being approximated again by adding Course Rating minus Par, creating an imperfect “over-spreading” of the course handicaps. Golfers moving to longer tees will think this is a logical change (they’ll be getting more strokes). Golfers playing shorter tees won’t be so happy.”
“Distance” is the Holy Grail for golfers everywhere. Every golfer I’ve ever talked or given lessons to always asks how to hit the ball farther. Even without them asking, the constant barrage of $600 drivers all the major manufacturers, specialized balls promising extra yards, and distance-driven strength training is a testament to that never-ending chase to hit the ball as far as you can. But the quest for longer shots actually starts from the ground up — literally the only point of contact between us and the ground, our feet and the shoes we’re wearing — an often overlooked source to maximize distance.
Athalonz is a golf shoe brand many may not be familiar with. But those who hit the ball really, really far, including many on the World Long Drive Tour, are wearing these shoes. Why? Because those who can hit the ball 400 plus yards know ground contact is absolutely critical, and Athalonz are designed to maximize just that.
While the modern slip-on design stands out in all the right ways, with subtle color schemes and stylish leather band wrapped around the heel, you wouldn’t think the EnVes are a high-tech performance golf shoe. But the science behind these shoes is what drives the company (the EnVe model alone holds four US Patents). “Shoes are a force transfer system. Via physics principals, the forces can be manipulated to improve power,” the company says. Anthalonz golf shoes are designed with “the right angles in the right places” to promote the natural transfer of forces throughout your entire golf swing with goal of increasing your power, from the ground up.
I was a bit skeptical of the company’s power claims at first, but after the first few rounds in varied conditions, I could confirm the comfort and stability Athalonz offer. The shoes let me feel free to swing I hard as I could without worry of slipping out of my shoes. With a lingering ankle injury — and as a PGA teaching professional and all around avid golfer practicing and playing way more than my body oftentimes can withstand — finding comfortable, durable, and stabilizing shoes is critical to my game. The difference was so great the EnVes (whites and later blacks) quickly became my go-to playing shoes. But I was still curious to see if I could actually quantify an increase in distance — so we hit the TrackMans at Pikes Peak Indoor Golf Center to find out.
The setup: The Athalonz EnVe vs FootJoy Club Casuals, both spike-less. After a few practice swings and a quick round in the simulator to warmup, the test began. Using the TrackMan’s Test Center I hit 3 sets (6 balls each) with one warmup set, alternating shoes between each set. Keeping my swing consistent with my ankle pain threshold, I wanted to see if I was getting the boost in power I thought I felt.
Here are the results:
FootJoy Club Casual set 1 totals. Avg. total distance 274.9 yards.
Athalonz EnVe set 1 totals. Avg. total distance 285.4 yards.
FootJoy Club Casual set 2 totals. Avg. total distance 260.4 yards.
Athalonz EnVe set 2 totals. Avg. total distance 270.7 yards.
FootJoy Club Casual set 3 totals. Avg. distance 273.7 yards.
Athalonz EnVe set 3 totals. Avg. distance 271.3 yards.
For those crunching the numbers, that’s an average 6+ yards in total distance gained in the Athalonz EnVe over the course of this test. Given the comfort and stability I mentioned before I would’ve told you the difference is was way more than 6 yards — and in the majority of sets it actually was — I just feel like I can swing harder.
It’s one thing to feel like a nice new pair of shoes is helping your game, but it’s a whole other thing to know they’re helping you play better. As a teaching pro and avid golfer myself, you should see what Athalonz shoes can do for you.
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First things first: If you’re looking for an unbiased opinion on marijuana’s place on (or off) the golf course, go somewhere else — you outta know where we stand.
Weed’s already legal in some form in 22 states in this country, fully legal in 11 of them, and adding more to the list with each election cycle. The NHL doesn’t punish players for using it, the MLB has removed it from its list of banned substances, too, and hoards of athletes, including some golfers, have begun citing the benefits and even promoting the use of cannabis products. Yet some powers that be still believe a drug is a drug is a drug — and drugs are bad, mmmkay.
Robert Garrigus learned the PGA Tour’s stance on the issue last March after he was suspended for testing positive for “elevated levels” of THC. The 22-year Tour veteran lives in Washington State (where weed is legal for medicinal and recreational use), reportedly owns a weed farm himself, and uses it to treat knee and back pain as prescribed by his doctor. While he’s no stranger to the drug culture, having checked himself into rehab in 2003 and speaking publicly about his struggle with substance abuse, he’s still a far cry from your standard “pothead” stereotype. He tried his best, with the help of his doctor, to stay within the tour’s limits and play by the rules to no avail, and it cost him 12 Tour events.
If anything, Garrigus should be heralded, not punished, for overcoming his past of alcohol and drug abuse and speaking publicly about it. After all, anyone remember what Tiger Woods went through?
After his return at the 3M Open in July, Garrigus’ stance on marijuana hasn’t changed, and it’s a familiar tune that mirrors some of the common sense that’s allowed for marijuana legalization to become so widely accepted.
“I could be on OxyContin on the golf course and get [an exemption] for that. I think that’s ridiculous. The Tour can talk to me all they want about it but that is a double standard,” Garrigus told USA Today. “The fact that it is socially unacceptable for cannabis and CBD right now blows my mind. It’s OK to take Oxycontin and black out and run into a bunch of people, but you can’t take CBD and THC without someone looking at you funny. It makes no sense,” Garrigus said.
Let’s play a quick game of Would You Rather. Would you rather you or a loved one take pharmaceutical substances proven to be highly addictive and often lead to overdose, or smoke a plant? (In case you haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of an opioid epidemic in this country that’s being fueled by pharmaceuticals like OxyContin.) Next round: Would you rather you or a loved one take OTC drugs proven to cause liver and kidney damage with prolonged use, or smoke a plant? And for the bonus: Would you rather athletes and their doctors be able to decide what’s best for them to be able to perform, or leave it up to the business people representing a sports brand?
I know my answers.
“[The Tour] had to deflect. They have an image to protect and uphold.” Garrigus said after meeting with Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan at the 2019 John Deere Classic.
Let’s talk about that image for a second then. Alcohol and golf often go hand-in-hand, and the likes of Arnold Palmer, John Daly and others made smoking heaters and stogies a fixture in the highest levels of the sport. There’s no controversy there, no sponsorship money lost or anything close to suspensions. Why is recreational marijuana so much different? The question still stands outside of recreational use: Why can’t a player use a legalized, prescribed medication to treat themselves off the course?
It’d be one thing if changing its stance on marijuana meant the Tour would be overrun by weed brands or whatever else it deems unsavory to its image, but that’s not going to happen — the NHL and MLB are certainly no worse off. At the end of the day, it’s not even about upholding the sanctity of sport, or upholding an image at all. PEDs and “hard” drugs aside, who the fuck cares what people do in their off time so long as it’s not affecting the results on the leaderboard?
Really, as legalization becomes even more widespread, the Tour’s just setting itself up for more stories like that of Garrigus’. It’s an issue that’ll keep on growing, like a weed.
Once the official announcement is made, the Tour will see its broadcasting value increase a ridiculous 60%. That’s thanks to the new broadcasting deals with CBS and NBC totaling $700 million per year, up from $400 million. The 9-year agreement keeps the two networks as the official homes of golf, and begin once the previous contracts expire at the end of the 2021 season.
Why such a dramatic increase?
Tiger Woods, probably. The 2018-2019 season was the best we’ve seen from Tiger as of late, and from the Tour as a whole. It was emotional, it was controversial, and it was super fun to watch. The “Tiger Effect” is back in full fucking effect.
At this point it doesn’t even matter to the masses if Tiger wins or loses — so long as he’s playing, we’re watching — it just so happens that he’s coming off one of his best seasons to date, and performing better than many thought he would after making his comeback. And lucky enough for the Tour, it’s all happening as their current broadcast deals are expiring. The Tour did make a little gamble by not opting out of the deals and making a go at a larger amount back in 2017, good call.
It’s not all luck, perhaps. Golf has come along way in reimagining itself in recent years (still thanks in large part to Tiger). Brooks, Rhambo, DJ, Rory, JT, Phil, Rickie — there is no shortage of superstars to root for. And now, going out on a limb a little here, the Tour is enjoying its very own international super villains in Patrick Reed, and, to a lesser degree, Bryson DeChambeau, too. Golf is younger, flashier, and a whole lot more interesting. Those trends show no signs of stopping, and when you add the second-coming of Tiger Woods to the table, it’s no surprise it’s paying off for the PGA Tour.