If There Are No Fans… Does An Event Really Make a Sound?

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about sporting events continuing without fans.

When you think about it, the game of golf and its professional iteration of it is no different than other professional sports. In an article from 2019, I pointed out the contrasting similarities. It doesn’t matter which sports league it is, professional golf really is no different than say the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and NASCAR to name a few. How do I figure?

Well in what is a relatively easy question to answer, all of the sports have things in common. First of all, there’s free agency. Golf? How? Simple, when equipment contracts expire, often we’ll see a play jump ship to play a different brand. Look no further than Justin Rose who departed TaylorMade Golf in favour of Honma Golf. Granted, Rose did return back to a golf bag predominantly filled with TaylorMade Golf products, save for a COBRA Golf KING SPEEDZONE 5-wood when we last checked in March. Then there’s Sergio Garcia who left TaylorMade Golf for Callaway Golf just to… actually, we’ll leave that one alone. I wouldn’t touch that one with my dog’s 6-foot social distancing stick. Often money and more lucrative equipment deals are the “inspiration” for leaving one brand and joining another. It isn’t necessarily about better equipment to be had. There’s just so much parity in the golf equipment industry.

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Photo Credit: Golf.com

Merchandise. Yes, there’s that as well. You could be walking around your golf courses Pro Shop or local golf retailer and the “merch” is everywhere. Polos that say Adidas Golf or Nike Golf on them. At events, there’s always “pop-up” shops with logoed products of the event that you’re attending. Ultimately, the merchandise goes back to the golf manufacturer and in a roundabout way, that also partially pays for a player’s logo deal or apparel contract. Do you realize how much the fans of other professional sports ultimately pay owners and players by purchasing and wearing their jerseys or baseball caps? It’s a massive revenue generator.

All of the sports including professional golf also make a ton of money from ungodly television contracts. In 2019, every NFL team received $255M from the league’s television contracts. Recently, the PGA TOUR renewed its contract with CBS and NBC for an astronomical $700M per annum over the next nine years. That’s big money rolling into Ponte Vedra, FL. Without you, the fans, watching the events on your television that simply isn’t possible.

Basically, without fans none of this is possible. In saying “this” I am referring to professional sports even existing. Which ultimately gets me to my main point.

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The Ryder Cup. The bi-annual team event that pits the best professional golfers from the United States vs Europe. Being Canadian, I have no vested interest in who wins or loses because Canadian golfers are excluded. I’m just a fan of good golf. There’s been a lot of scuttlebutt that in the wake of the global pandemic facing us, the Ryder Cup will be played with no fans in attendance. Honestly, in my opinion, that makes this event borderline “pointless”. While the golfers themselves have something to play for, with no fans in attendance the event itself would be so sterile. The fans make the Ryder Cup what it is. They’re the ones who create the atmosphere. There’s talk that the NBA and NHL has vetted cities like Toronto to host the playoffs without fans. At that point, I wouldn’t even watch it on television. No atmosphere and no emotion. It’d basically be like watching a scrimmage where I’m the only person in attendance in the arena. The teams feed off of the energy of those in the galleries or stands.

Now what I do have is a crazy suggestion for the golf powers that be. Postpone the 2020 Ryder Cup until 2021 and keep the venue the same (Whistling Straits). What about the Presidents Cup you ask, which finally yielded an entertaining event in 2019? Play that in 2021 as well. Often, I’ve said that the U.S. has so much depth that they could field two teams. Put my theory to the test. Just look at all of the “Stars and Stripes” on the OWGR. It’d be a great chance for the USGA to see what they have for the future by immersing players like Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff, Max Homa, and others on the team. Not to mention guys like Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner, and say Phil Mickelson as a playing captain.

The television ratings for both would be amazing. Hello, television and TOUR executives. Just think of the dollar signs while you sit there in your “ivory towers”. Without the fans at live events, what’s the point?

Until The Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee

No Golf In Ontario… Now it Gets Difficult

As it stands right now. Golf is allowed in many parts of North America and for that matter around the world. As far as the United States goes, reports are that roughly 50% of golf courses have opened and/or re-opened. Among those places is New York state. A paltry 10-minute drive to the Canada-USA border and another 15 minutes beyond that and I could be on a golf course. Unfortunately, the border is closed for non-essential travel. Playing a round of golf would definitely be deemed non-essential.

Meanwhile, in Canada, there are pockets around the country that sees it’s golf courses open. The various Premiers (they’re like governors) of our respective provincial governments have decided to either allow or suspend golf courses from opening. For my lucky golfing sisters and brethren in British Columbia, golfers are able to golf where courses have opened and they elect to go and play, Golf is around the corner for those in Saskatchewan as well. And then there’s my home province of Ontario.

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Beechwood’s Par-4 4th Hole.

Like it or not, our Premier (Doug Ford) declared some time ago that golf was not deemed an essential service. I agree with him because, in the grand scheme of things, golf is simply not essential. By definition, essential is defined as “absolutely necessary”. Believe me, coming into his handling of the pandemic response I was not a fan of his and I definitely did not cast my vote to elect him. But, he’s proven to be a good leader.

As far as golf being available, I wasn’t too concerned about it. The weather here is suspect at best during this time of the year. It just snowed three out of the last four days, and by all rights, our season technically just opened on the 15th of April. I always look at golf handicap season (April 15th-October 15th) as the “official” golf season in Ontario.

Even from working in golf operations in different capacities, this time of the year at every course that I’ve been involved at, you only get maybe two handfuls of golfers out per day. Some days like we had over the last two days, that number would go down to two or three golfers that were members with zero revenue being made. The course ultimately operating at a loss. Not to mention, many golf courses in Ontario are just starting to see their cart fleets arrive. I sit here chuckling to myself thinking about the brown and gold Club Car transports rolling down the highway. The words “Augusta, Georgia” emblazoned down the side.

The weather of April 25th made things just a little tougher to swallow for us golfers in Ontario. Sunny, a warm wind, and 13ºC or 55ºF temperatures are perfect golf weather early in the spring. In a way, it reminds me of maple syrup season because the proverbial “golf sap” really gets flowing for us. We’re chomping at the bit to escape our igloos, shed our layers of icy skin like a snake, and trade our snowmobile gloves for a Footjoy, TaylorMade, Zero Friction, or similar golf glove.

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A sign of the times.

So today, I’m out and about, driving a vehicle for the first time since January to take my wife to work. About 4 minutes down the street sits Beechwood Golf and Social House. Driving by, I noticed that it’s looking really good. The greens looking inviting to approach shots, the fairways stellar with their flawless mow pattern. The golf course looking absolutely tantalizing. Unfortunately, posted, is a sign that’s pretty clear and is a recurring theme around Ontario golf courses. “Course Closed… No Play”. Yet there they were, golfers parked on the road and on the course. Playing the section of golf course across the road and away from the clubhouse. These are holes 15 thru 17. Not only are they trespassing and engaging in resource theft (maybe they were Members) but they were simply breaking the law by being out there during the lockdown.

The optics are awful. It makes them and other golfers look “entitled” or to be more frank, above the law, and bigger than the issue at hand that we all face. What makes these golfers so “special”? Why should they be able to play when golfers like me and the other estimated 2M Ontarian golfers can’t play or more importantly work at the golf course? The answer, nothing!! So, I contacted the authorities and I have zero regrets about it.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it! It’s tough to not be able to play golf right now, and as the weather gets nicer, the temptation or need to “scratch the itch” will only get worse. For many golfers, golf is an addiction. Albeit, a relatively healthy addiction, unless you’re overspending your means. Seeing a golf course out there, looking that good right now is like placing a fully-stocked open bar in front of a recovering alcoholic and telling him or her not to drink.

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Just for clarification. I was on the shoulder of the road. Not trespassing.

Like you, I hate it, but we all have to abide by what the law says. Stay the course, stay safe, and stay healthy. We’ll all be golfing soon enough, although it won’t be nearly soon enough.

Until The Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee

 

Equipment Review Introduction – Tour Edge Golf Exotics EXS 220/220h Irons

Over the last several years, Tour Edge Golf has made huge strides in the golf industry. Most notably, I’m referring to their Exotics product range. For me, I really started to take notice of their irons going back to their CBX Blades and the Exotics EXi irons.

Fast-forward the clock to 2019 and the Exotics EXS irons impressed, even more, those irons won my annual Teezy Awards in the “Top Cast Iron Category”.

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With the calendar flipping to 2020, I was stoked to see how Tour Edge Golf Founder and Master Club Designer David Glod would follow-up a very successful 2019 campaign. Their best year ever!! Well, I got my answer in January at the 2020 PGA Show where I would see first-hand their new range. At Demo Day they impressed, and consequentally, the Exotics EXS 220/220h won the Silver Medal Teezy Award in the “Top Game-Improvement Iron Category”.

As impressed as I was on the range at Demo Day, it’s a much different animal in the real world. This is where you’re hitting approaches into greens and you have the distractions of tree-lined fairways and hazards. Another aspect of things that you can’t fairly assess at an event like Demo Day because of the sterility of a range, is approach shots into the green.

In for long-term testing and on-course review are the Exotics EXS 220/220h irons. Stay tuned to these pages to find out how they test. In the meantime, please see the video below for some of the details about these irons.

 

Until The Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee

Where Golf and Fly Fishing Meet

I’m fortunate to have two loves that I am completely passionate about. Obviously, the game of golf is one of them. I’m firmly entrenched in the industry as I’m been employed at golf courses for most of the past 10 years. Not to mention that I love to play and write about the game that we love.

Then there’s fly fishing. I was an angler long before I was a golfer, and my sojourn into the world of fly fishing never took place until 2008. That’s a long story in itself how I got immersed in the world of leaky waders, tangled leaders, and beautiful Brook Trout. But the short version is that my dad was my fishing buddy. He passed away in 2004 and I lost all interest in fishing. Then on a trip to Erie, PA  happened for my wife’s birthday. Every stream that we passed on NY’s I-90 West there were guys and gals in waders standing mid-stream. Yadda, yadda, yadda, I became interested in fishing again and a fly rod has been in my hands ever since. I write occasionally about that as well.

The mechanics of both activities closely tie into one another. When fly-casting, you have to be on-plane (something that I failed to mention in the video below is that I happen to cast on two-planes), you have to be connected, and tempo all matter. Say golfer’s, does this sound at all familiar?

Please check out the video below. Here\s to fairway and greens and tight loops. Cheers!

 

Until The Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee

Golf Amid the Pandemic

 

Up until right now, I’ve been relatively quiet on my stance when it comes to playing golf amid COVID-19. Before continuing on I need to make one or two things abundantly clear.

  • I’m not an Epidemiologist
  • I love golf. It’s why I write, live, play, and breathe the game
  • If you live in a place where golf has been deemed safe to play, I’m Masters green with envy.
  • Respective governments are much smarter than I am

Chances are that if you’re an avid golfer, you’re likely going to hate my opinion and that’s okay. But in my opinion, golf is “not essential” and nobody should be trying to make it out to be. Period!

Do you know want to know what makes me laugh? The image below where people are trying to compare grocery shopping to playing golf. There’s a basic difference here and in identifying the difference, allow me to ask this. Which one of these two is considered to be essential? One puts dinner on the table and has a pharmacy for medications and one doesn’t? People even suggest playing golf is no different than walking a dog. In 8 years, my Labrador Retriever has defecated a total of 3 times in his yard. He won’t do it, so taking him out is essential. Besides a walk might last 30 minutes, versus 3 to 4 hours for a round of golf (18 holes).

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You see, I’m in a very funny place in the midst of the arguments. In typical Canadian fashion, I’m a bit of a fence-sitter and I see both sides. Regarding my views, I come from a family of nurses. My mother was a nurse as were two of my three siblings. My mother was an Emergency Room nurse, while my one sister worked in the ER and ICU Departments respectively. Once upon a time, she was also on a pandemic team. I know and fully comprehend what our healthcare workers on the front line are facing with this “thing”. It’s brutal, and whether you believe that COVID-19 is a hoax or not, that’s entirely up to you. To draw comparisons to SARS, H1N1 and Influenza A (the latter I had in ’02 and almost died from it) those viruses didn’t spread like a “wildfire” in the midst of a drought. Secondly, due to my Diabetes and Coronary Disease, I’m also firmly entrenched in the “high-risk category”. So because of a deeply-rooted love for nurses and my own health history, perhaps, I’m a little sensitive to the potential for unnecessary burden for our healthcare workers.

Nobody in the world wants it to be “kosher” for golf courses to be open again more than me. I’m more than a golf fan. In my case, like many others out there that work in the industry, it’s my source of income and my livelihood. Courses not being open for play right now has taken an income source away from me and others, which is another argument for the “pro-golf” side of the argument. To elaborate on the importance for me here’s a cute little factoid. Working during the golf season supplements my income of a whopping $758/month that I collect on Canada Pension Plan – Disability. That amount isn’t nearly enough to cover the rent every month. Not to mention other bills like medications, hydro, groceries, etc. I literally NEED that income. Factor in that I love to play the game and that much of my content for this website comes from being on the golf course. MY “need” for golf courses to open is much greater than a guy or girl that just wants to play golf or a member that wants to get their money’s worth.

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The 18th at Scenic Woods Golf Club. I can’t wait to get back.

For many, including myself,  playing a round of golf is a form of release. Golf is a chance to get away from the rigors and stresses of everyday life. I’ve used those same words too. Golf is a release for me and I find it quite cathartic. Heck, I’ve used the term “sanctuary” and said often that golf has saved my life because in a way, it has. I suffer from depression and I have been suicidal too many times to count, but ultimately, I guess I’ve “chickened out” on those occasions. Or maybe I found a will to fight. Golf helps me get through things. But sometimes it’s not enough.

Golf courses that have opened, have taken precautions to keep golfers safe and I applaud the efforts. Including but not limited to inverted cups, not touching the pin (or pins being removed completely), one rider on carts (where applicable), contactless transactions, and maintaining physical distancing. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned through working the golf industry (golf course operations) over the last decade is that golfers (not all) inevitably will screw this up. Pins will be touched, and the “Six-Foot Rule” will be breached. On the best of days, golfers don’t adhere to simple rules like keeping the cart 30 feet away from greens (electing to park on the collars instead) and 90º or Cart Path Only signs being ignored just to name two examples. These examples are offenses that I’ve observed by avid golfers. In fact, members that play more than 100 rounds per year.

As we speak, golfers from all over are signing petitions urging their respective governments to open golf courses. In Ontario, it’s no different. In some cases, it’s the golf course owners or National Golf Course Owners Association(s) that are lobbying so hard to re-open. I have no issue with golf courses being open when it’s safe to do so. I also agree that when it’s safe to do so, golf courses should be near the top of the list of services/attractions to re-open.  Let’s not kid ourselves though. Golf courses don’t want to re-open to let you enjoy the air, seed, and grass. Golf is a business and it’s all about their bottom-line. Owners associations will try to convince the government that they can help with unemployment rates. But I have a question. How does this help in the case where clubhouses are closed and no pro shop or restaurant staff is required?

It’s one thing to be a golfer and enjoy the game and it’s another thing to actually work on the golf course operations side of things. Golfers on social media have mentioned going with “no staff”, contactless pre-paid times. Theoretically good ideas, but from a practicality standpoint it’s foolhardy. Many courses offer their Starters and Marshals golf privileges in lieu of their services. Now we’re entrusting our health and well-being on these “volunteers” to wipe down the carts with sanitizer wipes. Many don’t even do their job correctly in the first place without the additional “work”. So “Walking Only” you’re suggesting next?

With no staff in place, imagine a golfer out there suffering a cardiac arrest or a massive stroke with no employees in place. Oh, the liability issues that would ensue. Even if you have a cell phone and it’s a playing partner of yours (or you stumble upon someone that was out there by themselves that shouldn’t be). You’re a twosome and someone needs to get out to the parking lot or clubhouse. Why? They need to wave down the first responders and then direct them out to the spot on the course where the person suffered the attack. During this time, the victim is left unattended and valuable time has been wasted which could be instrumental in their survival and/or recovery. Believe it or not, golf courses have these sort of contingency plans in place but they’d never work with insufficient staff. Find me an insurance company that would insure a golf course with no staff in place. Sign a waiver? Sure, but good lawyers will find a loophole when there’s a multi-million dollar lawsuit on the line.

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If this isn’t okay, how could golf be? A conservation authority operates the access here.

Here’s another angle that I’m emotionally invested in. In Ontario, as it stands, fishing is okay. Why would fishing be okay and playing golf isn’t? Well, I have a simple answer to that riddle. Fishing can potentially place dinner on the table. However, access points run by conservation authorities like the one pictured above are closed. Riddle me this. With a fly and fly line whipping through the air, who the heck is coming near me? This picture was taken last fall and I was literally the only one on the stream. Much like the current situation with golf, I don’t like it but it’s just how it is.

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A sign of the times.

Golfers aren’t the only ones “suffering”. If anything, in many ways, golfers are showing themselves to be “entitled”, “elitist”, “tone-deaf”, and “above” everything. This is a bad optic to “outsiders”. To me, at this point in time, it’s the children who can’t play in a park or use a skatepark while maintaining physical distancing that are suffering. It’s important in their development both physically and psychologically. Suffering are our first responders, frontline, and healthcare workers working long stressful shifts more than is typical. My wife, Crystal, just started a new job working at a grocery store and that too, is no easy ggi at the moment. The elderly and infirm living in long-term healthcare facilities or those living in palliative care who can’t see their families, they’re suffering thus affecting their mental health and well-being or een will to live.

If you think that playing golf could be considered practicing physical-distancing I would tend to agree, IF everyone was to abide by the rules. In a perfect world, everybody would but this world is quite imperfect. One day, the freeze will lift and we’ll all be back on the golf course again complaining about the pace of play, ball marks that aren’t fixed and so on. For the record, with nothing but speculation to base this on, I have a feeling that golf in Ontario will resume mid-May. Take care, stay safe, stay home and stay healthy.

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The frost of golf ceasing will rise. Photo taken October 18th, 2019 at Scenic Woods Golf Club.

Until the Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee