‘I was totally nervous’: The last time Tiger Woods played a tournament at Innisbrook, he had a partner, Kelli Kuehne

Tiger Woods and Kelli Kuehne line up a put during the J. C. Penney Classic at the Innesbrook Country Club in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

When Tiger Woods announced Friday that he would make his first-ever appearance at the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship, at the Innisbrook Resort in Florida next week, memories came flooding back to Kelli Kuehne.

That’s because the last time Woods played Innisbrook’s Copperhead course in competition, it was as Kuehne’s partner — in the 1996 JCPenney Classic mixed-team event.

When reached by phone Friday, Kuehne said she and Woods were both still kids at heart — she was 19, Woods was 20 — and longtime friends who spent as much time goofing off that week as they did playing golf.

“One day we had a contest to see who had the most Nike logos on their clothes and clubs,” said Keuhne, who was then a rising star with a U.S. Girls Amateur and a pair of U.S. Women’s Amateur titles on her resume. “I think I wound up with 21 logos. He had almost that many, but I still beat him.”

“Another day his caddie Fluff [Cowan] spent time showing my brother and caddie Trip how to read a yardage book and how he marked each hole. It was my first event as a professional and I was totally nervous.”

Woods not so much. Though he, too, was a newbie pro, Woods was accustomed to the spotlight. He had already won his first professional event, in Las Vegas, so Tigermania was in full swing when he and Kuehne arrived at the Tampa-area resort.

“We were having dinner one night at the resort and this lady just walks up and hands Tiger her baby and says, ‘Please take a picture with my baby.’ I mean, right in the middle of dinner. I don’t think it even fazed him. He said, ‘Sure, I’ll take a picture.’

“He was just rolling at the time, he was Tiger, and he was the next one.”

Woods was close friends with the Kuehne family and often stayed with them when he was competing in junior events in North Texas. He and Kelli would play together, alongside her brothers, Trip and Hank, who were also serious sticks.

Woods and Kelli finished second in the Innisbrook event, one behind Mike Hulbert and Donna Andrews, but Woods still stole show.

“I remember really fast greens and tree-lined fairways everywhere, which I spent a lot of time chipping out of,” Kuehne says. “He didn’t have any problems — he just blasted it in the fairways, chipped it close and made some putts.”

The galleries lapped it up.

“I saw some big crowds in my career, but never anything like that,” Kuehne says. “I know I will never forget it as long as I live the craziness of the entire scene of people everywhere and just wanting to touch Tiger. I was just totally overwhelmed by the entire circus of the event.”

Kuehne won once on the LPGA tour, in 1999, but injuries ultimately forced her into retirement. She recently moved back to her hometown of Dallas, where she still plays golf with friends and does some teaching.

When Woods returns to Innisbrook next week, she will be watching the telecast.

“Just to relive those fun memories together,” she says. “It’s something I will never forget.”

Courtesy of Art Stricklin (golf.com)

A 9,000-yard course would be nuts, but it’s also fast becoming a necessity

Over the last month, golf’s ruling bodies—the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient—have conducted their most important championships, offering a referendum on their stewardship of the professional game.

At the U.S. Open, Justin Thomas became the first man to post a nine-under round at a major and Brooks Koepka decimated the longest course in U.S. Open history, posting a record 16-under on an Erin Hills layout that played around 7,800 yards. One former champion told GOLF.com, “This is not what the Open is supposed to be. It’s a joke. A highlight show.” At last week’s Open Championship, Branden Grace broke golf’s four-minute-mile barrier,torching Royal Birkdale with a record round of 62. Grace ranks 108th on the PGA Tour in driving distance; on his historic day, Birkdale played less than 7,200 yards and a short-knocker like Grace hit 9-iron or less into 10 greens, with the longest club he employed into any par 4 being a 7-iron. The longest hitters faced even less of a test as the game’s oldest championship had essentially been reduced to a pitch-and-putt.

I have been saying for years that to seriously challenge Tour players—to make them hit long-irons into some par 3s and 4s, and have a few 5s be true three-shot holes—a course needs to be around 9,000 yards. Maybe 10,000. I tweeted this in the wake of Grace’s 62 and it ruffled the feathers of many folks, including various Tour players. “That is complete nonsense!” Billy Horschel replied, with typical understatement. Colt Knost offered a similarly nuanced take: “U seriously have no idea what ur talking about!”

I’m not saying a 9,000-yard course is a good idea, only that it has become a necessity. Luke Donald partially fleshed out the problem with this solution: “SMH & 7 hour rounds, how fun Alan.” It’s true that a course of that length would require an obscene amount of land and water and time to play. But the USGA and R&A have shown no stomach for rolling back the pros’ gear.

The entire equipment industry is built on FOMO; we all want to play the latest and greatest stuff that the pros use. A reduced-flight ball would be a disaster for fan interest: Who wants to watch Dustin Johnson drive it 270 when we can do it ourselves? So while throttling back the ball and driver would be an easy fix to make today’s courses relevant again, I am operating under the premise that it will never happen, despite the pleas of Jack Nicklaus and many other truth-tellers. So where does the game go from here?

Course setup seems like an easy answer. As Knost tweeted at me, “They can’t help that there is no wind and soft greens [at Birkdale]. Deep rough firm greens [is the answer]. Course can be 6800 yards and play tough. Look at Olympic club.” The same thing was said of Erin Hills: It would have been a totally different test if it had played tournament and fast. But it often rains during the Open Championship, and every U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the Midwest or East is likely to get wet, just as so many Masters weeks have been touched by storms. To bank on dry, fiery conditions to give a venue its teeth is foolish.

Links courses have always used wind as a primary defense and still conditions led to good scoring, but nowadays no wind means these 19th-century playing fields will be destroyed by modern athletes who optimize their performance with trainers, nutritionists, osteopaths, sports psychologists, putting gurus, stats experts, Trackman, Swedish nannies and a host of other modern advances. Unless every major moves to California (home of the Olympic Club), firm and fast will remain a mirage.

So what about deep rough and narrow fairways? No doubt that setup is a deterrent to low scoring. But it also leads to a tedious, constrained style of golf, where shotmaking is diminished. A very penal setup off the tee means power players will simply leave the big stick in the bag. Driving it long and straight is the toughest task in golf, and those who can do both deserve to be rewarded; if there is no room to hit driver, the sport has been diminished and the venue is not offering a true test.

I should state here that I don’t really care about the concept of protecting par. Whether the winning score at a major championship is six under or 14 under is of little interest to me; what I care about is how the score was accomplished. Laying up off the tee with 3-woods and hybrids and hitting short irons into most greens simply makes the game too easy. Birdiefests at everyday Tour events are fun, but the majors should test every aspect of players’ games while pushing them to the brink spiritually.

Jordan Spieth described his third-round 65 at Birkdale as “stress-free.” I’m sorry, but trying to protect a lead in the final group on Saturday at a major should involve some stress. At the U.S. Open last month Dru Love, son of Davis and a college-aged amateur who was playing in his first Open, described Erin Hills, after a first-round 71 as “pretty easy,” while Matt Kuchar’s caddie, John Wood, noted that “nobody’s playing with any fear.” Wood was right. During the final round there was never a sense of imminent danger, the rain-softened course was simply too short, even at 7,800 yards. Erin Hills had been built to accommodate drivers but in the end was bludgeoned to death by them.

This is the point where I should offer a brilliant solution but, alas, there isn’t one. The USGA and R&A have begat a mess that can’t easily be cleaned up. Golf’s most important events now need the perfect mix of sunbaked greens and stiff wind to offer the right challenge. This will happen only occasionally, so in a doomed effort to protect the reputation of the courses (and ruling bodies) you can expect more silly setups like the dead greens at Chambers Bay or shaved greens at the Old Course in 2015, which led to a suspension of play due to wind (even though every other nearby course was open for play), or what we saw at Merion, with crazy pin positions and players hitting irons off the tee at many/most of the par 4s, which is about as boring as golf gets.

Every sport evolves, and golf has done so rapidly this century, which began with the solid-core ball revolution. In response to my original tweet a few folks pointed out that basketball players have grown bigger and stronger and more skilled but the NBA hasn’t raised the rims. That’s because those bigger, stronger players also play defense, keeping the game in balance. The only defense golf courses have today is the weather, with all of its capriciousness, or extreme setups, with all of their flaws. The equivalent of 6’11″ point guard is a 9,000-yard golf course. Like it or not, the time has come.

Courtesy of Alan Shipnuck(golf.com)


Spieth and Sergio, polar opposites at Augusta National, converge for green jacket

Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth have played this Masters (and their careers) completely different.

One man came here at age 21, played the tournament of his life, and won. The other went to Medinah at age 19, played the tournament of his life, and finished second. This should not matter when Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia try to win the 2017 Masters, but of course it does.

Spieth will not play the final round in his green jacket, but he carries it in his mind wherever he goes. And Garcia cannot show up here Sunday and win the 1999 PGA or the 2002 Masters or the British Opens he could have won but didn’t. But he must make peace with those memories before he creates a better one.

This Masters leaderboard is like a menu where everything looks good: The Spieth was fantastic last time, the Rickie Fowler is always enjoyable, and another Adam Scott or Justin Rose might be OK if you’re into that sort of thing. But Spieth and Garcia are the most interesting golfers on the board.

For proof, consider Charley Hoffman’s second shot on 11 Saturday. Apparently, nobody else did. Hoffman hit a terrific shot from the left rough to 22 feet, and the crowd at Amen Corner barely noticed. I’ve heard louder cheers at divorce proceedings. Hoffman was leading the Masters at the time. Then Garcia hit his shot to 21 feet, and the crowd gave him his due.

Garcia is six under, tied for the lead with Rose, after holing a seven-foot par putt on No. 18. All week, he has looked and acted like a man who is not Sergio Garcia. Serene. Comfortable. At the 12th, where the flag was flapping but the tee felt windless, Garcia hit one of the best shots anybody hit there all day, to within 10 feet. And on 15, Garcia calmly waited for Hoffman to hit three shots before sinking his birdie putt.

Putting is supposed to keep Garcia down – well, putting and ghosts – but in 54 holes, Garcia has had just one three-putt. Spieth, the renowned putter, has had four.

After he finished the third round, Garcia talked about his good luck this week. Sure, he’s had some: On 13 Saturday, he hit a 4-iron that should have rolled back into the water but stopped on a bank, and on 10 Friday, he hit his tee shot into the trees, but it bounced back into the fairway.

But bad luck is a matter of perception. Garcia’s has changed. He is not dwelling on the perfectly struck balls that fly long because the wind died, and he has flicked off any potential annoyances like pieces of lint. He ignored the fans talking as he hit his tee shot on 17 Saturday. He seems at peace.

Garcia has not played any hole remotely like Spieth played No. 15 Thursday, when Spieth stood in the fairway, 100 yards from the pin, after two shots, and managed a nine. And that’s what makes Spieth’s current standing so impressive: he is four under, two shots off the lead.

Spieth can be volatile but he is such a compelling golfer because he is steely when he needs to be. He saved par from the sand on the par-three 4th, and he kept making nerveless pars until the putts started dropping.

Spieth came into the week answering a million questions about how he would handle the par-3 12th after his quadruple-bogey meltdown on Sunday last year. Actually, “a million questions” is not accurate – it was the same question a million times. He said he would be fine, but what he should have said was that he is 23 years old and already owns a green jacket, so who’s haunting whom here?

Fred Couples is a hero here, and in the World Golf Hall of Fame, for winning one Masters, his only major. Spieth has won a Masters, a U.S. Open and has, oh, two decades to add to that collection. He is too young and successful to lie awake at night, wondering what might have been, and he knows it.

Garcia? He is 37. One of his heroes, fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, was long done winning majors by that age – and Seve won five. Another hero, Jose Maria Olazabal, won his two green jackets at age 28 and 33. Garcia has time, but not that much time.

He is at the age where he can throw his toys on the ground and cry, or realize they are pretty nice toys and relax. He has chosen to relax. Maybe it’s the influence of his girlfriend, Angela Akins – Garcia once admitted he went into a slump after getting dumped. Maybe it’s just age. But consider these two quotes:

Garcia, 2009, on Augusta National: “I don’t like it, to tell you the truth. I don’t think it is fair. Even when it’s dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s too much of a guessing game.”

Garcia, 2017, on Augusta National: “It’s the kind of place that, if you’re trying to fight against it, it’s going to beat you down. So you’ve just got to roll with it and realize that sometimes you’re going to get good breaks, like has happened to me a few times this week, and sometimes you’re going to get not-so-good breaks.”

Jordan Spieth, 23, has been blessed with the wisdom of 37-year-old Sergio Garcia. He has everything in his bag except demons. And maybe this would all be different for Garcia if Tiger Woods had made a few bogeys on the back nine at Medinah in 1999, but then Tiger wouldn’t be Tiger, Sergio wouldn’t be Sergio, and we wouldn’t be here, hearing him say, “right now, I’m pretty calm.” The next 18 holes may define Sergio Garcia’s golf life. He seems fine with it.

Courtesy of Michael Rosenberg (golf.com)

Colin Montgomerie: I wouldn’t trade my career for Tiger’s

Monty—the one and only Colin Montgomerie, the Hall of Fame golfer from Scotland—is the greatest active talker in the game today. A plus-five. Possibly better than Lee Trevino in his prime. Monty is 53 and playing the Champions tour fulltime and doing some work as an analyst for Sky Sports. In that capacity, he’ll return to Augusta in April. If he ever wanted to make golf-on-TV his main gig, he would immediately become the most insightful and incisive broadcaster in the game. But in the meantime, he enjoys playing too much. He has won three senior majors, and last year he won an event called the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship, with a first-place prize of $375,000.

As he tours America, playing the senior tour out of his BMW 750 Li, he pontificates daily, with playing partners, with pro-am participants, with his longtime caddie, Alistair McLean, with the young woman behind the front desk at the Hampton Inn or the Ritz-Carlton or wherever he may find himself. His themes change from day to day and hour to hour. His subject one day might be what he discovered at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson. The plains of West Texas. Brexit. Anything and everything.

On Wednesday, the same day that Tiger Woods canceled his pre-tournament press conference at the Genesis Open at Riviera, Montgomerie’s subject, at least for the better part of an hour, was Tiger Woods. Twenty years ago, Monty played with Woods in the third round of the 1997 Masters.

Through 36 holes Woods was leading at eight under and Montgomerie was second, three back. After Woods shot a Saturday 65 to stretch his lead to nine shots, Montgomerie, asked by a reporter if Woods could be caught, famously said, “There is no chance. We’re all human beings here. There’s no chance humanly possible.”

You don’t really interview Colin Montgomerie. You simply let him talk, which is what he does here. Ladies and gentlemen, in all his suigeneris glory, here is Colin Montgomerie:

“You have players out here, everywhere in golf, they are trying. Trying this, trying that. Tiger Woods, in his heyday, was different. He knew the putt was going to go in. His caddie knew it. We knew it. Our caddies knew it. The whole crowd knew it. The belief was massive. There was never a time you thought, Oh, he’s had it here. No.

“Everyone vilified me for the comments I made that Saturday night at Augusta. What I was saying is that we’ve just seen something very special here, that Saturday 65, to establish a nine-shot lead. The press was hesitant to believe that it was over, because [Greg] Norman had lost a six-shot lead the year before. Because now here’s this young lad, without Norman’s experience, he’s nine ahead, but you can lose from there. The press is thinking, It can happen again. Norman did it, and he’s a better player than Woods. And I was saying, ‘No, you don’t understand it—this guy’s different. Not only is he not going to lose, he’s going to win by more than nine.’ And he won by 12.

“It was something I had not witnessed. It was something nobody had witnessed. Golfers usually back into their first major. They don’t win by 12, in their first major as a pro. After shooting 40 on the front nine on the first day! I was trying to be as honest as I could with the press. I was saying that we are seeing something very special. And over the next 15 years that was proven to be correct. The talent, the focus, the vision.

“His caddie, Mike Cowan, was in amazement too. I said to Fluff on Saturday, `This is something else, isn’t it?’ And he agreed. That was on the front nine. On Saturday on the front nine I knew he was going to win.

“The length was only part of it. Tiger hit a driver and a 9-iron over the green on No. 2. I was short with a driver and a 4-wood.

“The pin was in the back left. Par-5. You go big on the 2nd, you have nothing. He had nothing. I said to Alistair, `He’s had it here, Al, hasn’t he?’ Because you can make 6 from back there in a hurry. The chip shot he played there! It was sublime. The press was focused on his length. I was focused on how he scored, how he got around the golf course, how he played chess around the golf course. How he got around it was different from how anybody else did. I had never imagined a second-shot 9-iron into the 2nd green. I was trying to leave myself an uphill chip shot for my third. Not flying a 9-iron to the flag!

“So I was trying to be honest with the press on that Saturday night. And they didn’t really quite take me up on it. But if I said to those reporters today, `Do you believe me now?’ They would all say, `You were right.’

“I do hope Tiger can come back. Everybody benefited from his run. I saw it in my life. How the game went from Palmer to Nicklaus to Trevino. Then Seve and Norman. But then it was taken to a whole different level by Tiger. And the marketing of the game has been hurt by Tiger being sidelined. Yes, we have a good set right now. Don’t get me wrong. The Jason Days, the Jordan Spieths, the Rory McIlroys, the Justin Roses, the Henrik Stensons, the Rickie Fowlers. They are good at what they do. But Tiger? Different, different. People talk about being A-list, about moving the needle. Well, he moved the needle. It would be good if Tiger could come back and contend. Just contend. Never mind win. Just to contend would be great.

“The economy was staring to hurt just at the time Tiger was losing his dominance, in 2008, ‘09, ‘10. The economy was slackening off and Tiger was slackening off and golf went through a bit of an odd time. It’s pulled out of that, but it needs that to continue.

“Before Tiger, I never thought about golf and injuries. I didn’t think about Arnold Palmer ever having an injury. I’ve never missed a round of golf for injury in my life. Everybody said it couldn’t last, the way Tiger went at it. The way he went into the rough and recoiled after the shot. If you spoke to any orthopedic doctor, they would tell you, `This is madness, what he is doing here. Madness! This can’t continue.’ And it didn’t. He broke down. He was an absolute stallion, on the edge. You see some football players in our game who pull up with a hamstring injury because they are right on the edge of fitness. With Tiger, the fitness thing got to a level where it was a wee bit too much.

“It hurt him, and it’s hurt a number of people. McIlroy is out for two months. Jason Day has had injuries. A good friend of mine on the European tour, David Howell, picked up Vijay Singh’s weighted club on the range and six months later he played golf again. He broke a rib or some such thing.

“All sports—save darts and maybe snooker—have a foundation, and it is the legs. The thought is, Let’s get our legs as strong as they can possibly be. You can’t get your legs strong enough. To me, we leave the upper body alone. A golfer has to turn his upper body. You have to be supple. You have to have feel in the upper body.

“Tiger became the best athlete in the world as a golfer. That had never been done. That sounds great. You certainly can’t knock his 14 majors. But as a sustainable entity, as a lasting entity, everybody said it was going to go, and it did.

“At that ’97 Masters, he was 6-1, maybe 170. Perfect. With that flexibility? That ability to turn? Thank you very much! What was wrong with that? He won the Masters by 12!

“I’ve spent a lot of time with Butch Harmon over the years. We do Sky Sports together at the majors. And I’ll say, `That’s the best I ever saw, Tiger in 2000, 2001, when he won his four majors in a row. And Butch says, `He tried to change things to get better.’ But he was at the top of the tree! Yes, you feel like you have to get better to stay there. But you have to be careful how you do it. It’s easy to be critical, but what he had was so fantastic. Look at the swing he had at the L.A. Open when he was 16 years old [in 1992]! Fantastic! But he was trying to stay ahead of the game in every way. He felt fitness was the key to this game. And people copied. Nick Faldo copied. Faldo got big through the chest. Suddenly, he couldn’t turn. No speed. The guy I think, in a God-given way, fell out of the cradle ready for golf was Dustin Johnson. His arms are three inches longer than they should be, which is great. But he’s so flexible. Flexibility is our key. Lack of flexibility is what stops you from playing. It stopped Faldo. It stopped Seve. It stopped Norman.

“What might Woods have done had the game never moved off the balata ball and the wooden wood? Many golf fans would say he would have won less. I believe he would have won far more. He has the 14 majors. Without the equipment changes, I believe he’d have well into his 20s now. Because now everybody has clubs where they can do what he could do.

“Two others lost out hugely to technology. Greg Norman was one. He was the best driver of the ball with the wooden club ever. He lost out when drivers went to metal and suddenly we could do what he did. He lost his asset. And the other was Seve. When Ping developed its L-wedge, with box grooves, we could suddenly do what Seve could do with a 52° club. He lost his asset too. Tiger had all that, in spades. And then we were given equipment that allowed us to do what he could do.

“I never won a major. Tiger won 14. But would I trade my career for Tiger’s? No. I started out this game a pretty good golfer and finished in the Hall of Fame. I feel I have overachieved. So how could I say I wish it were better? People will say, `Well, he didn’t win a major.’ And, yes, I would have liked to shut them up by winning one. But that’s my only regret, really. Great that I have won senior majors, which has quieted the odd person.

“I’ve made mistakes. We all make mistakes. But I’ve had a long career. I don’t think Tiger will be out here at 53. He might say, `I don’t need the money.’ But it’s not just money. It’s self-esteem. Self-esteem is huge in life. You walk a wee bit taller, having done something well. I like this life. I like meeting new people. I like the travel. I love the life. Whether it’s for everybody, I can’t say.

“If Tiger loved the life, I can’t say. For Tiger, I think there was a certain record in the back of his mind: 18, 18, 18. Or 19. Got to get to 19 majors. Whether he enjoyed the tour life, I don’t know. But that number was there—19. To be seen as the best ever. And really, he’s well beyond 19. There are the 14 majors, plus the 15 World Golf Championship events. In those, he’s beating 60 of the best players in the world! So to me, his number is 29. And then compare his 79 Tour wins to Sam Snead’s 82. Number 100 in Sam Snead’s day was a club pro who could beat Snead for a day, but never over four days. Today, No. 100 can win any week.

“Nineteen has been such a focus for him. If Tiger had his children with him fulltime, a wife, a settled home, he could have gotten to 18, to 19. I know from my own life how hard it is to play golf when your life at home is not settled. After that Thanksgiving night changed everything, he no longer had a private life. A private life by the term itself is a private life. You have a public life and a private life. And when the private life becomes public, it’s dangerous. It hurt. It hurt him. It hurt the game of golf.

“I know how difficult it is, when you’re not living with your children. I speak for myself, and I’m sure I speak for others. It’s hard to come out here and focus. Every par becomes a bogey. Every bogey becomes a double. You just about manage to get from a green to the next tee if you make a birdie. You make a bogey, and it all floods back. And you’re not focused on what you’re doing. You’re not focused at all. I feel for him that way. I do. I feel for any man in that situation. Whether it’s self-inflicted or not.

“I’m sure Tiger wants to be a committed father. His father was a committed father. And when you’re not under the same roof as your children, it’s damn near impossible. You make the most of it, but it’s not easy. I remember at the back of 18 green on Saturday at the ’97 Masters, Earl and Tiger. Tiger had just shot 65 by hitting a sand wedge into 18. There was a definite feeling of, We can do this.

“With my father, it was different. My father wasn’t as involved in my golf. Earl was about the focus golf took, the focus on winning, on getting to 19. My father was happy if I just made the cut. He still is! He’d say, `Oh, well done. You’ve beaten a lot of your peers.’ But when you win, you’re 10 feet tall. Your self-esteem is through the roof. That’s how it was for Woods after he won that Masters by 12. Being given an opportunity is one thing. But taking it is another. And he took the opportunity with two hands and he ran with it. Ran with it! Ran with it for 15 years.

“Now, Tiger’s sneezes, we all catch a cold. Every shot he hits is analyzed and over analyzed. And it must be difficult for him, because he knows that in his prime, he could beat these guys with one arm. To miss a cut by four or five shots must be painful for him.

“Going into the third round of the Open, at St. Andrews in 2005, I was paired with Tiger. The press said, `You’ve got a difficult pairing, you’re going out with Tiger.’ And I said, `Yeah, I’m not going to beat him driving the ball. He’s a better driver than I am. I can’t beat him with my iron play. I can’t chip and putt as well as he can.’ `Then what chance have you got?’ ‘The only chance I’ve got is that I can score lower.’ And I did. I shot 70, and he shot 71. And I did it playing my game. But he won that Open. Won it by four.

“The only win possibly greater than his ‘97 Masters was the U.S. Open in 2000 [at Pebble Beach], when he won by 15. But I put ’97 ahead of it. At age 21, by 12, in his first major as a pro, at Augusta? The world was like, What just happened here?”

Courtesy of Michael Bamberger (Golf.com)

The Trump Tour: Behind Donald Trump’s Golf Empire


This story originally appeared in the June 7, 2007, issue of Sports Illustrated.

My assignment, as it first came down to me from on high, was to play Trump’s courses and write up the tour, and my goal at first was to avoid the owner.

Donald Trump, everybody knows, is a career .400 salesman, and I was afraid he’d overwhelm me. I had met him once, in 2002, when I was covering the season ending event on the LPGA tour, played at the Trump course in West Palm Beach, Trump International Golf Club.

The course looked beautiful, and by 2005 it was on the Golf Digest list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses, in 84th place. But it was the kind of course for which, to borrow a phrase, I have unaffected scorn: crazy expensive to build and maintain, with a man-made waterfall, a man-made mountain and miles of cart paths. And apparently Trump was feuding with his contractors and not paying them, which may have accounted for the colossal clubhouse still showing exposed wires and (in places) concrete floors. Trump gave me a tour of his unfinished Taj Mahal with a lieutenant at his side.

We arrived in the grand ballroom where there were massive windows overlooking the course. Trump said to me, “My decorator says I need drapes on those windows, but I kind of like the unobstructed views of the course. What do you think?”

I figured the drape budget was gone. Trying to be polite, I said, “With those views of the course, who needs drapes?”

Trump turned to his lieutenant and said, “The guy from SI has spoken — no drapes!”

It was as if Ely Callaway, another scratch marketing man who ultimately figured out a way to leave his mark on golf, was back from the dead.

Last August, I called a man named Ashley Cooper, described by an editor as “Trump’s golf guy.” There are five Trump clubs, and four of them are private, so I’d need help to get on them. I told Cooper my hope was to play the various courses with just one friend and that we’d pay for everything. I wanted to see the courses myself, and not through the prism of Trump. Cooper couldn’t have been more accommodating. Naturally, there was a reason he returned my call so promptly: A big spread in SI about Trump’s properties could be useful. Still, he knew what I needed.

When I showed up at the Trump National Golf Club, in New York’s Westchester County, Trump was waiting in the XXL clubhouse. He was wearing a red baseball cap with the gold logo of his club on the front and one of those Little League adjustable straps, with the holes and the little plastic pegs, in the back. It was a rainy, gray day, but Trump was ready to go. We were a fivesome: Trump and me; Trump’s friend Louis Rinaldi, who is in the pavement business; a young pro with LPGA aspirations named Bri Vega; and my friend Mike Donald, a former Tour player.

Rinaldi, a lefthander with a lot of swagger and a handsy scratch golf game, built all the cart paths on the course. Trump made him a member of the club and gave him a locker in the same row as those of Trump, Bill Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Joe Torre. “Are these not the most beautiful cart paths you have ever seen in your life?” Trump asked Mike and me. “Look at this curbing. You won’t see curbing like this anywhere else. I can play with anybody, chairmen of the biggest banks, any celebrity I want to play with. But you know something? I’d rather play with Lou. You can take Lou anywhere.” Trump slapped me on the shoulder and said, “You understand.” He went off and played his shot.

It was clear that Trump loved his Westchester course, in the vicinity of Westchester Country Club, site of an annual Tour event, and Winged Foot, where Trump is a member. He talked about an underground pumping system, the millions he spent on a waterfall, how much Clinton enjoyed playing there, how the Tour would like to move the Barclays Classic from Westchester Country Club to his course. He described in detail how he defeated Rinaldi one year in the final to win the club championship, which is amazing because Trump looked like a golfer who could maybe break 80 and Rinaldi looked as if he could break par anywhere, but strange things happen in golf, especially on your home course, and most especially when you’ve built it yourself. The design is credited to Jim Fazio, but Trump, by his accounting, had done a lot to shape every hole. It was obvious Trump believed the course also belonged on the Golf Digest list. (Golf Magazine, which also ranks golf courses, is a member of the SI Golf Group.) “I have people coming up to me all the time saying my New Jersey course is the best course they’ve ever played, but I think this one is every bit as good and maybe better,” Trump said.

At the turn he slipped into the clubhouse for a few minutes where a foot-high stack of tax documents awaited him. He signed a few of them with his distinctive, thick up-and-down signature and said, “Golf is a small part of my business. One, two percent. But you know why I spend so much time on it? Because I do what I want and I like it.”

Before I go on, I ask you to accept a blanket apology. . . .

This whole expanding business of playing fancy golf courses and comparing them with other fancy golf courses, there’s something appalling about it, and it yields some of the most pretentious writing and conversation you’ll ever come across. It’s an embarrassment of riches, just being able to play courses where you can putt on the tee boxes and a man stands there waiting to rake the bunker you’ve just sullied. Everybody enjoys the old grillroom question, “If you could play only one course for the rest of your life, which would it be?” You de-fend your choice and have a good time doing it. But when the tone is definitive, as if there are correct and incorrect opinions, that makes my skin crawl. I see golf courses not only as great playing fields but also as large-scale works of art. It was obvious after only nine holes with Trump that he does too — he likes to say that he finally gets gardening — which is why he likes to build them. All I’m doing is offering my own reaction to the places I went on my Trump tour, as your proxy.

Read more

Courtesy of golf.com


Justin Thomas Wins Sony Open, Sets PGA Tour’s 72-Hole Scoring Record

HONOLULU, HI – JANUARY 15: Justin Thomas plays a tee shot on the first hole during the final round of the Sony Open in Honolulu, Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 15, 2017 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

Challenged only by the record book, Justin Thomas won the Sony Open on Sunday with the lowest 72-hole score in PGA Tour history.

Thomas capped off his wonderful week at Waialae that began with a 59 with his second straight victory. He two-putted birdie from 60 feet on the par-5 18th and closed with a 5-under 65 to set the record at 253. Tommy Armour III shot 254 at the 2003 Texas Open.

“It’s been an unbelievable week. Unforgettable,” Thomas said before going to sign his historic card.

Make that two weeks.

The 23-year-old from Kentucky won the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua last week by three shots, then destroyed the full field at the Sony Open to win by seven shots. Thomas is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 (Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational) to win back-to-back weeks by three shots or more.

“I felt like I was trying to win a tournament for second place,” Jordan Spieth said, summing up the helpless feeling of everyone.

That honor went to Justin Rose, who closed with a 64 to finish alone in second. Spieth shot a 63 to finish alone in third.

The first full-field event of the year on the PGA Tour was a one-man show.

Thomas began the final round with a seven-shot lead and no one got closer than five shots all day. His only nervous moment was an 8-foot par putt on the sixth hole when he was five shots ahead. He made that, and the rest of the day was a Pacific breeze.

Thomas joined Ernie Els in 2003 as the only players to sweep Hawaii, and this performance might have been even better. Thomas was 49-under par for his two weeks, compared with Els at 47 under.

Thomas joined Johnny Miller (1974 and 1975) and Tiger Woods (2003, 2008, 2013) as the only players since 1970 to win three of the their first five starts in a PGA Tour season. It started last fall with the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.

He moved to No. 8 in the world.

“He’s got full control of his game, full confidence, and he’s executing under pressure,” Spieth said. “It’s a lot of fun to see. Certainly stuff that myself and a lot of our peers have seen going back almost 10 years now. He’s certainly showing the world what he’s capable of.”

No one ever lost a seven-shot lead in the final round of a PGA Tour event, a fact that never entered the conversation on a balmy afternoon at Waialae.

Thomas, thinking more about the trophy and another record when he started the final round, took no chances early on. He was 1 over through seven holes, making a soft bogey with a three-putt from 45 feet on No. 4 and a tough par save on No. 6, and still no one got closer than five shots.

But when he poured in a 20-foot birdie putt on the eighth, Thomas shifted into another gear. That was the start of four birdies in five holes – the exception was a birdie putt he missed from just inside 10 feet – and he stretched his lead to as many as nine shots.

Waialae was vulnerable all week with not much wind, fast fairways and greens that were softer than usual. Thomas produced the eighth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history on Thursday. Kevin Kisner had a shot at 59 on Saturday until missing a 9-foot eagle putt on his final hole. And on Sunday, Chez Reavie made a hole-in-one with a 6-iron on the 17th hole that gave him a shot at a sub-60 round. Only a bogey on the sixth hole (he start on No. 10) stopping him, and he had to settle for a 61. That matched the third-best score of the week.

Even in easier conditions, no one played like Thomas.

Steven Spieth Nets Career High With Jordan In Attendance

Steven Spieth (left) scored a career-high 27 points in front of his brother Jordan.

Thursday was a special night for the Spieth family.

Jordan, fifth-ranked golfer in the world, showed up to watch his kid brother Steven play for the Brown University basketball team. Almost as if it was scripted, Steven led an incredible comeback for a five-point victory over Maine.

Steven scored 21 of his career-high 27 points in the second half for the Bears. Shortly after the game, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman posted a photo of the two brothers.

Before the game, Brown posted a few fun photos of the two facing off at each of their best sports. We’ll leave it up to you to guess who won.

 courtesy of golfwire


Arnold Palmer Masters Trophy Garners Huge Price At Auction

Augusta National Master’s Trophy

Golf memorabilia is frequently featured in auctions around the world, occasionally drawing lots of attention and money (such as when a rare Augusta National green jacket goes up for sale.)

But recently a truly rare piece of golf history hit the auction blocks: one of Arnold Palmer’s Masters trophies. And given the scarcity of such high-quality items on the market, it drew a huge sum from one anonymous collector: $444,012.

As Darren Rovell notes on ESPN.com, “Augusta National started making the clubhouse trophies in 1993, and past champions were entitled to purchase one for each of their wins. Palmer, who died in September at the age of 87, won the Masters in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964.”

MORE: Buy Sports Illustrated’sArnold Palmer Commemorative

“Palmer had three trophies in his possession, but he authorized the fourth to be purchased by the Bay Creek Resort in Cape Charles, Virginia. The resort featured a Palmer course that opened in 2001.”

Eventually the resort hit financial troubles and sold the trophy to a private collector, who then put it up for auction this year.

Courtesy of Golfwire

Trump National Golf Club Fairway Vandalized

Trump National Golf Club, Washington, D.C. Potomac Falls, VA CREDIT: Brian Morgan Rights owned my Trump Organization

Trump National Golf Club, Washington, D.C.
Potomac Falls, VA
CREDIT: Brian Morgan
Rights owned my Trump Organization

A fairway at Trump National Golf Club in Washington D.C. was vandalized not long before Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton on Election Day.

According to the Loudoun County Sheriff Office, the course suffered undisclosed damage sometime between 5 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday. No other details regarding the incident were available.

Trump National is located in Sterling, Va., and is one of several world-famous courses owned by Trump.

The vandalism at the golf course was not an isolated incident. More than two dozen cities held protests after Trump prevailed to become the 45th president of the U.S. Several of them ended in arrests.



Tiger Woods Still Cannot Swing Golf Club After Back Surgery

tiger-woods-british-open-espn_t780Tiger Woods still cannot swing a golf club after his second microdisectomy surgery last month, but he’s not fully backing out of his fall commitments.

In a post on TigerWoods.com, it was announced that Woods will travel to Mexico City for the America’s Golf Cup, an exhibition to promote golf in Latin America but will not compete in the 72-hole best ball tournament or the afternoon teaching clinic. Matt Kuchar, who was scheduled to team with Woods in the event, will “do the heavy lifting, as Tiger cannot swing a golf club yet.”

For all the sponsors, no fear! Woods will still host a breakfast before the tournament begins.

Woods had back surgery on Sept. 16 and is hopeful to return to competitive golf early in 2016.

Pro Golfer Jack Nicklaus Nails an unbelievable 102 foot putt

What you’ll see of this video might be the best display of badassery of the year. Jack Nicklaus totally owning Johnny Miller with an insane 102 foot putt. This video was shot on Harbor Shores, which is the site of the Senior PGA championship. This was one of the exhibition open rounds and the guys were having a good time. Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer were also present and you can tell they all got a kick out of that incredibly long putt.?? Now whether or not he actually meant to make that putt nobody can be sure, but his braggadocious style and swagger as he walks away certainly made it look like it could have been pulled off with ease. However, if you are a golfer you know that this is anything but the case. Putting can be one of the most frustrating aspects of the game. Consider the fact that 60-65% of your strokes will take place 100 yards from the pin. Then 43% of that number of strokes will occur while putting. Many players die on the putting green every Saturday.

Sergio Garcia wants everyone to know how bad Chambers Bay’s greens are

blog-sergio-garcia-greens-thThroughout his career, we’ve seen Sergio Garcia complain about everything from getting bad breaks to Augusta National. Yes, he’s actually whined about playing Augusta National.

So it should come as little surprise that Garcia has already found something wrong with Chambers Bay: its putting surfaces. Following an opening 70 at the U.S. Open, the Spaniard took to Twitter and didn’t hold back:


Sergio Garcia


Happy with my Even par round today although it could’ve been a bit better by the way I played but this greens are as bad as the look on TV. I think a championship of the caliber of @usopengolf deserves better quality green surfaces that we have this week but maybe I’m wrong! If my problem is saying what everyone thinks but they don’t have the guts to say it, then I’m guilty of that for sure.


As you can imagine, the reactions on Twitter were not favorable. “Win a major, then whine about it,” one person wrote. “Cry harder you baby,” said someone else. And our personal favorite, “Send the wambulance.”

Garcia will play in the afternoon Friday when the greens should be even bumpier. To be exact, his tee time is 2:17 p.m. local in case somebody is coordinating that wambulance.

courtesy of Alex Myers (golfdigest.com)


The Most Popular Drivers of 2015 Secret CG Locations

The Most Popular Drivers of 2015 Secret CG Locations

Post image for The Most Popular Drivers of 2015 Secret CG Locations

Written By: Tony Covey

Yesterday we gave you a primer on driver Center of Gravity; what it is and why it matters. Whether you know it or not, CG location probably influenced your last driver purchase.

Today we’re going to take things a step further. We’re going to step away from the marketing, the buzzwords, and the catch phrases. We’re going to show you reality. We’re going to show you the actual center of gravity locations for 19 of most popular drivers of 2015.

Whose CG is the lowest? Whose CG is the farthest back? Whose CG locations are so high they’re nearly off the chart?

Does anyone actually offer low spin with forgiveness?

We have the answers.

Our first chart will provide you with a better understanding of relative CG between clubs. Our second chart is not to be missed. It pulls everything we’ve discussed the last two days together, and provides the best illustration of why the top drivers of 2015 perform the way they do.

The Fine Print

Before we get to our dynamic charts, it’s important to understand that although heads were measured according to USGA standards, tolerances (both in measurement and in manufacturing) come into play. The tolerance for our measurements is approximately .7mm. To account for this we represent CG using large dots rather than a smaller absolute point.

Where the dots are touching or in close proximity to one another, it’s reasonable to assume the heads offer similar performance.

These are CG measurements only. While CG placement is the foundation of driver performance, as you’re aware, loft and shaft selection also contribute to overall driver performance.

Finally, although we’ve blown these charts up to make them a bit easier to read, every last one of the CG locations represented is within that tiny little 14mm x 12mm box we discussed yesterday.

Here’s our graphic from our previous article to remind you how CG location impacts driver performance (left is front, right is back).

CG Location Relative to Face Center

This chart shows the CG locations of 19 different drivers relative to the center of the face.

To isolate a given head, simply select it from the list on the left hand side. You can select multiple drivers using the dropdown list. Individual models are color coded.

Movable weight/adjustable CG drivers have multiple dots associated with each head to reflect the CG location for the various weight positions. Hovering over a dot will reveal the driver model and weight configuration.

The x-axis represent distance in millimeters from the driver face (a value of -36, for example, represents a CG location 36mm from the face). Basically, the face would be to the right of the chart.

  • Mizuno’s JPX-850 has the lowest CG of any driver sampled
  • TaylorMade’s AeroBurner offers the most forward CG
  • Callaway Big Bertha driver with gravity core up have the highest CG
  • PING’s G30 has the most rearward CG location
  • Among the adjustable CG drivers, it’s interesting to note which models offer the most significant CG movement

The Neutral Axis


Still with me? Let’s kick the geek speak up a notch.

As illustrated by the image above, the neutral axis is an imaginary line running perpendicular to the center of a lofted driver face. Before you can ask, let me tell you why that matters.

As the center of gravity moves closer to the neutral axis you get less gearing (twisting) and a more efficient transfer of energy. It’s your basic ball go far argument. As with everything else in our CG discussion, the distance from the CG to the neutral axis (or GG NA is it’s called for short) is measured in millimeters, but as we learned yesterday, those millimeters matter.

#Team_____ vs. #Team_____

As you would imagine, each golf company has its own unique CG philosophy. TaylorMade, for example, believes a low forward CG is best, while Ping is a strong proponent of rear (and also low) CG positions. Sometimes there’s a legitimate argument to be made for a given company’s philosophy, and sometimes – and this shouldn’t come as a shock – the publicly stated philosophy is developed to justify a technology that perhaps isn’t quite as compelling as we’re supposed to believe it is.

It’s also important that you understand that because of where reality dictates the CG has to be, and the front-heavy nature of a driver, it’s much easier to move the CG forward than it is to move it backwards. The farther you move CG backwards, the harder it is to keep it close to the neutral axis.

Simply put…low and forward is relatively easy to achieve. Low and back is hard, which is why you don’t see many true low/back designs.


Allowed 5 seconds of honesty and the suspension of the immutable laws of physics most R&D guys will tell you that the farthest point away from the face, and close or on the neutral axis is the ideal CG location. But like I said, putting it there is literally impossible.

So as a substitute for perfection, golf companies strive for the best we can do. Variations of the phrase low spin with forgiveness have been tossed around quite a bit this season. So keep that in the forefront of your mind as you consider the next chart.

A comparatively rear CG location near the neutral axis is the only way to truly achieve low spin with forgiveness.

CG Location Relative to the Neutral Axis (CG NA) & MOI

As with the first chart, you can sort our CG NA/MOI chart by club model. We’ve also added the ability to filter clubs by proximity to the neutral axis and MOI.

Please Note: Because MOI is represented by a positive number, the driver face would be to the left of the chart.


  • In the previous chart we saw that the center of gravity for the majority of drivers is located below the center of the face, but none of the drivers measured has a CG on or below the neutral axis.
  • With some weight positions less than 1mm from the neutral axis, Mizuno’s JPX-850 has the lowest CG of any driver measured, and likely the lowest CG of any driver on the mainstream market.
  • The CG of Ping’s G30 is the farthest back of any tested, only Ping and Cobra offer drivers which can reasonably be described as offering low/back CG, and only Ping, Cobra, Titleist, Adams, and possibly Nike can be described as offering above average forgiveness.
  • Ping’s G30 LS and Cobra’s FLY-Z+ achieve low(ish) spin with above average forgiveness.
  • All of Nike’s current offerings can be considered high CG.
  • Most manufacturers offer a sort of linear progression between models. In many cases you can connect (or nearly connect) all of a given manufacturer’s offerings with a single straight line. I would suggest that this is the best indicator of a given company’s CG philosophy relative to an entire product line
  • The difference in CG location between FLY-Z+ weight forward and FLY-Z+ weight back, as well as Big Bertha Gravity Core Up vs. Gravity Core down is substantial, while CG movement between the various positions of the Mizuno JPX-850 is minimal.


So, did anything here surprise you? Are there some manufacturers that aren’t exactly where they say they are? We think so.

I’d also be curious to know if you’ve observed something similar to what I have. Do you favor drivers with similar CG placements or are your preferences all over the map?

Want More from the Golf Geeks?

What other topics would you like to have our Golf Geeks tackle and simplify? Let us know.


Survey Results – What’s In YOUR Bag (Drivers and Fairway Woods)

Survey Results – What’s In YOUR Bag (Drivers and Fairway Woods)

Post image for Survey Results – What’s In YOUR Bag (Drivers and Fairway Woods)

What’s In YOUR Bag?

A few weeks ago we asked you to tell us about the equipment in your bag. We already know what the pros play (because the brands they rep bombard us with press releases weekly), but what about the average golfer…or at least the average MyGolfSpy reader?

Golf equipment is a business, we get that. Certainly most of us would play just about anything if we were compensated for our trouble. We’re not, which is why we think it’s much more interesting to hear about the equipment you’ve spent your hard-earned money on.

It’s pay to play vs. paid to play.

Before we get to the first round of results, there are a few things to keep in the back of your minds. By the letter, the average MyGolfSpy reader does not fully represent the average golfer.

We believe our readers are more likely to:

  • Be gearheads, possibly even obsessed with golf equipment (we think that’s a good thing)
  • Be custom fit for his equipment
  • Replace equipment more frequently, and therefore your equipment will be, on average, newer than the gear of the golfing population as a whole
  • Play smaller or niche brands. Apart from the guys taken-in by Warrior Golf, you’re less likely to be brandwashed.
  • Be more familiar with emerging equipment trends

So with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the results.


Not surprisingly, TaylorMade leads our field with a 25.06% share. PING, Titleist, and Callaway are reasonably tightly grouped between 15.43% and 18.53%. After the 4 at the top, it’s a pretty steep drop-off to Cobra at 9.85% and another steep slide to to Nike at 5.48%.

We’re showing you only those companies with at least a 1% share of your bags. Excluding the Other option, the sum total of the remaining brands is 3.25%. That places Other between Adams (2.72%) and Nike.

Notables listed under Other: KZG, Nakshima, Nickent, Bobby Jones, Sinister, Bombtech, Geek, and I don’t carry a driver.


On average, golfers replace their drivers once every 3.7 years. I’d wager the average MyGolfSpy reader replaces his driver at a measurably higher rate.

39.81% of you are gaming drivers that are less than 1 year old, while 68.53% of you are playing drivers 2 years old or less.

On the other end of the spectrum, 8.30% of you are playing a driver that’s 4-years old or older.

I’d be curious to know why those guys haven’t upgraded. Are you comfortable with what you have? Is it cost? Is it the perception that USGA limits mean drivers can’t get any better?



Two observations here. 1) According to the previous chart, somebody is lying. Either that or 2) a bunch of you have already bought new drivers this year. Essentially, 40% of you either will or might buy a new driver this year. That’s a sizable chunk (huge actually), and no doubt some manufacturers believe an even newer model may provide all the enticement you need to pull the trigger.

Fairway Woods


Of little surprise, only the order of Top 5 changes. TaylorMade remains on top, but likely off the strength of the X(2) Hot, Callaway (21.85%) leaps ahead of both Ping(14.98%) and Titleist (16.56%). Two companies reasonably well-known for their fairway woods, Adams (9.19%) and Tour Edge (6.11%),  pull ahead of Nike (5.16%).

It may be interesting to some that while Nike’s percent share  is similar between drivers and fairways, it falls from 6 to 8 by rank.

Companies not shown account for a sum total of 1.95% of fairways in your bag. That number fits between Wishon (1.22%) and Wilson (1.67%)

Notables listed under Other: Dynacraft, Orlimar, Sonartec, XXIO, Yamaha, Harvey Penick, and I don’t carry one.


Compare this chart with the same chart for the driver category. The number of you with new fairway woods in your bag (21.79%) is nearly half as few as those with new drivers in the bag. Not surprisingly, the percentage of fairway woods older than 4 years (18.62%) is significantly higher than it is in the driver category.

While we don’t have the exact numbers, we know that golfers buy new fairway woods with less frequency than they do new drivers. Your responses suggest that a healthy percentage of you bought at least one new fairway wood within the last 1 to 3 years. That more or less brings us to the edge of the RocketBallz/XHot era when, for a brief window, fairway woods were sexy again.

Also of note, 3.42% of you don’t carry a fairway wood at all.


A full 64% of you report that you have no plans to buy a new fairway wood these. Obviously plans are subject to change (especially if you break something or what you have now stops working), but what you’ve told us suggests that consumer purchase cycles for fairway woods may be leveling off, or perhaps even returning to pre-RBZ levels.

Fairway woods aren’t the it club anymore, and could be on the verge of regaining their status as a barely-necessary evil, particularly among average to high handicap golfers.

On a more positive note, 9.42% of you told us you are planning to buy a new fairway wood this season, while 26.58 say you might.

Aftermarket Shafts


I suppose we shouldn’t find this surprising given what we know about our readership, but nevertheless, I do.

At a club with roughly 300 members I can count on one hand the number of guys I’ve played with who have something other than stock in their drivers. Even among the best players, the percentages are almost certainly lower in the real world than they are with gearheads such as ourselves.

More than 45% (46.53%) of you told us that you play an aftermarket shaft in your driver. Even here, I would have guessed 30%…tops.

It would interesting to better understand the split between those of you who were fit (and stick to a single shaft), and those of you who are compulsive dabblers.



It can be argued that when golf companies run out of ideas, they simply re-invent old ones. That which was once called the 2-wood has evolved into the Mini Driver.

TaylorMade introduced the first of the new breed last year with the SLDR S Mini. That was followed by this season’s AeroBurner Mini, which will soon be followed by Callaway’s Big Bertha Mini, and eventually, I suspect, other Mini-like clubs.

As of this moment, more than 55% of you are telling us you are not interested in the category, while another 5.69% of you told us you’re unfamiliar with the category entirely. I’d be willing to wager that both of those numbers will have changed substantially by this time next year.

TaylorMade hasn’t done any significant marketing around either of its Mini products (it’s little more than a word of mouth club at this point), but I suspect once competition hits shelves we’ll hear quite a bit more about the benefits of the various Minis, and that  should pique curiosity.

More to Come

We’ll be posting your responses in the hybrid, iron, wedge, and putter categories in the coming weeks.



How This Tiny Thing Can Make A Huge Difference In Your Next Driver

How This Tiny Thing Can Make A Huge Difference In Your Next Driver

Post image for How This Tiny Thing Can Make A Huge Difference In Your Next Driver

You care about your driver’s center of gravity. You may not realize it yet, but you do.

I will concede that this sort of science-y stuff can be a little bit boring, and it certainly hasn’t helped my cause any that the golf companies have tossed the phrase center of gravity around so much that it’s basically lost all meaning (while at the same time losing your interest).

But bear with me guys, keep your eyes open and read on, this CG stuff…it’s really interesting. And it’s not interesting because I said so, it’s interesting because, whether you know it or not, it’s a large part of the reason why you’re playing the driver you’re playing today.

So what exactly is Center of Gravity, and why exactly do I think it’s so damn important? Let’s get to it.

CG Defined

Center of Gravity (CG or CoG) is the point at which all of the weight of an object appears to be concentrated. An object can be balanced on a small flat point placed directly beneath its center of gravity.

That may sound complicated, but it really comes down to balance. Ever balanced anything on the tip of your finger, or as the R&D guys occasionally do, the tip of a pen? The physical point at which an object is perfectly balanced…where it doesn’t tip over one way or another and crash to the floor, that’s its center of gravity.

You might not think that a physics lesson most of learned on playground teeter totter would be relevant to a golf club performance discussion, but not only is it relevant, it’s at the very center of the discussion.

Sorry…won’t happen again.


Why CG Location Matters

CG location matters because it heavily influences both performance and feel. How high your driver launches, how low it spins, how it feels, and how it sounds at impact, that all begins with its center of gravity.

Before we dig deeper into the specifics of how CG location impacts both performance and feel, there are a few things we need to make sure everybody understands.

1. It’s Called Center Of Gravity For A Reason.

As you might expect given its label, the center of gravity is always located very near the center of the clubhead. The CG of every driver measured for this series of articles is located within a box that’s 14mm front to back and 12mm top to bottom.

To put that into perspective, we’re talking about a box just a little bigger than your average Micro SD Card. It’s that small.


You’ve probably seen some of the marketing/advertising graphics where golf companies claim to move the center of gravity from the extreme rear of the clubhead so far forward that it’s practically pressing against the face.

That’s total nonsense…outright shenanigans. Using our SD card (see the image above) as the example, while those OEM graphics convey a CG shift significantly more impressive than the equivalent of moving the CG from the ‘U’ to the ‘G’, in Samsung, actual reality is much closer to our example than theirs.

The reason it’s called center of gravity is because it’s near the center of the clubhead. Always.

Now that said, the CG location of a driver head has a slight forward bias because:

  • The face is much thicker and heavier than the rest of the body
  • The hosel (and all of its weight) is near the front of the club

2. Your Driver Is Stuck in the Box…Sorry.

We can talk physics and materials all day long, but the reality is that, with what engineers have to work with right now, it’s basically impossible to move center of gravity outside of that 12mm x 14mm box (SD card) we talked about before. Kind of amazing, right? Front CG, back CG…your driver, my driver, the center of gravity is always somewhere within that little box.


3. How Millimeters Make Drivers Go Farther.

Small CG movements within our little box can have a significant impact performance.

Despite having CG locations that are only millimeters apart, a Ping G30 plays very differently from a Callaway Big Bertha Alpha Double Black Diamond. Why? CG location.

For those clubs with movable weight (adjustable CG technology), moving those weights around can alter performance significantly. For confirmation of that statement, try comparing numbers on an R15 with the weights in the middle to an R15 with the weights in the perimeter (MOI) position. Do the same with a FLY-Z+ with the weight in the front compared to the weight in the back. Grab a Callaway Alpha series driver and flip the core. Again…we’re talking about millimeters here, but those millimeters matter.

Changing the CG location changes performance.

4. Moving Mass Doesn’t Always Bring Significant Change.

I know…I just said nearly the opposite, but it’s important to understand that not all adjustable mass systems are created equal. The significance and impact of flipping, sliding, or any other type of CG movement depends on three things:

1. The direction the weight is being moved
2. How much weight is being moved
3. How far the weight is being moved

The more weight you can move over a greater distance, the more the CG will shift. Moving heavy weights over a comparatively small distance, or comparatively light weights over a greater distance doesn’t actually accomplish much.

How Center of Gravity Affects Performance


The above chart illustrates how changes in center of gravity impact performance. Here’s a quick summary.

CG Forward

Dynamic Loft: decreases
Spin: decreases
Closure Rate: decreases
MOI: decreases


Dynamic Loft: decreases
Spin: increases

CG Back

Dynamic Loft: increases
Spin: increases
Closure Rate: increases
MOI: increases

CG Down

Dynamic Loft: Increases
Spin: Decreases


Dynamic Loft is the actual loft delivered to the ball at impact.

At equivalent measured lofts, a driver with a back CG will produce more dynamic loft, and therefore launch higher than a driver with a forward CG placement. More loft produces more spin.

Closure Rate or Dynamic Closure Rate is the rate at which the clubhead closes during the downswing. The more forward the CG the slower the closure rate. Clubs with slower closure rates are generally described as being more workable. Back CG designs with faster closure rates are more forgiving, and can help to mitigate a slice.

MOI is often defined as the clubhead’s resistance to twisting. While technically accurate, that leads some to believe MOI plays a greater role in accuracy than it actually does. In perhaps simpler terms, MOI is a protector of ballspeed. The higher the clubhead MOI the more ballspeed, and by extension distance, is preserved on balls struck somewhere other than on the sweet spot.


How Center of Gravity Affects Feel

While we can’t put hard numbers to feel the way we can performance, we can make some generalizations about how center of gravity affects feel.

On a comparative basis:

  • Drivers with forward CG locations often feel heavier than those with rear CG placements
  • A forward CG location will cause the shaft to feel stiffer.
  • Because of the effect on closure rate, forward CG drivers may be harder to square, and some golfers will find it difficult to control the club during swing

While it may not be universally true, I suspect that many of you favor clubs with similar CG locations. Whether driven by feel or performance, we like what we like, and whether we know it or not, that starts with CG location.

Details to Come

Check back tomorrow when we bring what we’ve learned today into the real world. We’re going to publish CG locations for several of the most popular drivers on the market this season. Whose drivers have the lowest CG? Who’s really forward? Who’s high and spinny?

We’re about to show you.


Giveaway – Nike Vapor Speed Volt Driver

Giveaway – Nike Vapor Speed Volt Driver

Post image for Giveaway – Nike Vapor Speed Volt Driver

MyGolfSpy’s Most Wanted Driver for Accuracy is now available in Volt..and YOU can Win It here!

Some of you still call it neon yellow, but if you’re going to win one, you should probably start calling the color by its proper name.

Say it with me. Volt.

See, that wasn’t so hard.


The first time Nike Athlete Michelle Wie tests the driver, she asked something along the lines of “Can I get this with a Volt crown?”

What Michelle wants, Michelle gets, and so, in the interest of making Michelle Wie happy (and apparently challenging Callaway for the title of Kings of Really Long Driver Names), born the Nike Vapor Speed High Visibility Volt Edition was.

Michelle Wie got one, and we’re offering you a chance to get one too. One MyGolfSpy reader is going to win a Nike Vapor Speed Volt Edition Driver.

How to Enter

Entering is simply, all you have to do is complete this sentence:


Leave your answer in the comment section below.

Rules and Eligibility

    • Contest ends Friday, June 22nd at 5:00PM Eastern Time
    • Open to all residents of planet earth
    • To be eligible you must be subscribed to the MyGolfSpy Newsletter

    • Winner chosen at random from all eligible entries
    • As always, void where prohibited

Study: Golfer Performance By State

Study: Golfer Performance By State

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How Does Your State Measure Up?

Which state has the best golfers? Which state has the worst?

Today we’re going to take a closer look at how golfer performance compares across state lines. While much of what we found aligns with our expectations, we found a few curiosities as well.

To bring you this information, we’ve partnered with TheGrint, a Golf GPS and Handicap/Stat Tracking service. TheGrint’s massive database provides absolutely incredible insight into the makeup of the golfing population as a whole.

How Data was Mined

Data was captured from TheGrint App and Website.

We used a total sample of 15,000 golfers who:

  • Are part of a USGA Compliant Golf Club
  • Have uploaded at least 5 scores to TheGrint

Abnormal scores (scores with handicap differentials lower than -10 or higher than 45) were removed from an initial sample of over 300,000. While it should be obvious enough, it’s worth mentioning that our data is limited to golfers who track their handicap. It’s also reasonable to assume that data from TheGrint skews towards a more tech-savvy golfer, and that could also suggest a demographic that is, on average, younger than that of the total golfing population as a whole.

To ensure valid sample sizes we’ve limited our graphs to show the top 20 states based on use of TheGrint.

Golfer Performance by State


This graph shows the average handicap for golfers who live in a given state.


  • Not surprisingly, the majority of states with the best golfers are those that experience mild winters. This is likely attributable to golfers having more opportunity to practice and play.
  • What some may find surprising is that Ohio and Minnesota rank high despite the fact that both see a fair amount of snow on an annual basis.
  • Despite warm weather and an abundance of golf courses, Florida ranks only 15th.


This graph shows the average recorded score by state.


  • While there isn’t a one-to-one correlation, as you’d expect, there is significant overlap between the states with the lowest handicaps and those with the lowest average score.
  • Differences between the two can be attributed to variations in slope ratings and the fact that average score considers all rounds played, while only the best 10 are used for handicapping purposes.


This graph shows the percentage of single digit handicap golfers within each state’s population.


  • Within the Top 20 participating states, Tennessee has the highest percentage of better golfers, while New York has the lowest. I’m at least partially  responsible for the latter.
  • Once again the logical inference is that both ends of the chart are strongly influenced by climate.

As you may recall from our earlier post, only 10% of golfers who track their handicap break 80 on a regular basis, so to find that over 40% of golfers in 3 different states have single digit handicaps is surprising. It’s reasonable to assume that sample size plays a role in the result. TheGrint’s presence in Tennessee and Ohio isn’t as strong as it is in states like New York and California. So while golfers in those states who leverage TheGrint’s robust round tracking capabilities may in fact be above average players, there aren’t enough of them to measurably impact the national averages.


The following chart shows the number of scores posted per golfer in each state on an annual basis.


  • While, as you would likely expect, golfers in warm weather states post more scores annually, the difference in rounds played is not as significant as you might think.
  • The number of scores entered in cold weather states like New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey suggests that golfers in those states make the most of the active golf season.

Coming Soon

Stay tuned. In our next project with TheGrint we’ll take start to take a closer look at some data related to the golf courses themselves.


Callaway To Brand itself “Kings of Speed”

Callaway To Brand itself “Kings of Speed”

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Written By: Tony Covey

While Trademark filings generally don’t provide us with absolute specification, or any real technical detail, they can provide us with a kind of blurry insight into upcoming products, and sometimes even a glimpse of how those products will be eventually marketed to the consumer.

Such is the case with some recent applications filed by Callaway Golf.



A year and a half ago, in a move clearly borrowed from Howard Stern, Callaway declared itself the Kings of all Distance. Within the continuing spirit of that previous filing, Callaway is poised to declare itself the Kings of Speed.

And some say the golf industry lacks originality. At least Callaway’s products won’t be #madeoffastness.

We can reasonably assume that this Speed thing is related to club speed in the recent tradition of V-Series and XR, or Callaway’s Long Drive team,  and not some predilection inside the company for crystal meth.

I’m also going to assume that Kings of Puffery was already taken.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.

Also In Callaway’s Trademark Pipeline…

B16 – It’s hard to decipher much from 3 letters, but my money is on Bertha 16. After releasing two drivers with unconscionably long names (Big Bertha Alpha 815 and Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond), Callaway appears ready to do all of us a favor and keep things a bit more concise for 2016.

Sound Chamber/Sound Core – Callaway has filed Trademark requests for both. We know Callaway loves cores, so why not have sound join gravity in the lineup? This could be as simple as how Callaway describes its latest must-have feature, or it could be a foray into adjustable sound.

Stay tuned

CF16 – I’m guessing a forged iron product. Apex is due for replacement, and an evolution of the X-Forged isn’t out of the question.

Big T – While I’d like to think this is how I’m referred to inside the walls of Callaway Golf (as in “Did you see the crap Big T wrote about us? Didn’t we pay to have him killed?”), Big T could just as easily be a new Tank putter. Of course, it could also just as easily be something totally different.

MD3 Milled / W Grind – These two appear fairly obvious. Big toe-up PM grind notwithstanding, the MD2 wedge is due for replacement, and the logical progression would be to MD3. Why not add a new W-Grind (wide-sole) while we’re at it? Bounce and grind stories are all the rage in wedge-craft right now, so it’s reasonable to assume Callaway would want to join the discussion.

No Guarantees

There are no guarantees Callaway will use all or even any of these. It’s not uncommon for Trademarks to be abandoned, as was the case with a Callaway filing for Torpedo (the underwater golf ball that never was?). There’s even less of a guarantee that I’m right about what all of these will eventually become, but occasionally it’s fun to speculate and spark a discussion.

How will these Trademarks manifest themselves?

This is Callaway, so we probably won’t have to wait long to find out.


In The Ring With The Sun Mountain Combo Cart

In The Ring With The Sun Mountain Combo Cart

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The best thing about having the bag and cart together is that the bag and cart are together.

Written by Dave Wolfe

Every time I see the word combo I think of two things. First to mind is the 90’s coin-op video game Killer Instinct. I don’t know who did the voice work on that game, but I hear his voice in my head every time I read or write the word. Monster Combo! Ultra Comboooooo! Man, Cinder was cheap in that game.

Naturally, the other thing that combo brings to mind is boxing, where combo is short for combination.

What do boxing and video games have to do with Sun Mountain’s combo cart? Indulge me for just a moment…we’re almost there.

In boxing, stringing together punches in combination has the potential to be far more effective than if the punches were thrown separately. Two jabs and a cross as solo shots just don’t do the same damage as a jab-jab-cross combination. If you ever played Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on Nintendo, you understand this. The jabs open the door for a much more devastating cross, thus making the combination more lethal than the sum of three punches thrown individually.

In case it hasn’t been clear what I’ve been driving at, the Sun Mountain Combo Cart is a both-in-one combination of golf bag and pushcart. Does this combination create some one-two punch synergy, or does it fall flat to the metaphorical canvas?

Let’s find out.

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Tale of the Tape: Sun Mountain Combo Cart

  • Weight (empty): 25 pounds
  • Weight (full, as measured): 45 pounds
  • Dimensions: 37”x16”x13”
  • Fourteen-way top
  • Individual, full-length dividers
  • Eight Pockets (including clothing, valuables, and insulated beverage pockets)
  • Three wheels: front folds, sides fold and collapse
  • Folding seat with padded back

The Introductions

The Sun Mountain Combo Cart brings some excellent features to the ring. We expect this, as Sun Mountain has long been one of the big players in the cart game .

Let’s take a closer look at the strengths of the Combo Cart.

All-in-One Construction

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The best thing about having the bag and cart together is that the bag and cart are together. These two pieces were designed together, and so as they should, they fit perfectly together. This is seldom the case when one buys the cart and bag separately.

With the combo, there is no struggle to get the components to play well together. It’s what they were designed to do. Along with that perfect fit comes the total elimination of any issues related to bag slippage or rotation during play. The Combo Cart remains combined and stable…always.

The Price

The retail price of the Sun Mountain Combo Cart is $469.99. Yes, you read that correctly. The Combo cart is $470. Give me a few seconds to explain why that’s a good thing…or at least not as insane as it sounds.

It’s really just simple math. Consider that a new C-130 Cart Bag costs $230, and a new Speed Cart V1 Sport goes for about $210. Purchased separately, a new Sun Mountain bag and cart will run you roughly $440. That puts the pricing for the Combo Cart right about where you would expect it to be. For an extra $30 you’re getting a unit designed to fit perfectly together, that also has some great additional features, which we’ll get to in just a bit.

Obviously, if you only need to a bag or you only need a cart, then the Combo Cart doesn’t make economic sense. If you are looking to replace both, however, the Combo Cart is price competitive. Worth noting, you will have the option to purchase replacement bags down the road. It’s reasonable to assume that the fabric bag will wear out before the metal and plastic cart. When it’s time to replace the bag, you won’t need to spend another $470.

Ease of Folding/Unfolding


Some carts can be irritatingly complicated to fold, unfold, and re-fold. Not so with the Combo Cart. Flip out and rotate the front wheel, pull one toggle to lower the back wheels, and then flip one lever to release and adjust the handle to the correct height and you’re done. You can also then increase the rear axle length, and thus improve stability by pressing a couple of buttons. Overall, it’s very easy.

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It’s a quick process. I’m typically the last guy to get the gear packed into the trunk after a round. It takes a while to detach the bag, fold the cart, and then drop it all into the trunk. With the Combo Cart, I was actually waiting for my buddies to put their gear away for once. That’s one of the advantages of the all-in-one design. You can fold it up with the bag still attached, and drop it right into your car.

On Course Performance

The Combo Cart is unobtrusive breeze to use on the course. With just a couple of minor issues, the Combo Cart performed its duties so well that I almost forgot that I was using it. That’s not the case with all carts. Nothing adds unnecessary frustration to a round of golf like fighting to keep a bag snug, or constantly realigning a cart that perpetually veers off line.

The cart is easy to push. The console provides ample storage – including a novel take on ball storage. The brake is sufficiently powerful, and the cart is overall very stable both when rolling and when parked.

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The rectangular fourteen-way top provides easy access to your clubs while keeping them apart-enough that they don’t clack together when the cart is rolling. While there isn’t a compartment specifically designed as a putter tube, I would feel confident carrying even my most precious putters in the Combo Cart.

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The bag detaches easily from the cart should you choose to take a riding cart rather than walk. In testing we found that the Combo Cart works just fine on the back of the power cart.

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On Course Issues

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There are a few issues that came up during play, but as you’ll see, most are relatively minor. Sticking with the boxing theme, you might call them standing eight counts. Other issues could be knock-out blows; significant-enough for some to cross the Combo Cart off the short list.

First, there are no holes in the console for tees. As I said, it’s a minor thing, but  just a couple of spaces to drop tees into would have been nice.

I’d also welcome a Velcro patch somewhere on the handle/console portion of the cart where I could attach my glove.

A small netted section (like those found on other carts) is handy spot to toss things temporarily without the bother of opening the console. The Combo Cart offers no such thing.

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Though the foot switch works well for engaging the brake (and the brake works well), I would prefer that the brake control be located near the console. It’s just easier to access from up there.

The last minor thing is that the front wheel showed a tendency to scoop up grass clippings as the cart was rolling down the fairway. The roll itself stayed true, but I did gather a sizable pile of clippings in my trunk before I noticed the issue.

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Pockets And Storage

While there are eight pockets, the Combo Cart’s overall storage volume is a little light. To be fair, there is enough room to fit in most of the gear that you need to play golf, but maybe not all of the gear that some of you like to carry.

The side pockets are sleek in design, perhaps a bit too sleek. Blow them out a bit. Make them roomier. One real irritation for me is that the zippers restrict access to some of the pockets. When unzipped, the openings remain narrow such that the teeth of the zipper scrape across the back of your hand when reaching in and out. My hands aren’t huge, and we are not talking drawing blood here, but the scraping sensation is an annoyance.

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The garment pocket is located on the underside of the cart. There are two zippers and you’ll need to get under the console to access them. The pocket offers enough room for your sweater and other oft-not-needed layers, but I’d recommend removing the rain cover to free up some space. Be advised that the garment pocket is not accessible while the cart is folded, and that can complicate pre-round packing as well.

The beverage compartment holds three twelve-ounce cans. While three adult beverages is likely sufficient for most rounds, we’ve all had days where additional insulated space couldn’t hurt. Add any food or an ice pack, the pocket fills-up quickly. This pocket really needs to be bigger.

The Combo Cart creates an aura of leisure on the course. Perpetuating that mystique requires more beverages and snacks than the pocket can hold.


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While the folding and unfolding ease of the Combo Cart really help with transport, it’s not without its issues.

First, there is the weight. The cart itself weights only 25 pounds, but once I added clubs and other golf junk, the weight jumped to 45 pounds. That’s without beverages.

45 pounds is not too heavy for me to sling into the trunk, but it could be for some. I’m not sure that my avid-golfing mother, for example, could easily transport the Combo Cart, and I would assume that she’s well within the target demographic.

Another issue with portability is that the cart must be carried when folded. While it may look like it rolls like a hand-truck, the folded-under bottom wheel gets in the way. Car to garage transport requires you to either unfold the wheel to roll it, or lug the 45 pounds.

There can also be issues with fitting the cart into my trunk when the clubs are in the bag. For reference, I drive a Honda Accord coupe. It doesn’t have the largest trunk, but I can typically fit a couple of folded carts and bags in it without issue. For the Combo Cart to fit, I need to remove the woods from the bag. This doesn’t take much time, but it does prevent me from simply folding it up and dropping it into the trunk.

If you store your clubs and your cart at your club, these portability problems are non-issues. Hit the locker room, fold out the wheels, and head to the first tee.

The Knock Out Punch

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I’ve purposely saved the best feature of the Combo Cart for last. That feature is the folding seat. I mentioned above that this cart is a leisure machine. The bulk of the credit for that goes to the sweet folding seat. When not in use, it folds up, secured to the bag with a Velcro strap. Unhook that strap though and you now can recline in comfort.

Did the five-some in front of you just decide that all putts must be holed? Drop the seat, pull a cold one out of the beverage pocket and relax. You are playing golf for the fun of it, right? Take a load off.

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The seat rests at a comfortable height, and the bag itself has some built-in padding for your back. It’s significantly better than any other fold down seats I’ve come across. Those are stools. This is a recliner. The seat alone will probably sell a bunch of Combo Carts, and it should.

You can’t help but relax when you flop it down and take a seat. Golf just became fun again.

Sun Mountain Combo Cart: Winner By Split Decision

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While the weight and portability issues raised issues for the third judge, the other two scored the fight in favor of the Combo Cart. The cart is a solid performer on the course, with the addition of the seat making the package even more enticing.

I’d prefer more insulated storage space, so that I could pack more treats to enjoy while sitting, but one can always reload at the turn.

If you are looking to buy a new bag and a new cart this season, consider taking the Sun Mountain Combo Cart for a spin/sit.


The Club Report: Cleveland CG Black Driver

The Club Report: Cleveland CG Black Driver

Post image for The Club Report: Cleveland CG Black Driver

Attention lower swing speed golfers. Today we’ve got something just for you.

I know…it’s about time.

As participants in golf forums and other golf-related communities we’ve been conditioned to believe that the average golfer swings 110 MPH and carries the ball at least 300 yards (and that’s uphill, at sea level, and into a headwind).

Can you believe we had a reader question the validity of our Most Wanted Driver test because the average distance across all testers was below 290 yards? The unrealistic expectations and the quest for distance have gotten that far out of hand.

Let’s spend today getting real about some things. Let’s spend today talking about a driver for the guy who doesn’t hit the ball 250.


Shifting Focus

The golf companies have increasingly catered to the gearhead, and while average golfers like shiny things that move too, it means more, and often complex adjustability.

The trend towards low and forward CG positions does have the potential to create massive distance, but it offers little help to the guy who struggles to get the ball in the air or who like many of us, has a tendency to work the face rather than work the ball.

When you consider all of that, it’s actually ironic, though not surprising, that a club like Cleveland’s 2015 CG Black – a club actually designed for truly average golfers – occupies a space a bit outside of the mainstream. There’s just a hint of absurdity in that.

Slower swing speed guys, this one is really and truly for you.


The Competitive Set

When we compared CG Black to the majority of Speed-centric drivers on the market, we found that only Wilson’s D200 at 268 grams is in the same weight class. TaylorMade’s AeroBurner (300g), and even Callaway’s lightweight-ish V-Series (290g) aren’t really playing in exactly the same space.

The CG Black is for guys who want a lightweight driver…a really lightweight driver. At only 260g, the Cleveland CG Black is the lightest driver on the market right now.

Cleveland CG Black Driver Specs


CG Black Technology

On a comparative basis, it’s noteworthy that in the process of evolving the CG Black from 2012 to 2015, Cleveland’s engineers shifted the center of gravity lower and closer to the face.  Now all of that happened within the relative vacuum of the Cleveland CG Black line, so a lower and more forward center of gravity doesn’t mean a low/forward CG. The new CG Black isn’t designed to compete with TaylorMade’s R15 or Callaway’s Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond. We’re still talking about a driver designed to help average golfers get the ball in the air.

Like many drivers on the market today, the CG Black features variable face thickness. The idea is make the face more responsive in the areas where average golfers tend to miss. Face design coupled with MOI is where forgiveness comes from.


Speed through weight reduction is gaining in popularity with most companies now offering something that either qualifies as ultralight or is designed to compete with ultralights. Cleveland’s CG black is on the extreme end of that ultralight range. Of the 260 grams of total weight, 187g of that is in the head, while the 44g Mitsubishi Bassara shaft accounts for the bulk of the rest. You can do the math yourself to figure out the grip weight.

The totality of the design contributes to what Cleveland calls Low Swing MOI. Now is a good time to make sure everyone understand the distinction between head MOI and Cleveland’s Swing MOI. High MOI in the head is desirable. It’s where forgiveness comes from. Lower Swing MOI, according to Cleveland, is desirable because it produces more speed with the same effort.

Everybody wants more speed…at least that’s what all the commercials say.



The CG Black offers a slightly rounded shape, a matte black crown, and absolutely no alignment aid. The only crown detail, blue accents on the trailing edge, is subtle-enough that most won’t notice it at address. While you might call CG Black a game-improvement driver, the overall design proves that game-improvement doesn’t need to be in your face. Much like the Classic line, CG Black reflects a modern take on a traditional aesthetic.

Other details include a slightly shallow face, and while difficult to explain in any meaningful way, the majority of golfers who sole driver at address will appreciate the way the heal-side edge contours hug the turf.

Cleveland put a fair amount of effort into refining the sound (and consequently the feel) of the CG Black driver. The addition of an internal rib creates a higher frequency sound at impact, which most will likely prefer over a deeper thud. The result is a club that feels more alive at impact.



Everything we’ve talked about is all well and good, but doesn’t it really boil down to how the driver performs?

Because of its specific and arguably narrower market focus, Cleveland declined to have CG Black included in our Most Wanted Test, but it did provide us with samples for testing. So while not specifically part of the test itself, a subset of our testers (those within CG Black’s target audience) did hit the CG Black driver during the test.

When we look at key metrics like swing speed, ball speed, and distance (total and carry) it’s not surprising that for our golfers within its target audience, the CG Black outperformed low/forward CG designs like the TaylorMade R15, Callaway Double Black Diamond, Cobra FLY-Z+, as well as a majority of the sub-460cc drivers.


Those drivers are generally designed for lower launching, lower spin players. They’re not designed to produce higher club head speeds or help the golfer get the ball in the air.

Among the drivers in our test, and likely across the entire market, the closest comparison to the Cleveland CG Black is the Wilson D200, and so we thought it could be interesting to take a look at a direct comparison.

The Data


As you can see, the two drivers performed quite similarly and depending on what exactly it is you’re looking for in a driver, you could probably make a case for either.

When we take a deeper dive into our data we find a bit clearer of a dividing line. For the subset of testers who swing above 85 MPH (the range was roughly 86-91 MPH), the Wilson D200 put up better numbers (nearly across the board), while for our testers under 85 MPH (roughly 78-84 MPH), the results were better – again, nearly across the board – with the Cleveland CG Black.

While the results of our larger tests suggest the D200, and other fast drivers like AeroBurner and V-Series should have wider reach within the market, for lower swing speed players, particularly those below 85 MPH, Cleveland’s CG Black is an intriguing option.

The Takeaway


If you swing more than 90 MPH, the Cleveland CG Black probably isn’t for you. If you’re happily playing a TaylorMade SLDR or something else of that ilk, it’s probably not for you either, and that’s okay…at least it should be.

Much to Cleveland’s credit the company isn’t taking the usual this driver is for anyone who wants more distance route. Instead the company is being specific and honest about who is most likely to benefit for the CG Black.

Unfortunately that probably also means the CG Black won’t  grab the same level of attention as the marketplace juggernauts. All things to all people is what the market likes. Still, if you’re a slow to moderate swing speed player looking for help getting the ball in the air, and who wants to have fun hitting the driver again, then take a look at Cleveland’s CG Black.

The 2015 Cleveland CG Black driver is available in 9°, 10.5°, and 12°. Retail price is $349.99.