Mickelson resigns with Callaway Golf

Phil Mickelson has signed a multi-year contract extension with Callaway Golf.

“We are thrilled to extend our partnership with Phil,” said Callaway Golf President & CEO Chip Brewer. “He has meant so much to Callaway, and he continues to inspire us to develop the most innovative equipment in golf.”

Mickelson joined Callaway’s Tour Staff in 2004, and has since won 19 professional events that include four major championship.

 “When I joined the team at Callaway 10 years ago, I knew I was making the best decision of my career,” Mickelson said. “And I feel even stronger about that decision today. Backed by innovative technologies, industry-leading products, and the outstanding R&D group that works so closely with me, I honestly believe that these next few years will be the best of my career.”

Mickelson, 44, is currently the No. 11-ranked golfer in the world.

Unfiltered: A Q&A with Callaway CEO Chip Brewer

We could say a lot about Callaway CEO Chip Brewer, and trust us, there would be plenty to talk about.

There’s the quantum leaps Callaway has made in revitalizing its image since Brewer took over three years ago, the economics of the golf industry, Callaway’s frequent product launches… All of that and more would be part of the discussion.

Instead of telling you what we think, we had a better idea. Let’s have someone sit down with Brewer and hear what he has to say.

Our Managing Editor Zak Kozuchowski did exactly that, peppering Brewer with questions in his office at Callaway HQ. Enjoy Brewer’s unfiltered take on the hot-button issues for Callaway and the rest of the golf equipment world.

ZK: We hear a lot from other media and other people inside the industry about the health of golf. What’s your take on the health of golf right now?

CB: You know, on one hand I share some of the concerns that others have espoused. Clearly the game is not growing like we would like it to be. It shrank significantly with the great recession in 2008-2009. After that, I am more optimistic than most are. I think that the amount of negative PR around the sport is not helpful … If you look at the industry over the last several years, it clearly shrank in 2008-2009 with the recession and it has not sprung back after like it has after previous recessions. None of us really get that, other than this recession was different. But it hasn’t really substantially changed since then either. It’s just kind of meandered. Its had a couple good years and a couple not so good years. We’re just in a year this year that has just not been a good year for the industries total, although Callaway as you mentioned has been able to buck that trend.

I think that although the outlook could be glass half empty … you can also look at some of the positives. There are a lot of initiatives underway that are intended to help participation. It is too soon to judge their outcome, but they are uniform views that this is something that the entire industry wants to address. You could look at the PGA Championship and the ratings and the energy that was around the sport as very positive. I think that the story of golf’s demise is not a great argument and is overstated. On the other hand, I understand that we clearly have participation concerns and we have to work together to try to address that.

ZK: Do you think golf will start to grow again?

CB: You know, I don’t know. I’m not really much of a forecaster. If you just went from the business side of it, the greatest argument for growth is that the baby boomers should have led for growth over the last few years and I think the recession stopped that from happening. As the effects of the recession wear off, assuming they do, the baby boomers will have a positive impact on the sport.

I think that if Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler and those types of players continue to play well and we get the energy around the game that will drive growth. There is no question that Tiger Woods was part of the formula that drove growth in the sport around the turn of the century, right? We have seen this happen in the game many times in the past where there have been transition periods between periods of excitement with the top players and we’re are probably going through or went through one of those over the last year or so. And then things like Top Golf … all the growth initiatives, and I’m a fan of all of them. Get Golf Ready is a phenomenal program. We are big supporters of that. What TaylorMade started with Hack Golf I think is phenomenal. I can’t be more positive about it. But what really is going move the needle is Top Golf. It exposes the game to a whole different demographic and age group in a way that they love. It hasn’t moved the needle yet because it’s been so small. It’s only had 10 locations. It’s been more regional, as they roll that out I have high hopes that that could be a positive influence in the sport.

The one area we are concerned about is millennials. I think we understand some of the reasons they aren’t playing as much as they have in the past. Part of it is the change in the way we live today, but part of it is economics — they don’t have any jobs or money. This game requires money. If you segment the millennials by income group, those that have higher incomes and jobs are playing as much as they ever have. So, you get out of school and you have a bunch of debt … When I went to school everybody got a job out of college, right? And now that is not the case. No wonder they aren’t playing golf. They not in a position to. As the economics resolve, I think it will be incredibly helpful and the data suggests that and Top Golf can be a catalyst. I’m not in the forecasting business, but I do think that the negative points of view have been overstated and that has had the run of the PR game. It’s all you’ve heard about.

ZK: One of those stories is with Dick’s Sporting Goods. It blames its demise on having too many new products in the store.

CB: Well, Dick’s and TaylorMade have struggled in golf this year. They have in turn highlighted the difficulties of the industry and that’s natural. When my predecessor was here and he doing bad he claimed a lot of third-party issues, too. And there is no doubt that there have been headwinds to the industry this year, but not to the degree that some of the naysayers have talked about.

ZK: Do you anticipate that you will catch some flak — particularly from the serious golfer audience — for having three drivers in the marketplace this fall and potentially more in the spring and summer?

CB: From the serious golfer, no. From the trade and blogospheres, yes.

ZK: That’s a pretty good way to put it.

CB: Obviously your audience is serious, serious golfers and we value them and take them very seriously as you know. We desperately want positive relationships, and brand image and reputation are very important to us. The consumer that I play golf with at the club… they get excited about new toys.

ZK: They love it. The more the better, right?

CB: When Apple came out with the 5c and other derivatives of the iPhone, I don’t remember us giving them grief. I remember people lining up for it. And now they’ve got a new 6 and 6+. It took them a year on this one, but on the previous ones they were faster and innovation varies from time to time.

ZK: Callaway is in an interesting position, because certain brands have become associated with certain categories. TaylorMade is associated with the driver and Titleist is associated with the golf ball. What is Callaway associated with now, and what does it want to be associated with?

CB: That is a great question and we have to answer that. We have some categories where we are leaders again. We have been a leader in putters with the Odyssey brand for a long period and we have strengthened that position in the last few years. We have regained our No. 1 position in fairway woods and irons over the last several months, but I think that the brand is going to need to stand for excellence in product. Callaway has a unique brand position; it has a heritage of being very innovative and technical, but also very premium. So when we look at our R&D — which I think we have invested in more than anybody over a longer period of time — that fits with that strategy. What we should be is a leader in total performance premium golf equipment. That is, in essence, the best of the best high tech product lines.

ZK: So if Callaway could only be known for one thing… If you had one chance to reach our readers, what would it be?

CB: It needs to be the best premium golf equipment in the world.

ZK: And you seem to be making pushes in each category.

CB: Yeah, there isn’t a single category that we want to stand for above the others. We have clearly focused on hard goods, which sounds pretty stupid because… duhhh, what else would you focus on? But that was less clear three years ago, what we were. That was one of the changes here, but it’s now been a while. But we are, first and foremost a hard goods company. We want to be the world’s best at that. That’s what turns us on and gets us excited. Products like Apex irons and the (Big Bertha) Alpha driver … some of the new innovations that you see coming out that move the needle forward for the categories for the business for golfers. This cup-face technology that we have in woods and are expanding into irons, it’s phenomenal. It differentiates and that is the type of thing we want to be known for.

ZK: You mentioned Top Golf as a potential big driver of the game. On our site, it seems to be an increased interest in custom fitting. How do you see that playing out in golf’s future?

CB: I think it is the future. I sit up and espouse that to the team here constantly. You look at our investments … custom fitting is the future of the golf club business, and probably golf balls in the future as well. It is the future of hard goods. In the past, you could make a breakthrough technology and do it in a way that one size would fit everybody. We would come out in the past with a new driver made out of titanium. Literally, the Big Bertha was made for everybody, right?

ZK: It was such a huge leap. You can’t seem to make those leaps anymore.

CB: Well, I would argue that we could make similar leaps with other new tech like CAD systems and the ability to dial in CG locations. We build mass customization and manufacturing techniques that allow us to take these paradigm moves and customize them for an individual player. That takes it to another level. A cup face is better for everybody because of an increased ball speed, but that doesn’t mean any one size fits everybody perfectly. We are talking about more than just changing loft and lie angle nowadays. The amount of options available in shafts and their performance criteria, the total weight of the golf club, the ability to move the center of gravity vertically as well as horizontally … all of those things can be dialed in to take a driver that would be good for you Zak, and move it to a whole different level.

ZK: Well, I found one of those at your testing center.

CB: Right. If you look at our new drivers, it has double digit amount of customizable shafts available for no upcharge.

ZK: Is that something you brought from Adams? Is that something you saw success with there and thought it would work at a bigger company, too? 

CB: I am a creature of my past so I brought some thoughts I wanted to continue, but there are 2000 people here with their own points of view and we talk it through. It’s not reasonable or fair to say I brought it with me. It is reasonable to say that I believe in it, and I have talked it through here. The team here agrees and embraces the same things. We have a huge technical advantage at Callaway — on drivers and metal woods we can create a lighter chassis. We have a multi-material advantage and expertise in composites that create a lighter chassis and allows us to add more adjustability without any tradeoffs. And we also have a legacy of spending $30 million a year over the last decade to build up a war chest of capabilities on the R&D side that we’re really excited about leveraging. Fitting and customization is one of those truisms; it is the future. You can see in everything we are doing our strong belief in that.

ZK: Is there a “most important” launch this year for Callaway?

CB: There isn’t one per se. They are all very important. The Big Bertha franchise is critical being that it is the most premium brand. We are bringing great innovation to that and a fitting approach. One driver doesn’t fit all, but we have new technology in every single one of them. Some people wish that it was simpler. That we could have one-size wood fit everyone, that you wouldn’t have to go through a fitting, that everybody would benefit from lighter or lower spin… but it’s not true. So to deliver the best product to the consumer we are going with the purer answer of three different drivers that we guarantee will be better for the consumer if they get fit into the right one from Big Bertha. And that will be important to us. We have some movement in the golf ball category, which we’re incredibly excited about. The iron category for us is huge. With this cup-face approach in irons, we think that will be a game changer in that category. You go down the line and they are all pretty important.

ZK: What could get in Callaway’s way coming out of the recession?

CB: What could get in Callaways way? Mostly ourselves. We have to stay humble and hungry — have to continue to listen, change and adapt and get better. Over the long haul, we have a great brand and great resources. We can be a positive factor for the industry, Zak. We’re never going to be perfect, we’re always going to make mistakes, but we have to be honest with ourselves and then use our resources in the right way.

ZK: Is that why you push R&D so hard?

CB: Yeah, I guess so I push everybody a little bit hard. I hope they know I love them, because I do, but we’ve got to be great. You can’t have a product out there that you aren’t wildly proud of, and that is the essence of what motivates us everyday. It’s the same with the marketing and the Tour. We have to keep getting better. We are growing on Tour, growing in popularity and we are making players better most of the time. One of the things I’m most proud of on the Tour is that the players who have joined us… the vast majority are getting better. We graduated seven guys off the Web.com (Tour). Both the No. 1 off the regular season money list and playoff money list were Callaway players. When did that happen last? Never? Stories like Patrick Reed, Chris Kirk, Gary Woodland — when they make the conversions to our gear they get better.

ZK: There doesn’t seem to be a drop off for a lot of the guys that have signed.

CB: Yeah, it’s been the opposite. We’ve all known that hasn’t always been true in the past with every manufacturer, probably even including Callaway.

ZK: What could get in the industry’s way coming out of the recession?

CB: What the industry has to worry about is that the business practices do change. If you look at the drops in average selling prices and excess inventory that has been put into the marketplace over the last few years, that has been a cancer to the golf industry. Everybody is talking about that changing now and it really needs to. If you look at another area that I’m really proud of Callaway, is it that over the last three years we have raised average selling prices in the field. We have gained a ton of market share and we have done it as we’ve raised average selling prices. It’s not that we are trying to gouge consumers. That’s not even a strategy if you wanted it to be, because nobody wants to pay more unless it’s better value, it’s worth it. But where we are using our abilities is to deliver product that is worth it, that delivers on the benefit. Because if you deliver “me too” product, you’re going to have to discount it to sell it through. And then if you over supply that “me too” product, then you’ve not only screwed yourself. You’ve screwed the industry. What we are doing is investing and bringing out products like Apex irons.

ZK: Is there a product that you are most proud of with your time at Callaway?

CB: Apex is up there.

ZK: A $1100 set of irons…

CB: That people love. They don’t like them; they love them. And when people are putting Apex in the bag, they are going to become huge advocates for Callaway because they’re having that kind of impact on their game.

ZK: Is that what you play?

CB: Yeah, but the feedback is almost universal and it wasn’t even on the radar screen but it was within our capabilities. And there are several products, and obviously I’ve said that if we are not proud of them I won’t sleep at night, so I’m proud of everything we’ve put out. But some really live up to the standard that we are talking about.

ZK: Do you think that innovation is ever going to be as sexy as it was when you went to original Big Bertha or when golf went to oversized-perimeter-weighted irons? Are we ever going to see anything like that again that is just so much better?

CB: I really don’t know, Zak. There’s a possibility that it always looks better. It’s like talking about the good old days you know and so you remember them with rose-colored glasses. Some of the innovations that have come out over the last few years are phenomenal. These high-CT fairway woods — they’ve obsoleted other fairway woods. If you’re not using a high-CT fairway wood, you are not in the modern age. Our version of that, X Hot, has moved us back into No. 1 in the fairway wood category. Now you can wax eloquently about oversized irons driving similar change, but it wasn’t any better. It’s just that you remember it as if it was. The changes in the adjustability of these drivers are phenomenal right now. 

ZK: Do you think that we’ll look back at the current product and say how great it was?

CB: Absolutely. We’re are going to look back on this 10 years from now and go, “How come we don’t have great innovations like cup faces anymore or vertical CG adjustability?”

ZK: So this is a thing, you believe, of human nature?

CB: I think part of it is because we are in the process. We are going to change irons next year. We are going to change irons to the point where everything else out there is going to be obsolete. We did that in fairway woods now and we’ve got some thoughts on the golf ball category. You know, everybody says innovations are going to get harder and harder, and to a degree that’s true, but darn over the next few years all I see is opportunity and we are delivering on it. It’s not theory. We show you the cup face in the fairway wood and what that has done to the category. And to the credit of Adams and Taylormade, the slot started that and if you are not playing a high-CT fairway wood you’re in the stone age. Those similar types of changes, you’re starting to see that in irons. We are going to take that to a new level. We’ve got an argument in almost every category right now. Blockbuster change.

ZK: Where can you get better?

CB: Zak, we are not nearly as good as we should be or want to be yet. This is only 2.5 years into a change process. Callaway is an interesting spot. I’m glad to hear you say that you think the moral is good and I think it is too, but we are very self critical still in terms of how we can continue to improve in all areas of our business … There are products that were already produced that we decided not to launch. We made that decision last month because we got new information and the new information said that it wasn’t the right answer for the consumer.

ZK: Can you tell me more?

CB: It’s not available for writing about right now, but we’ll tell you when the time is right.

ZK: OK, let’s talk more about the criticism you’ve received for having too many products, especially drivers, in the market place? How can people be upset about having more choices?

CB: It doesn’t fit their paradigm of the world, they don’t understand it and we’re not ready to discuss it yet. So we’ll just let them slap us around a little bit. And yeah, it came quickly after the Big Bertha launch in February. We’re introducing V-Series now and maybe we should have put V-Series out in November (with the new Big Bertha Alphas), but you make decisions as you go … V-Series fits a lot of people. It’s a product that definitely needs to be out in the field, but obviously that low spin stuff for a guy like you is going to be game changing, right? V-Series is not going to be your driver.

Click here to see Zak Kozuchowski’s test of Callaway’s V-Series, Big Bertha Alpha 815 and Double Black Diamond drivers.

Clearly you can see the success it’s having, and you know that for a sixty-year-old guy that is buying a 10.5- or 13.5-degree driver, a 295-gram aerodynamic V-Series driver is a perfect answer. Giving that guy a 320-gram driver with low spin is idiotic. I’m not serving the consumer. And to simplify the product offering to make some guy on a blog happy is dumb. Now, how we manage it is very important so where we work those transitions and managing the excess inventory is one of the big differences that we don’t get credit for.

ZK: Is there a differentiating factor right now between Callaway and its competitors?

CB: Well, Callaway is its own animal. We have our own flavor of coming to market and running our business, and people can’t lump anybody in. We are very aggressive on bringing innovation and cool products, but we also are very attentive to managing the field inventories and making sure that we are not flooding the market with excess inventory and such. That, I think, supports the strategy well. I think that the industry got into a lot of trouble over the last few years chasing too much growth that wasn’t there. If you take every order and you keep shipping into the field and keep making old product you’re going to oversupply it, especially if your products don’t differentiate in any particular year.

The world doesn’t need more cheap fairway woods or more cheap drivers. New golfers get excited about products that make a difference for them. We are really good at that. Some of the others are really good too at that, but we are also showing the discipline of a premium brand market leader and some of the blogs are not giving us credit for that. But the data is very clear. We are obviously gaining market share and we are obviously exciting consumers. We are growing with good players, with average players… we are growing across the globe. We’re making golfers happy.

ZK: What is the vision you have for Callaway and when do think it can come into fruition?

CB: The vision is to do what we are doing, so we are in the process. You are never going to get there. There is never an end point. That is part of life, business — for you, for me, for anybody. There will be milestones along the way where we’ll stop and high five. Then we have to think about how we are going to continue to get better. The vision for Callaway is to have this be the No. 1 premium total performance golf brand in the world and I don’t believe that we are there yet, but I believe we are moving in that direction. The only reason I believe it is because the outside world — the objective evidence — is suggesting that we are. There is almost no metric that would suggest otherwise, but clearly I know what our potential is and we are not even halfway there to that yet. We continue to get so much better and we are continuing to invest accordingly. I kind of like, in a perverse way, the fact that we are doing well in a tough market because that means that we are going to be continuing to grow on Tour going into next year and we’ll be investing aggressively. We’ll continue to invest in R&D and marketing. Being the guy that is bucking the trend and putting more money into key areas when others may not have the ability to do that, usually that pays off. The guys that made those investments in 2008 and 2009 did well after that period. So I’m excited about that opportunity as well.

Keegan rips Jordan, promptly gets owned

Keegan Bradley and Michael Jordan seem to have both a professional and friendly relationship — they frequently play golf together, probably for high stakes, and Keegan rocks exclusive Jumpman golf shoes, commonly referred to as the Air Keegans.

Knowing Jordan the way he does, Keegan should have known not to trash talk with the most infamous and ruthless trash talker in sports. Jordan took over the Charlotte Hornets Twitter handle yesterday, and didn’t take him long to publicly embarrass Keegan.

Just minutes later, Jordan responded.

Jordan spares no one. He treated Keegan Bradley like he was Reggie Miller in ’93. Stop the fight!

Keegan politely tucked his tail between his legs and accepted defeat.

Jordan, why’d you have to do Keegan like that?

JordanShrug

Just add this one to the list of Jordan’s casualties. Don’t worry Keegan, Dikembe Mutombo probably got it the worst.

Here’s an ode to the best trash talkers.

Or you can just watch this on repeat.

The surprising chain of events that got Ted Bishop fired

“It’s painful because it’s taken a lot of things that I’ve done and puts them down the drain,” said Ted Bishop, ex-president of the PGA of America, in an interview on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive on Tuesday morning.

Bishop was fired last Friday for calling Ian Poulter a “lil girl” on social media the night before. As the public later learned, Bishop didn’t believe he should have been fired.

“I do not think the punishment fits the crime,” Bishop said on Morning Drive.

According to the ex-PGA President, he was desperately trying to express his remorse publicly after backlash began, but PGA of America representatives insisted they issue an apology on his behalf — one that Bishop was not ultimately comfortable with.

“Ted realized that his post was inappropriate and promptly removed it,” the statement read.

Dottie Pepper, former LPGA Star and current ESPN analyst, told Bishop he needed to issue his own apology, and she texted him what he should say, according to Bishop’s interview on Morning Drive. The PGA of America never allowed him to go public with what Dottie recommended.

Bishop also said he was seeking out Ian Poulter’s cell phone number from someone at the PGA of America in order to apologize to him directly, but got no reply.

“The silence was deafening,” Bishop said on Morning Drive. “I knew they were going to ask me to resign.”

He was right. PGA vice president, Derek Sprague broke the silence and called Bishop at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, urging him to step down as president, according to a report from Jaime Diaz of Golf Digest.

Instead of resigning, Bishop issued a statement on a 21-person teleconference with the board of the PGA of America at 4 p.m. He apologized for what he did, asked for the opportunity to apologize publicly and expressed remorse for his insults toward Poulter, according to Diaz. Bishop received zero votes from the board in support of him retaining the position.

After the teleconference, Sprague called Bishop, again urging him to resign. Bishop refused, saying that would “make it easy for the PGA of America,” Diaz reported.

“Well, it will save your career, save your reputation.” Sprague said, according to Bishop.

Bishop told Sprague that it wouldn’t.

“My reputation has already been ruined,” Bishop told him. “As far as my career, I’m going back to run my golf facility [The Legends]. I’m not going to run for another office in the PGA. So there’s nothing in it for me to resign.”

Despite Sprague’s warning that Bishop would regret his decision not to resign, Bishop pushed on, according to Diaz.

“I think the PGA of America needs to be in position to explain why this thing came down as it did,” Bishop told Sprague. “I don’t think it was totally fair.”

Despite what Bishop thought or still thinks, he was fired from his post as PGA of America president for violating the Code of Ethics, and because of “negative feedback” from the PGA of America members and sponsors, as Bishop explained on Morning Drive.

The videos below are from his interview on the Morning Drive on Tuesday morning. Bishop discusses the comments he made, the events that occurred leading up to his impeachment and what it all means to his legacy.

At around 1:30 in the video below, Bishop explains the work he’s done for women and girls over the course of his career and how he advocates for gender equality.

Find a release that squares the clubface at impact

The last time we discussed release, we defined it as the point of extension of the lead arm and the golf club. The other part of release we need to concern ourselves with is that of squaring the clubface, which is the impact condition that leads to straighter shots. This, too, is defined as part of the “release,” albeit somewhat ambiguously.

The extension of the lead arm and the golf club, which I discussed in my last story, is a result of what is known as ulnar and radial deviation. The squaring of the face, which I am going to discuss in this article, is a result of the pronation and supination of the hands and arms. Both are essential parts of the release. The first part achieves a consistent swing bottom, while the second part squares the club face.

At address, the face of the golf club is at a right angle to the target line and the plane on which the club is about to swing. To facilitate the up-and-around motion, there is a certain amount of rotation of the arms so that at the top of the swing the club face is no longer at right angles to the plane — it is actually lying on the plane.

This position is referred to as “square,” but it is in fact 90 degrees open to the target line. If it were “square” as it was at address it would not be lying on the plane; it would coming off it at a right angle. All you’d need to see this is to pull the club down with no rotation and it would be precisely 9o degrees open to the ball at impact. So because the club was rotated by the arms and turning of the torso on the way up, it must be “re-rotated” on the way down. I think of this as “releasing the face,” an essential movement in solid contact.

In Part 1 of the release, I suggested that golfers uncock their wrists at different points in the downswing depending on the path and plane on which they are swinging. This also holds true for rotation and roll of the arms and hands into the ball. The factors determining when and how the face is released are also allied to the path and plane on which the golf club is swinging into the ball.

If you are a steep swinger, you need a conscious rolling of the forearms into the ball. That’s because the more vertical the club transitions, the more the face tends to open.

The flatter the swing arc into the ball, the less you need to roll your forearms into the ball. Your hands can be more “quiet” into impact. You still will need to square the clubface, but you can be more passive in doing so.

Here’s a great checklist if you’re struggling with hooks or slices

  • Low snap hooks are the result of too much hand action from a flat arc.
  • High, weak slices are the result of not enough hands from a steep arc.

It’s that simple.

If you tend to uncock the wrists early, this part of your swing may be in your golfing DNA. Don’t sweat the small stuff — simply play around it by making the necessary adjustments in your plane and path to facilitate it. The same goes for your freedom to release the club. If you’re coming in low on the swing plane, you can turn your body through and use less hands. If you’re high and steep coming down, let it roll, baby, roll. Any Doors fans still around today?

The best release drill I know is still one of the very first ones I learned: The Split Grip Drill. Simply split your grip so your left hand (for righties) is on the golf club normally. The position your right hand all the way down on the shaft below the handle. Now take some baseball swings; you’ll feel the roll-over, or the rotation. Do it several times. It helps.

For those of you who are regular followers of my writing and teaching, you see one consistent theme — work with what you already have in your swing. This is not a cop-out on my part as a teacher; I’m merely suggesting that certain motions are very difficult to change, but the good news is that you don’t have to.

What’s the problem with a flying elbow, a weak grip, a flat plane, bent left arm, across the line, laid off, etc.

Answer: Nothing. Qualification: Nothing in and of itself.

There are any number of golfers in the Hall of Fame who have swung the club with one or more of the positions I just described. How did they get away with it? They balanced their swing to arrive at impact correctly. That’s been the case since the first Scot slapped the first brassie from a mud peg and it remains the case today.

I can help anyone play better and become their own teacher if they are willing to make changes that are more compatible with their core move.

GolfWRX Best Rangefinders: A Buyer’s Guide

What are the best rangefinders in golf? Like most things golf equipment, it depends on your needs.

Laser rangefinders, a category that is dominated by Bushnell and Leupold, are great for golfers who are looking for the most accurate distances. GPS models, on the other hand, are the top choice for golfers more concerned with a fuller picture — distances to water hazards, bunkers, doglegs, etc. They also allow golfers to track their stats and keep their score, if they’re into that.

This list of the best rangefinders was created with the assistance of Laser and GPS rangefinder expert Nick Wallace of Morton’s Golf. It will help you make the best choice, whether you’re buying for yourself or that special golfer in your life.

For golfers on a budget, we’ve also included a value section at the bottom of the page that will get you the best yardages for the money.

Best Premium Rangefinders

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Bushnell Tour Z6 Jolt

  • Type: GPS
  • Suggested Price: $399
  • Weight: About 8 ounces
  • Coolest Feature: JOLT technology vibrates when you hit the flag

The Tour Z6 Jolt is barely bigger than a deck of cards, but it houses all the technology of Bushnell’s larger, slightly more powerful Pro X7 rangefinder. It’s accurate to 0.5 yards and its JOLT technology vibrates when a golfer locks onto a flag — not the stuff behind the green. That gives golfers peace of mind that they’ve got the right yardage.

Its VDT display is extremely bright, even in low-light conditions, and its 6X magnification gets golfers close enough to dial-in yardages to the corners of hazards and doglegs.

Wallace says lasers like the Tour Z6 Jolt are a great choice for golfers seeking simplicity.

“There’s not a lot of training involved and you don’t have to be computer savvy,” Wallace says. “If you’re looking to dial in your yardage to 1 yard, or a 1/10 of a yard in some cases, lasers are the best bet.”

Buy the Bushnell Tour Z6 Jolt

Garmin Approach G8

Garmin Approach G8

  • Type: GPS
  • Suggested Price: $399
  • Weight: About 4 ounces
  • Coolest Feature: Smart Notifications sync with your smartphone

The Garmin Approach G8 has a battery life of 15 hours and boasts a 3-inch color touchscreen with large, bright maps that recommend layup positions. It also comes preloaded with 38,000 courses that automatically update through Wi-Fi.

There are no subscriptions or fees, and the G8′s PlaysLike Distance feature gives golfers the ability to adjust yardages to precise targets and accounts for uphill and downhill yardages. While that makes it non-conforming for tournament play, it’s still pretty cool. And the G8′s PinPointer gives you the direction to the middle of the green or your selected area of the green, even if you can’t see it.

Not into having two devices in your cart: your GPS and your iPhone? If you have an iPhone 4 or later, the G8′s Smart Notifications allows you to receive email and text alerts on its screen so you can leave your phone in your bag.

If you’re into keeping score and tracking stats on a GPS, the G8 does that too, and it allows you to enter your club information so it can recommend different clubs based on different yardages. You can also download the information after the round and upload it to your computer.

Buy the Garmin Approach G8

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Leupold GX-4i2

  • Type: Laser
  • Suggested Price: $624.99
  • Weight: About 8 ounces
  • Coolest Feature: Measures slope and atmospheric conditions, but can be made USGA conforming with a removable face plate

The most advanced laser rangefinders are made by Leupold, Wallace says, and if you want the most tricked-out laser rangefinder money can buy then you need Leupold’s GX-4i2.

Like the more affordable GX-3i2 ($399), the GX-4i2 is accurate to 1/10th of a yard. You might not need that much accuracy, by why wouldn’t you want it? What the GX-3i2 or any other rangefinder can’t do, however, is offer distances based on slopes and atmospheric conditions. That’s where the TRG (True Range Golf) technology in the GX-4i2 comes into play.

TRG allows the GX-4i2 to function as a training aid during practice rounds, giving golfers accurate yardages based on a course’s topography and weather conditions. When tournament time comes, however, all golfers have to do is disable TRG by installing the provided chrome faceplate and go about the distance-only measurements that conform with the rules of golf.

The GX-4i2 also has what the company calls Prism Lock technology, which beeps when golfs locks onto the prisms that are installed on many course’s flagsticks.

Buy the Leupold GX-4i2 

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Garmin Approach S6 Watch

  • Type: GPS
  • Suggested Price: $399
  • Weight: About 2 ounces.
  • Coolest Feature: Built-in SwingTempo trainer.

If you’re used to wearing a watch on the course, why not wear a golf-specific watch? That was Garmin’s approach with the S6, which has a color touchscreen that allows it to do everything most GPS units do from the comfort of your wrist.

Like the G8, the S6 comes preloaded with 38,000 courses and has no fees or subscription. It updates through Wi-Fi, will sync with your iPhone (4 or later) to display notifications through Bluetooth and shows full-color maps that preview doglegs, traps, water hazards and the green.

There’s more, but the coolest feature for many gearheads will be its SwingTempo trainer, which like a metronome gives golfers audible tones to tune their swing to different tempos when practicing.

Buy the Garmin Approach S6 Watch 

Best Value Rangefinders

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 Bushnell Tour V3 JOLT

  • Type: Laser
  • Suggested Price: $299
  • Weight: About 7 ounces.
  • Coolest Feature: Affordability

Bushnell’s Tour V3 Jolt has all the cool technology of the company’s Tour Z6 Jolt and Pro X7 Jolt, yet it costs much less.

Compact? Check. Lightweight? Check. Accurate to 1 yard? Check. JOLT? Check.

Who really needs anything else?

Buy the Bushnell Tour V3 Jolt

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Golf Buddy Voice

  • Type: GPS
  • Suggested Price: $119.99
  • Weight: About 1 ounce
  • Coolest Feature: It talks to you!

No GPS is less intrusive than the Golf Buddy Voice, which weighs less than 1 ounce and easily clips to your hat or belt for yardages to the front, center or back of the green at the touch of a button.

The Voice comes pre-loaded with 40,000 courses and requires no fees or subscriptions. It has volume control (your playing partners will thank you) and automatically recognizes what course and hole you’re on. The latest version, Golf Buddy’s Voice VS4, sells for $149.99.

Buy the Golf Buddy Voice

John Daly shreds with Kenny G, plays golf with Jessica Alba

John Daly has made the full transformation into international rockstar. He has a hit song on the radio, he shreds with Kenny G — what more proof do we need?

Daly and Kenny G performed a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” at an after-party event following the Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am at China’s Hainan Mission Hills over the weekend.

The event was loaded with a star-studded cast of characters including Morgan Freeman, Nicole Kidman, Jessica Alba, Greg Norman and Yao Ming.

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I thought there was some rule about wearing white after labor day, Ms. Kidman? Maybe it’s just a conscious decision to publicly separate herself from her role in Batman Forever.

Flexibility and extension on the backswing doesn’t seem to be an issue in Alba’s golf game.

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Why does Red’s left hand look like Chubbs’ right hand here? Freeman teamed up with ex-NBA basketball player Yao Ming during the World Celebrity Pro-Am.

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Yao Ming is tall. At 7 foot 6 inches, it looks like his “standard” driver shaft length is equivalent of a ReMax World Long Drive shaft. In case you need a good laugh, here’s Yao trying to play golf in 2012.

Partying, music and golf on what looks to be an awesome golf course. I guess a little rain didn’t seem to spoil their good time.

Heard lots of great things about #MissionHillsHaikou but even more breathtaking in person #China #WorldCelebrityProAm pic.twitter.com/O0ttLYOsKZ

— John Daly (@PGA_JohnDaly) October 25, 2014

Stickney: Behind the scenes at the Top-100 Teaching Summit

Every year, Golf Magazine hosts a “Teaching Summit” for its Top-100 Instructors. It brings together all types of teachers with different perspectives of how golf should be taught to the masses. Some teachers are from the old school, some bridge the gap between old and new and others are part of the latest generation of teachers that will eventually become more advanced than my generation ever was.

As a Top-100 Teacher for nearly 10 years, I have gotten to know almost everyone … what they teach, how they articulate concepts to their students, etc. It’s been such a blessing. This vital information helps me to become a better instructor and it exposes me to thoughts I might not otherwise have on my own. I know some of you on GolfWRX would have loved to sit in on what was talked about at the Teaching Summit, so I figured that I’d provide you an exclusive look into what was said.

Dave Pelz

DavePelz

I have known Dave Pelz for more than 15 years, as he and his wife owned a home at a place that I worked in the summers, and I am always fascinated to speak with him to see what he has come up with “this time.” You might know that Dave focuses on the short game, and I was expecting to hear some of his new studies on how the ball rolls or how to put more spin on wedge shots, but he took a different route this year and I think it made perfect sense.

During his speech, he focused on growing the game by improving the short game and further went on to say that if we (the teachers) did not do more short game instruction then the game will continue to decline and even more people will leave golf for good. His thought was that missing short putts or having the chipping/pitching yips make people quit the game. Stop and think about it: How many golfers do you know who quit the game because they:

  1. Can’t hit their driver straight?
  2. Don’t hit their irons as well as they’d like?

Now, how many times have you heard about golfers who quit the game because they had the short game yips? Yes, it’s much more often.

When most people pick up golf, they never seem to place much importance on properly learning the short game. By the time they come to me for a lesson, they either need a ton of short game work or their short game is too far gone to drastically improve. We just Band-Aid what we can until they refocus their attention, which sadly happens too rarely.

What I learned from Mr. Pelz is that we teachers need to work on teaching the short game in every lesson package. Some of us do, while others do not. Even if you don’t agree, Dave makes a very interesting point.

The Heart-Math Company

A former cardiologist spoke to us about how the heart and brain react to stress and strain within our daily lives. This could be at work, at home, or on the golf course, but the fact always remains that stress causes bad things to happen. He made a funny statement that hit me like a rock, asking about last time we made a really stupid decision or lost all of our rationale? “When you are highly stressed,” the doc said.

Secondly, he asked us if we have ever been in the Zone while being uptight or ticked off? Think back to your golf game. Imagine the player who tends to lose his temper on the golf course. Do they make great course management decisions or stupid plays? Are they in the Zone? I don’t even have to answer those questions for you.

His company, Heart-Math, provides training for you to understand how to control your brainwaves, heart-rate and blood pressure all with a little gizmo that you clip to your ear that projects this information onto your computer screen. By watching these “waves,” you will be better able to get yourself into a position in which you could actually enter the Zone. And this makes perfect sense to me. We all need to learn how to relax more often!

Stack and Tilt: Andy Bennett and Mike Plummer

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Above: Mike Bennet (left) and Andy Plummer (right).

This was the first time I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Mike and Andy in person. While some teachers instantly write them and their swing model off, for whatever reason, I was excited to hear the “how and why” of what they teach. Their style is deeply rooted in The Golfing Machine, written by Homer Kelley, and the teachings of Mac O’Grady and his MORAD research. I have been trained in both systems, so I listened extra carefully. I could tell that they have worked very hard to create an instructional system that golfers could believe in and adopt

While I’m not quite sure everyone can move and play 100 percent successfully within any swing model, I will say that I like their thoughts of keeping the head centered and more stable during the golf swing. Getting the lower body to work correctly per their ideas is the key to making this work; it’s up to you to practice and buy-in. The final take for me with Stack and Tilt is that as teachers we need to be better organized in creating a plan for our students so they know what’s coming up next week or next month.

Bernie Najar

Bernie is the Director of Golf Instruction at Caves Valley and is a guru when it comes to the integration of force plates within his instruction. There are currently three types of force plates that most of us teach with: BodiTrak, Swing Catalyst, and the SAM BalanceLab. Bernie uses Swing Catalyst and has become their go-to guy when it comes to understanding ground reaction forces. What he basically said is that what we see on video is not always what is happening within the world of force and pressure. Sometimes you can see a guy on a force plate and you would bet your life savings that he has a reverse pivot, yet when you check the display you find out that the pressure is indeed on the correct foot!

Another thing that Mr. Najar discussed was how the center of pressure (or COG) moves back and forth between your feet. It give teachers clues as to how the body is moving and how the arms will react during the swing. As someone who has used force plates in my instruction for almost 10 years, I can tell you that if you have not taken the time to understand and feel how to move your weight through force plates that you are missing the boat. It’s Funny how a simple percentage on the screen under each foot can make missing elements of the weight shift so much easier to understand

The takeaway for me is to ensure that my students spend more time on my BodiTrack Motion Analysis System.

Michael Jacobs

Michael is a techno-teaching stud out of the Metropolitan Section in the Northeast. His school, X-Golf, is located in New York and he has always had the passion for technical instruction and systems that measure how everything works. Now he doesn’t teach in that manner, but he has the tools to make sure he never goes down the wrong road with his students. He continually refers to what one of the Top 100 Teachers, James Leitz from Pinewood CC in Slidell, La., often says:

“Why guess when you can measure?”

Both Michael and James have purchased the newest 3D Motion Analysis System called GEARS — you can find it online — and it is so cool. GEARS gives you a total MRI of your golf swing, as well as data on the club and ball interaction coupled with impact point on the club itself. For the first time we are able to track the body motions, the collision of the club and ball and have all the Trackman data including impact point on the clubface — it’s truly a breakthrough in golf instruction.

The ability to see where on the face the ball is impacted helps me to better understand how the face and the path are working together, as well as how much gear effect is playing a role in the output of your shots. Having this information at your fingertips is a great asset. GEARS will never take over for systems like FlightScope and Trackman when it comes to how the club and ball interact because it is an indoor system, however, it is showing us that we need to spend more time as teachers auditing the impact point of the ball on the clubface so that we can better control vertical and horizontal gear effect as you work on your swing.

Tom Stickney

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I did a presentation on the merits of using Trackman while teaching the AVERAGE golfer, not the pros, not the single-digit players, but the once-a-week golfers who never get to practice. I feel that I need to teach these types of players differently with my Trackman than how I go about teaching my Tour Players.

You can find other videos on my YouTube channel at www.tomstickneygolf.com

Final Thoughts

As teachers, we all get stuck in the way we do things because we hardly see others teach due to our busy schedule. I can tell you, however, that hearing the people above and listening to my peers during our roundtable discussions has rekindled a passion for me to get better as a teacher. It’s not that we stop trying to learn, but it’s hard to find new information that challenges us mentally and makes us stop and think.

“Am I really teaching ‘X’ the correct or best way?” That’s the question we all get to ask ourselves.

Thank you to all my friends who attended the Top-100 Summit. You’ve taught me a lot!