Unfortunately, there will always be naysayers. Recently, I was reading the comments to an ad for one of our new wedges. Without doing a commercial for the wedge in this space, I will simply state, “the wedge works amazingly well”. One customer recently made 2 hole in ones consecutively! It may not be for everybody, but for the player for whom it is designed, it is a godsend. What raised the hair on the back of my neck was the comment from what can only be described as an “internet troll” writing, “just learn how to use a wedge”. I had to wonder why this naysayer had the time to go into the comment section of a wedge ad, one they obviously have no interest in, to simply put it down and tell people not to buy it. I was also insulted for the rest of us by his advice to “struggle on”, as if the average golfer hasn’t already been doing that. Apparently in troll world every golfer is required to practice their wedge game a few hours a week or, oops, sorry, you can’t play. Well, la-ti-da.
Remember, trolls want you to fail.
I started to think through advancements in the golf industry and without dating myself too much, let’s start with forged blades, persimmon woods, and wound golf balls. The first thing I thought was, “I wonder if the troll that fostered this post still plays with that equipment”. Because dear reader, that’s what he wants you to do.
If the trolls had their way…
You may never have heard of Ben Hogan because Ben would have struggled with a hook his whole career. However, Ben found extra stiff steel shafts. They helped him avoid hooking the ball. His naysayers told him, change your swing and learn to hit the ball straight, or draw the ball. You won’t be able to get the ball in the air and it won’t go anywhere with those shafts. He didn’t listen, instead he found extra stiff shafts and learned to play a fade. Then he won. He won almost half of the tournaments he played after changing to extra stiff shafts. Naysayers be damned.
In 1983 I stood on a driving range grinding through my Wilson Staff Tour Blades (with extra stiff shafts) when a significantly more accomplished professional hitting balls next to me introduced his new Ping Eye 2 Irons. They were casted, cavity backed, perimeter weighted clubs that looked… bulky. As he mishit a 7 iron that went the same distance as his flushed 7 iron, he turned to me and said, “these should be illegal, it’s like cheating”. I was with him. They looked weird, they sounded weird, but they worked. If I mishit my Tour Blade 7 iron it turned into a crooked 9 iron, I lost tons of yards and the ball would wander offline something silly. Perimeter weighted, cavity back irons worked! The Ping Eye 2 became the best-selling iron of all time. The naysayers would have buried them in the nearest bunker and suffered on. Today, more Tour Pros play perimeter weighted clubs than blades, by a lot. I wonder what the trolls would say if cavity backed clubs were introduced today? “Learn to hit it in the middle?” “Practice more?” Hmmm.
Before the irons, Karsten Solehiem built Ping putters in his garage. He made the Answer, a perimeter weighted putter. The naysayers said it was ugly, they said, “just learn to hit it in the middle. If Jack Nicklaus can putt with a George Low blade, we all can”. These days the only place you find a pure blade is at a miniature golf course, and occasionally Phil Michelson’s bag. (But trust me, Phil’s is internally engineered like no other.) Even Jack Nicklaus won his last major using an oversize putter, the famous Macgregor Response ZT 615. Jack’s first impression to the designer, “No way I putt with that”. Lucky for Jack, designer Clay Long talked him into trying it. You know Jack actually missed a 4 inch putt the first day he had it in the bag? (The wind caused him to stub it.) Putters have changed thanks to Karsten, Clay, and guys like Jack Nicklaus who were willing to try them. Have you seen the putters being used on Tour today? Most of them look like Stealth Bombers with a shaft. Come on trolls! You should have killed these putters long ago, heck, Bryson DeChambeau’s putter has a giant grip, a shaft that extends up his arm, and has a hole in middle of the club. My favorite internet troll was complaining about an extended flange and a few dimples.
Gary Adams and his TaylorMade metal woods. Gary got absolutely hammered by trolls. His metal woods were compared to driving range clubs. Golf shop buyers laughed and sneered. Gary and his team carried on like superheroes, ignored the naysayers and trolls. Luckily, PGA Tour Pros Ron Streck and Lanny Wadkins were willing to allow for the advancement of the game and try something new. Both won the first PGA Tour event they played when they changed from persimmon to a metal. Streck, the first to win with a metal wood, TaylorMade, and Wadkins a Founder’s Club, Gary’s second company. Of all the innovations in golf, the metal wood probably overcame the most trolls AND changed golf the most. It had a different look, a different feel, worked better with solid balls versus wound, and launched higher than persimmon. Today, how many golfers could be convinced to give up the distance and the forgiveness of their 460 cc titanium drivers for the “purity” of a persimmon wood that is half the size, steel shafted, and hits it 40% shorter? Trolls?
There are so many other examples; Eli Callaway and his no hosel, bore-through Big Bertha Woods. Stan Thompson’s Ginty. Spalding’s solid golf balls; they were so close to being the ProV1 and didn’t know it. They just needed Gary Adams and the metal wood. Ram and the Zebra putter, the forerunner to all the aircraft carrier sized putters now in use on the PGA Tour. Graphite shafts. Super Stroke oversize putter grips. Adjustable weights on your metal woods. (Why do you have to adjust your club, just learn how to hit it perfectly?) How do trolls explain away Bryson DeChambeau? All his irons are the same length! His grips are giant, all of them, not just his putter, and his backswing is faster than most of our downswings.
This week the Tour played a captivating golf tournament, The Players Championship. The star of the show? Not the participants, it’s the golf course; TPC Sawgrass designed by Pete Dye. “Star Wars golf designed by Darth Vader”, Ben Crenshaw. “90% horse manure and 10% luck”, J.C. Sneed. People hated the railroad ties, the undulating greens, the pot bunkers, the “elephant burial ground” undulations, some even the stadium like nature of the course. Jack Nicklaus couldn’t stand the place his first time through. But today? Who can take their eyes off the TV as a player attempts to hit the island green of the 17th? It’s now the ultimate test of golf rivaled only by the Masters and the Opens. Must see golf TV. The trolls would have us watching bowling.
You know where the least number of trolls exist? The PGA Tour! Those guys will try anything. Arnold Palmer was a famous tinkerer. Tiger Woods is willing to try just about anything. He would always do it quietly, away from the cameras, but if you caught him at the right time, he’d be the guy to say, “let me try that”. You think all his equipment during his “Nike Clubs” era was masterminded by Nike engineers? Frankly, it was Tiger’s willingness to be an early adopter of new golf technologies that led to many of his greatest achievements. (More on that later.) Bryson DeChambeau isn't going to let something that might give him an advantage slip by, why should you? So, next time you see something you think might help your golf game, remember the pioneers of the game that had to fight back the trolls and overcame. Golf is better because of them. In golf the rule is simple, if it works for you, use it. Trolls can go play golf with their persimmon woods, blade irons, George Low putter with the thin leather grip, and balata wound golf ball. Oh wait! They’re not? Hypocrites.