The things people say

By Paul Gueorgieff
Editor, Golfer Pacific NZ

Golf clubs have been in the news over the last few months.

Some clubs have closed, some are are on the brink of closing, some are considering merger and some may need to close because local councils want their land.

New Zealand Golf says golf club membership has dropped 20,000 in 10 years. Membership numbers were 124,000 in 2007 but last year it was down to 104,000.

I heard television newsreader Peter Williams on radio last month speaking on this very subject. Peter is a long-time golfer with much knowledge about the game.

I agreed with some of what he said and disagreed with some of what he said.

But what annoyed me more than anything were the comments made by an Australian correspondent that immediately followed Peter on the radio.

The Aussie was to comment on another sport but said he found the golf discussion interesting.

He then offered the following.

“Maybe if they were to open it up, let kids wear whatever they want to wear, when they want to play and not have all these ridiculous rules that they like to keep at these fancy golf clubs and people might embrace it mate.’’

I thought what is this guy talking about?

Let’s dissect what he said. Let the kids wear whatever they want to wear.

Are they going to turn up in a singlet and jandels? I would highly doubt it. New Zealand weather rarely lends itself to wearing a singlet and kids would know that jandels are not going to assist them when it comes to swinging a golf club.

Most kids, if not all, would turn up in casual clothes and if they haven’t got a pair of golf shoes they would wear sneakers. I would suggest there would be very few golf clubs, if any, in New Zealand that would turn away children in such attire.

Next point from our Aussie mate was let them play when they want to play.

The busiest time at my golf club is a Saturday morning. If I was a kid I would certainly not want to join a Saturday morning group which would mean playing with all those old guys. I would want to play with my friends of my age.

When I was kid I hardly ever played on a Saturday. That was the day when I played rugby in the winter and tennis in the summer. Oh, and by the way, when I played rugby I had to wear a uniform and had to wear rugby boots. I didn’t need to be told that a singlet and jandels were unacceptable.

But there was still plenty of time to play golf. In summer we would be on the practice range on or the golf course until the sun went down at about 9pm. In other words we had plenty of time to play golf. If was not unusual to be at the golf course most of the day.

The final point from our Aussie mate was all these ridiculous rules they like to keep at these fancy golf clubs.

I presume he was referring to a dress code. I would suggest almost all golf clubs are fairly relaxed about dress.

Our Aussie friend could also have been referring to golf’s rules. When kids are playing amongst themselves they can play to whatever rules they want. But if they start to show some ability and wish to play in tournaments they need to learn rules, just like we all do. That’s no different to when you play rugby or tennis — there are rules.

The final point from the Australian correspondent was in reference to fancy clubs. When I was a kid I never played at a fancy club. My parents couldn’t afford it.

Today I hardly ever play a fancy club. I am more than happy playing my home course, which I consider very good and very tough. I get to other courses in the region during interclub matches and I more than happy with that.

So to summarise the comments of the Australian correspondent, I believe they were totally misguided. And that’s unfortunate.

How to get out of a bunker first shot, every time

By Ian Hardie
NZPGA Professional

If there is one part of the game of golf that usually has most golfers twisted up in knots and almost guarantees a high score on a hole if they happen to end up in one – it’s those hazards on the golf course that are called ‘bunkers’ (known as a ‘sand trap’ in other parts of the world).

Remembering of course, that as we are talking about the game of golf here not everything makes sense, as under The Definitions of The Rules of Golf - a “hazard” is any bunker or water hazard.

The difference being that one is just slightly harder to play out of than the other (I’ll leave you to figure out your own personal favourite there) although, having witnessed many thousands of golfers approach their upcoming shots in bunkers over the years.

I’m not sure there is a lot of difference in most golfers’ minds between the likelihood of easily getting out of either of the two types of hazards.

Anyway, as most golfers walk up to play a shot out of a bunker, they will generally have a feeling of either bewilderment, as they aren’t sure how they are going to get their golf ball out at all or a feeling of fear as no doubt, many previous attempts have been unsuccessful over the years and as a result.

They are almost paralyzed with thoughts of not getting their golf ball out at all.

The bewilderment can be taken care of by reading the rest of this article or by taking a lesson or two from me or your local PGA Professional to find out exactly what you need to do to get out of a bunker first shot, every time.

A golfers fear of their upcoming shot on the other hand, takes a bit more effort to get past as it will have been built up by many years of failure in similar situations – something that most humans struggle to get past in other areas of life.

When we take a look at the definition of fear, we find that the most relevant meaning of the word is:

‘A strong, uncontrollable, unpleasant emotion caused by actual or perceived danger or threat.’

Now, obviously in some cases in other parts of life, that threat is an actual one but in terms of a golfer about to play a shot out of a bunker - that fear is of their perceived ‘danger’ which in real terms is the possibility that they may take more than one shot to come out of the bunker.

Not exactly equal to the actual threat of being chased by a stampeding elephant or a knife wielding assailant but oddly enough.

Most golfers that suffer from this problem experience a similar level of fear but it shouldn’t be like that.

In fact, it should be the easiest shot you play in a round of golf.

“Has Ian gone mad?” I hear you thinking.

I’m saying it, as the bunker shot is the only shot in golf where you don’t hit the golf ball.

That’s right, to get the golf ball out of most bunkers, you don’t actually hit it!

Considering, how much angst, just hitting the golf ball at all causes some golfers – it should be a cakewalk to finally get to play a shot - where you don’t have to contact it at all.

Take a minute to just think about that one.

The art of getting your golf ball out of a bunker is to play a shot that allows you to take ‘a divot’ of sand out with the club - this is how the ball comes out.

It’s pushed up and out of the bunker by the ‘divot’ of sand you make as you don’t hit the golf ball and to help you do that it is important that you not only have, but use a sand wedge for most of your sand shots.

What’s the big deal about using a sand wedge?

If you take a look at your golf clubs, you will notice that most of the other irons are made with quite flat soles (the bottom of the club) as they are used mainly for shots off (in theory) short grass.

This flat sole, while fine for most shots, causes problems when it is used for a bunker shot because it wants to dig down into the sand – with the end result being a poor shot.

A sand wedge is the one golf club that is specially designed for the shot by having the back of the sole (trailing edge) lower than the leading edge – this is known as bounce.

As the sand wedge goes down into the sand and under your golf ball, the trailing edge (at the back on the bottom of the sole) eventually hits the sand (a fraction of a second later) and effectively stops the sand wedge from digging into the sand, instead kicking it up and out of the sand allowing a flowing shot (the taking of the sand divot) and effective extraction of the ball.

So, use a sand wedge – it’s specifically designed to help you play the shot well!

There is another thing you may want to do to increase your chances of getting out of a bunker first shot, every time…………………..

If you watch any accomplished bunker player you will notice that they before they play the shot, they will have a different stance to most other shots they play.

Adjusting their stance to the line they are aiming on by pulling back their front foot – away from the line of the shot - this allows them to reduce or eliminate any possible leg action in the shot, as the bunker shot is played with basically an arm and shoulder turn only.

Any leg action that you use will cause the majority of your poor bunker shots!

Read that bit again, it was important. 

The next part of bunker shots that we need to work out is where to focus your eyes – as of course for all of your other shots where you are looking at hitting the ball you will (hopefully) be looking directly at it but for shots out of the bunker you need to………………………

I’ll talk about that another day, until then.

Play well.

Want to learn how to get out of a bunker first shot, every time from Ian Hardie? 

Take a look at my group session that does just that here:

Why is the average golfer not getting better?

By Dominic Sainsbury
New Zealand PGA General Manager

The Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) is constantly following golf trends and conducting research into the game of golf. This month we would like to identify three trends that we have been following with a lot of interest.

1.     The average club golfers’ handicap has been on a small increase for the past 20 years. This is despite golf courses being better maintained now with all the advances in course maintenance equipment and technology, all the advances in golf equipment, the ball now goes further, clubs are made to be more forgiving and easier to use, we have a better understanding of the body, golfing techniques and the biomechanics of golf.

2.     PGA Tour professionals are getting a better a lot better. PGA Tour players are hitting the ball further than ever, scoring averages on tour are better than ever and course designers are no longer designing courses for tour players as they simply cannot make them long enough.

3.     Golf membership is in decline. This is a global issue and we have seen a steady decline in club membership numbers across New Zealand over the past 10 years. One of the main reasons for people leaving the game is that they are simply not getting the enjoyment they require with the financial and time commitments they are putting in.

One argument for the increase in the average players handicap could be that the average golfer in New Zealand is increasing in age. If this is the case then this is also an alarming trend as without the increase in young people coming into our game the future is the past. That is a game for the older generation.

How do we learn from these trends and look at them as opportunities?

To address the issues pointed out in points 1 and 3 we need to start with the positives in point 2 —  what are tour professionals doing to get better? Well the good news is it is not rocket science. Three key areas I would like to point out that PGA Tour players take very seriously,

  1. Physical conditioning. This allows a player to get the most out of their body and has a direct link into hitting the ball further, reduces the risk of injury and allows a player to be more consistent with all aspects of their game.

 2. Psychology. This is one area that is often overlooked by the average golfer. We all have doubt and negative thoughts when we play. Tour players are aware of this and seek help to combat the self doubt thoughts. This allows tour players to treat situations as opportunities rather than negatives and allows them to set a course management strategy and stick to it.

 3. Equipment set up. This includes having all clubs custom fitted down to the finest detail, including consistent lofts between clubs, swing weight and overall club weight, club length, shaft flex, club head design and material, set make up and other aspects of club componentry. One area that is often over looked is the putter. Forty percent of a tour players’ score is on average made up from putting. Arguably this is the most important club to have correctly fitted in your bag.

Here is the good news. PGA professionals are trained and skilled in all these three areas.

We believe the key to helping the average golfer get better and get more enjoyment when playing is by improving your physical movement patterns specific to golf (this should also help improve your overall quality of life), improve your course psychology and approach to course management and have your equipment set up correctly for you, including all aspects of your equipment (especially your putter).

Get in contact with your PGA professional today to have a physical, mental and equipment assessment today.

A new approach to juniors — the FUTURE of our game

By Dean Murphy
New Zealand Golf Chief Executive

New Zealand Golf launches a new approach to junior golf this month.

By way of background, we have for some time been concerned at the number of young people playing golf and what this means for the future of our game. While participation numbers are relatively stable, the number of junior club members has halved since 2005.

This is clearly concerning, so we have needed to stop and take stock of what is happening in this area and think through how we can make some positive progress.

It should be noted that the current state is not a result of lack of motivation or endeavour. There are significant amounts of money invested every year into this space and there is a huge number of clubs, coaches and volunteers who do amazing work. For some reason, we just aren’t shifting the national dial in the right direction.

We have therefore developed a new strategy for young people in golf which is the culmination of years of learning, consultation, listening to our young people and parent’s experiences in golf, and scanning good practice at home and abroad.

To help us on this journey, a junior advisory group was formed to provide recommendations to New Zealand Golf on how it should approach the future with regard to young people in golf.

Led by the incomparable Murray Macklin, the advisory group is made up of individuals with expertise in young people, golf, health, sport, sport development, programme development, coaching and marketing. The recommendations made by the experts from the junior advisory group have become our guiding principles and now form the basis for our new approach to this area.

In simple terms, we need to inspire more young people to play the game. However, simply stating that goal is not going to get us anywhere. We need a new approach and we are calling it FUTURES.

At the outset it’s important to state that this new approach is not just a new brand or a bunch of new programmes. We have spent considerable time developing this new approach which is based on the clear need for long-term systemic change. While ideas, initiatives and programmes come and go, this new approach is about resetting our strategy for the long term.

In simple terms, FUTURES is about enriching the lives of young people by creating experiences that inspire a lifelong love of golf. Our firm belief is that if we can create a lifelong love of golf in young people, the future of the game of golf (and our country) will be in good hands.

The full details of our new approach will be shared widely in the coming months. But I can share the six key workstreams (as recommended by the junior advisory group) that the approach features:

1. A new perception and increased profile for golf as a sport for young people.

2. Pathways for young people to start playing golf and support them to reach their level of aspirations.

3. Empowering young people to play their version of golf.

4. A network of facilities that are attractive to young people and engages them easily.

5. A skilled and passionate workforce of coaches, administrators and volunteers who understand the wants and needs of young people.

6. A cohesive structure that utilises the best resources and partnerships.

FUTURES is here to inspire the next generation of golfers but also has a much wider appeal and impact for the future of golf, our communities and our country.

More positive experiences for young people playing golf will give them the motivation, confidence and skills to play and be active for life, contributing to healthier, happier futures.

Golf is a sport that teaches valuable life skills like honesty, respect, teamwork and perseverance creating a pathway for young people to become future leaders. The opportunity to learn and play the game together is about creating a positive impact on family life, memories to cherish that will be carried long into the future.

This is why our work in this area is about more than just a game, it’s an investment into brighter futures. We’re looking forward to resetting our approach in this area and making better progress.

The process to improve is difficult

By Anthony Barkley
NZPGA Professional

I have been coaching for a number of years now and although I love to coach and help people you develop a rather thick skin in regards to feedback. The truth is up to 70% don’t stick to changes you prescribe to them. Why, because its hard to change a habit and the issue we have as golfers is that although we have an underlying fault, it works sometimes. What I mean here is that during a round you will get the odd great shot or you will have a great round and the need to change suddenly becomes less important.

The truth is you likely got lucky in the fact that your rhythm and timing pulled everything together allowing you to hit a ball from A to B on that day. The issue is that this may not last. Rhythm is like the sun this winter. It disappears as quick as it comes and every so often it will stay around all day. 

Rhythm is the glue of any golf swing as it pulls everything together allowing things to work in harmony. 

But if out that harmony is disturbed by a frustrating series of inconsistent golf shots. Been there before? I know I have.

As club golfers (I put myself into that category as well these days as I don’t practice) we don’t play enough to have a consistent rhythm. Better players get away with it as they have a better understanding of their game. We can wing it in effect and shoot good scores on occasion and have a few blow outs. The average club golfer can be on more of a rollercoaster and this is where technical help will help long term.

So back to my original topic, why don’t club golfers stick to what is prescribed? I think comfort, ego and self conscious thoughts get in the way. I will leave time out as this is of course a major issue as well.

Let me share some experiences in regards to comfort that I have seen time and time again on the range over the years. As a coach the grip is so important. It essentially controls the club head in regards to face position at impact as it’s the only actual link to the club. But this is often the hardest to teach or more so to change but it’s usually the quickest if you give it a chance. I have had lessons where the student refuses to change the grip as they feel they won’t be able to hit the shot at all. It feels that uncomfortable. The key is baby steps using feet together etc before you go straight into full swings. The first few veer off in all directions and comments are “I cant do it” or “it wont work”. A few more shots after some encouragement and suddenly we get a lofted shot that goes where it suppose to go. A few swings later things get better as the hands adjust to the new feel and position. But next time you see them its gone back to the old grip or somewhere in between. That’s what the grip will do sub consciously so you have to really work hard to change the pattern of how you put it on each time. 

Remember that golf is a series of routines, make one and stick to it.

I think EGO is also an issue as the first game back if often a bit rusty as you work on the change. Pressure comes in and often that fear of losing to fellow golfers overrides the change. So what’s the easiest way out? Go back to what is comfortable and hope for the best. 

Then there is the self conscious issue. Similar to EGO being self conscious about your game makes change harder as you don’t want to look foolish. The general cycle is that someone gets a lesson and they don’t work on the changes, rather they play thinking they can change things on the course. Yes, this can happen but its very difficult so because there is consequence to each shot on the course things can go wrong. So hard to change the way people think as most don’t want to practice. Self confidence only comes with success and success will decrease the self conscious negative cycle. 

TIP: Do your practice on the course (2 balls only) in your own time if you don’t want to hit lots of balls. It’s harder to make the change but can work.

I hope this helps some of you out there.

Club testing time

By Anthony Barkley
NZPGA Professional

I thought with some new models on the market it was time for some testing. I also wanted to see how new models compared to my own clubs. So I have tried to make this testing as simple as possible and as consistent as possible. Bear in mind we generally see  ½ a club more distance through an indoor studio but if you compare to your own clubs you can compare apples to apples.
So the clubs I chose were three Taylormade models, the new AP3 iron from Titleist and two KZG models. Due to limited room on this article I have had to leave out other brands.
Why I chose the 3 Taylormade models was through client testing they have generally been coming out in front in regards to distance and consistency. They are certainly our largest selling club currently without any bias at all as when we fit we keep an open mind.
So what did the data tell me?
Firstly the results of testing my own Mizuno MP25 iron produced an average carry of 142 meters, club head speed averaged 77.8mph and 106.6mph ball speed. Not the best numbers to be honest but I am not a long iron hitter. I love the mizuno irons but have always felt they were not strong of the clubface and my playing days are less now so a little more forgiveness is likely necessary.
With a standard loft of 34 degrees and std S300 stiff shafts it was interesting to see results.
So my favourite iron on the market currently is the P790 from Taylormade. Its classy, clean look invites a better player to hit this model. With the forged head and speedfoam technology I see why PXG tried to sue them as it’s a beast of an iron. With the loft set to a stronger 30.5 degrees you should expect one club longer length automatically. So the average carry was 156m with the best reaching 172m. So it was easily a club and a half longer than my current model but did have more deviation in distance consistency which is likely due to a players model being in the hands of someone that has not played much of late. Club head speed averaged 86.5 and ball speed 112.8mph which were considerable gains. I rate this 9/10 for look, 7/10 for overall performance.
Next was the Taylormade M1 model. This is a chunkier model created for those looking for distance plus consistency. Its not too big which is good. Firstly what was outstanding in this model was the consistency of distance. No flyers but a consistent pattern. This model averaged 156 meters carry with a club head speed of 84.6mph and ball speed of 113.6. Less clubs head speed and more ball speed means the technology in the head was working well. It has the same loft as the P790 iron or 30.5 degrees. I would rate this 8/10 for look and 8/10 for overall performance.
I wanted to put in a game improvement iron. What we normally see with a club such as the MCGB iron from Taylormade is a very high flight but I just didn’t see this with this iron. I remember trying the 4 iron at the fitting day and it was just so easy to hit. So numbers averaged 160m carry, 83.8mph club head speed and an outstanding 115mph ball speed which was great but wasn’t the best believe it or not. This club has been selling so well. Its forgiving, looks nice and its performance against other brands has been impressive. Hard to beat this model so an 8/10 for look (just a bit big for me) and 9/10 for overall performance related to hit ability.
The next club is the AP3 iron from Titleist. They needed a more distance iron to compete with others on the market. The AP3 looks great but how did it perform. The AP3 has 31 degrees loft so not quite as strong as others but 3 degrees stronger than my own 7 iron. It averaged 150m carry with club head speed of 81.7mph. Ball speed was 110.3mph and it was very consistent in the length it produced on each shot. It’s a nice iron to hit. I ranked it 8.5/10 for look and 7/10 for performance only because it didn’t quite reach the performance levels of other models.
I thought this was also a chance to try the NEW distance model from KZG called the LDI. It features a forged face insert that increases ball speeds and has a 30 deg loft or a 27 degree 6 iron used for testing in this instance. Firstly, the ball is hot of the face reaching 167 average carry and ball speed of 118.7mph. It certainly held up well against other long distance irons such as the MCGB. Its look is not fancy but its performance is impressive so I rate this model 7/10 for look but 8.5/10 for overall performance.
To finish off I tried the KZG forged MA-1 model just to see how it ranked. This is a players model with traditional lofts. 158m carry average and 85.2mph average club speed. Ball speed was a solid 113mph. This model did surprise me and the more I try and fit these clubs the more I like them. They are simple but very playable. For looks I rate the MA-1 a 7.5/10 and for performance 8.5/10 for a better players iron.
So from all this data we see the modern iron really improving in its distance and playability. They are stronger lofted but I think we need to move past this as its part of golf now. Do you really need an iron to go so far? That’s the question and is always discussed when fitting someone. My thinking is use the technology available as much as possible. A shorter club with less loft must be easier to hit than a longer club with more loft although this could be debated.
I hope my testing helps anyone looking at irons currently. All testing was done in my studio at Rotorua with the same ball and more information on these clubs and others can be found at

club table.jpeg

Cracking start to the 2018 season on offer

By Duncan Simpson
New Zealand PGA Secretary

Local professionals will be playing for nearly $220,000 in January, as the 2018 New Zealand Professional Golfers’ Association (NZPGA) season gets underway with a packed programme.
There will be little time to recover from Christmas and New Year indulgences, with the first event being the $25,000 Cardinal Logistics Whitford Park Pro-Am over 36 holes on January 6 and 7.
This traditionally draws a strong field, and next month should be no exception as many will be looking to use it as a tune up before the Rebel Sport New Zealand Masters at Wainui the following week. Tae Koh won at Whitford last January, and may well be on the Japan Tour in 2018, having got through to final stage qualifying at the time of writing. Our newest European Tour player Josh Geary, and Michael Hendry, are also previous winners at this tournament.
After that, a bunch of aspiring professionals – and those who have lost their NZ PGA playing card – will tee it up at Pukekohe for the 2018 NZ PGA Q School.
This is the pathway through which Kieran Muir and Daniel Pearce started their lives as tour professionals.
The Masters event on January 11–14 is a new addition to the PGA Tour of Australasia, with $110,000 up for grabs. It is sure to attract huge interest for several reasons: the pro-am format, with 50 amateurs joining the 50 professionals who make the cut, for the final two rounds; how the pros will tackle the somewhat controversial Wainui course, which stretches to 6500m from the back tees, and how the facility – only 18 months old – will handle the staging of a 72-hole tour event. The public too will be keen to see the likes of Ryan Fox and Michael Hendry in action on home soil, opportunities which may become increasingly rare as our top players continue to build their careers offshore. It should be a great week.
The circuit stays in Auckland for the Bayleys Waitemata Pro-Am on January 18 (won by Grant Moorhead last summer), followed by a new tournament in Clarks Beach on January 20, before heading south to Taupo for another new event, the Harcourts Taupo Pro-Am at Centennial.
Then it’s across central North Island to Napier for the Duke of Gloucester Napier Pro-Am, won last year by Shaun Jones. Shaun tried his luck in Europe this year on the Alps Tour, and is sure to be better for the experience in 2018.
January concludes with the three-tournament Wellington swing, starting with the Tommy’s Paraparaumu Beach Pro-Am on January 24. This is definitely one of the pros favourite New Zealand events, as they get a rare opportunity to play one of our iconic courses under tournament conditions.
Gareth Paddison won last year, and is another who may be plying his trade in Japan next year.
The players then head over the hill to the Wairarapa for the Spark Business Martinborough Pro-Am, which usually produces a surprise winner in the $15,000 one day shootout on this picturesque country course. Last year it was rookie pro Justin Morris, who had earlier won the 2017 Q School tournament at Taupo Centennial.
The final event is the ever popular Masterton Eketahuna Pro-Am, sponsored by Recreational Services, played over 36 holes with an increased $22,000 prize fund.
Daniel Pearce won in 2017, and used that as a springboard to take out the Queensland PGA Championship shortly afterwards, which improved his world ranking by more than 100 places.
All in all, January offers our players a great chance to cash in on home town advantage, and to get some serious competition under their belts before the NZ PGA Championship and New Zealand Open, as well as a string of lucrative Australian events, the biggest of which is the Perth International Super Sixes for $A 1.75 million.
But the NZ PGA circuit is not just about the professionals – it’s also an opportunity for amateurs to play in a team with our most highly skilled golfers, learn about what it’s like to play the game for a living, and hopefully pick up a tip or two along the way. Most of the events will still have some vacancies for club players, so contact the clubs concerned or the PGA of New Zealand if you want to find out more.
You are guaranteed to have a memorable day.

Time to talk about technology

By Andrew Whiley
A voice from the south

I was fortunate to be the caddymaster for the Asia-Pacific Amateur at Royal Wellington Golf Club at the end of October; it was an amazing event.
The talent on display was incredible and the distance that some of these players fly the ball is freakish. I was also impressed with the talent of the New Zealand players and I know you will see some great results from these players in the coming years.
In particular, I enjoyed catching up with some of the coaches and one chat that stood out for me was with David Milne from Western Australia, who coaches the Indonesian team.
We got to talking about player development and today’s technology. We had a couple of mutual friends that he played with on the tour in the late 1970s and early 1980s and he felt the change in the golf ball had negatively affected their playing careers.
This wasn’t the first time I had heard such comments but who would have thought that moving from the English 1.62 inch diameter ball to the American size 1.68 inch diameter ball would have made such a difference? Many players at the time felt they couldn’t move the ball as much and it was quite different to play with around the green.
I saw the difference through the late 80s. Golfers that drove the ball brilliantly with persimmon wood drivers were soon out-played off the tee with the emergence of the metal driver. Golfers who were talented but erratic off the tee, were soon driving long and straight and shooting low scores. Then the drivers got even better, moving from metal to titanium and sizes went from 230 cubic centimetres to 460cc, which allowed golfers to hit the ball much further and straighter. This made many golf courses non-competitive as greens once designed to accept five or six irons were now being attacked with nine irons and pitching wedges.
It was interesting to hear Gary Player, on the television commentary from Sun City, South Africa, talk about “winding back the golf ball”. This has been talked about for more than 10 years now, with Jack Nicklaus being a major promoter of this happening.
The change from the rubber-wound balata golf ball to the solid-core balls has dramatically improved the performance of today’s modern golf professional. Imagine if the performance of the competition golf ball was able to be wound back 10 percent, this would bring the 300-metre drive back to 270m; then a lot of those fairway bunkers would be back in play. We could have a golf ball for club and social golfers using the latest technology and a different competitive ball for the professional tours and top amateur events.
When the winner, Lin Yuxin, played the last two holes of the Asia-Pacific Amateur, he played the last two holes three under, finishing birdie and eagle.  Lin hit his driver onto the green at the 330m, 17th hole setting up a tap-in birdie. On the 500m par five, 18th hole, he then smashed a five iron into the wind from 195m to about 1.5 metres, to close with an eagle and a three-shot victory on the Sunday. Now would that have been possible 20 years ago?
It is true that the golfers are stronger, more competitive and have great technique from all the work using digital aids that measure spin rates and launch angles to get the optimum set-up for them to maximise their driving ability.
However, when we also give them laser range finders and green reading books, then a lot of the challenges and subtleties of the game are lost. But enough about technology, now if we could only find a way to speed up play, then we might see some big advantage to the game.

Local councils should not be too hasty to close down golf courses

By Dean Murphy
New Zealand Golf Chief Executive

As part of our leadership role for golf in New Zealand, we are increasingly being asked to lead discussions around the future provision of golf facilities across the country.
Often the discussion is raised when golf clubs are looking to amalgamate or re-develop. However, more recently we have seen a number of local council authorities start to look at what the long-term picture for golf looks like in their region.
For our part, we are enthusiastically embracing the discussions in this area and putting extra resource into this space. Our driver is to ensure there is an evidence-based approach to any discussions and that the very best outcomes for golf can be achieved.
As you would expect, this is a reasonably emotive topic on many fronts and an area where many people have strong opinions.
In my experience a great deal of the discussion in this area, particularly from people outside the golf sector, is based on a complete lack of knowledge and devoid of any factual information.
Local politicians have, historically, been particularly guilty of this with it not being uncommon to see reckless inaccurate assumptions and statements made about the game of golf and its future.
In many cases, golf seems to have a target on its back and I have seen many discussions start with the assumption that golf is a dying game and that its land must be re-purposed for other uses. This is not a great preconception for decision makers to have and something we are working very hard on changing.
While there is no doubt that on many fronts the game of golf is evolving and the future network of golf facilities in New Zealand will be different than what it is today, jumping to conclusions that golf courses need to be turned into sports fields or housing is an ill-informed step too far for me.
The evidence from most developed golf markets in the world is that we are likely to see a slight consolidation of traditional membership clubs (particularly in rural areas) and an increase in the provision of shorter courses, practice facilities and technology based venues.
To bring this topic to life, take the city of Auckland as an example. There has been a great deal of public comment from local politicians and others about the need to alter and reduce the number of golf courses in the city. Despite the counter intuitive nature of this argument, (if 12-15 percent of the population are golfers and the city of Auckland is to double over the next 20 years, surely more, not less golfing facilities will be needed), the discussion has been developing in the public domain largely without any reference to facts or evidence.
To address this specific issue, New Zealand Golf together with the local golf associations, the local regional sports trusts and Auckland council have collaborated to develop an Auckland plan for golf. This plan will be published prior to Christmas and will provide a clear evidence based plan for the future of golf in the Auckland region. In our view, this is a critical piece of work which in time will need to be replicated in all regions throughout the country.
Golf has a strong future in this country. However, robust strategy and leadership is needed to ensure that any decisions made are based on facts and evidence and have the best long term interests of the game in mind.

Asia-Pacific Amateur was my major championship of the year

By Paul Gueorgieff
Editor, Golfer Pacific NZ

This is the time of year when I would usually reflect on the past year.
It would normally recall golf’s four major tournaments — the Masters Tournament in April, the US Open in June, The Open Championship in July and the US PGA Championship in August.
I would remind you that Sergio Garcia won the Masters, beating Justin Rose on the first sudden-death playoff hole. The Spaniard’s victory was his first in a major championship at his 74th appearance and came on April 9, which would have been the 60th birthday of Spain’s golfing hero Seve Ballesteros.
I would then pose the following question. Can you remember who won the US Open, because I couldn’t?
The answer, after I looked it up, is Brooks Koepka. He won by four shots with a score of 16 under par which equalled Rory McIlroy’s record as the lowest score in the tournament’s 117-year history. Koepka’s winning purse was $US2.16 million which was the first time $US2 million had been exceeded for the winner of a major.
It would then be on to The Open Championship, more commonly known as the British Open. I would pose yet another question. Where was the British Open held?
The answer is Royal Birkdale. The winner was Jordan Spieth who was recording his third win in a major. Spieth beat fellow American Matt Kuchar, the sentimental favourite, in a dramatic final round which included one shot that took Spieth 20 minutes to play.
On the par four 13th hole, Spieth hit his drive nearly 100 metres to the right of the fairway, leaving him an unplayable lie. He incurred a one-shot penalty before hitting his next shot from the practice range where he made a remarkable recovery to escape with a bogey.
More startling golf was to follow. On the 14th hole Spieth nearly holed his tee shot to make an easy birdie and he then drained a 35-foot putt for an eagle at 15 before posting birdies at 16 and 17. Spieth went on to beat Kuchar by three.
The year’s final major, the US PGA Championship was won by Justin Thomas which was to become his third of four wins on the PGA Tour for the 2017 season, as well as taking out the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs.
But while those events are easily the biggest tournaments of the year, none represented my highlight for 2017.
That distinction, for me, went easily to the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Wellington in October. The Asia-Pacific might only be an amateur event and only for players from the Asia-Pacific region but it was the nearest thing to a world-class professional golf tournament apart from the fact that no professionals were playing.
What made the Asia-Pacific great was the input from the organisers of the Masters Tournament. They poured in millions of dollars and it made me think that things like the entrance road to Royal Wellington Golf Club being re-sealed the week before the tournament was more than co-incidental.
There were large digital screens posted around the course over the concluding holes where up-to-the-minute scores could be viewed. Such screens would not come cheaply.
The Masters’ people must also have paid for the weather. Wellington was deluged by wet weather for months beforehand and at my own golf club, just a few kilometres down the road, long-time members were saying that they had never seen the course so wet for so long.
But just two weeks before the Asia-Pacific the weather came right and to use racing parlance, golf courses in the Wellington area went from a heavy 11 to a good 3.
And just as amazingly, Wellington was blessed with fine weather for the week of the tournament.
Then there was the live television coverage of the Asia-Pacific. Once again top marks. It was like watching a PGA Tour or European Tour event. The pictures were highly complimentary, including making the neighbouring Hutt River look like a pristine waterway. There were also pictures of the dramatic Huka Falls in Taupo which I am told may have appeared at being at the head of the Hutt River — don’t tell anyone that is not quite the case.
But what also impressed me was that the hundred or so volunteers such as course marshals, scorers, scoreboard walkers and caddies were well looked after. All volunteers were supplied with a jacket, two shirts, a cap and were provided with breakfast and lunch each day.
The icing on the cake was that the public turned up in droves. There would have been perhaps a thousand people watching the final hole as 17-year-old Yuxin Lin of China hit a five iron from 197m to within several feet of the hole for his second shot of the par five hole of 497m. Lin duly holed the putt for eagle to provide a fitting end to a fantastic week.

The danger of expectations

By Anthony Barkley
NZPGA Professional

Here is a situation I deal with a lot in the pro-shop when coaching or talking with golfers. It’s to do with the expectation we put on ourselves when we play golf and the negative influences it can play on our performance.
It manifests with all levels of golfers and is something that we find hard to realise we are doing and struggle to fix. I will cover several situations and try and remedy these by giving some techniques or drills to help.
1.    Age and the inability to cope with increasing handicap and scores
If you have been a good player in years gone by but start to struggle or just can’t quite get your game back can affect people’s motivation and enjoyment. These players have deep expectations of the level they expect themselves to play each time. When their games slip, being able to understand this and play to their new level can be frustrating. In fact I have seen some give the game away because of such feelings.
I myself struggle with not being able to play to what level I used to expect myself to play. Im 43 now and think I should play like I did when I was 20 even though I don’t practice and play maybe once a month. We have to realise that in golf if you don’t use it you lose it. As we age our body generally changes, flexibility reduces and without practice and lessons performance naturally lowers.
How can we fix this?
Acceptance that this is natural and get back to the roots of why we played the game in the first place should be first priority. Assess what you can do to help yourself including a practice plan, joining a gym and even look at new clubs. Not one fix will work by itself but creating a plan is what you need.
If you now play once a week give up trying to play like you are on the PGA. Take the good days with the bad and enjoy the beer after.
2.    In Tournament Expectations
No matter if its club champs or the NZ Masters or just a club day, controlling your level of emotions during all the rounds separates winners from losers.
One of the biggest dangers before a big tournament is that you play your best round of golf for a long time. This is great that you have achieved this but could be bad news for the tournament coming up. Its dependant on how far away it is and if you have followed the good round up with several others.  If it’s just a one off achievement close to your tournament, watch out for increased nerves and expectations to performance.
How to fix?
Don’t play a proper round in your practice round is suggested. Hit a couple of balls etc and pick up as you play. This I learnt at an early age playing tournaments.
Due to in round expectations also affecting our thoughts in games, set mini performance goals for every three holes. Then if you start badly after three holes you can start again on the next three holes. The reverse could also happen when you hit a gold patch in your round. Its easy to suddenly start thinking of the good round you are going to have but a bad shot will drop you like a sack of spuds. Breaking your round into three hole rounds is a good way to stop this happening.
So expectations sneak in without us knowing. The subconscious is so much stronger than the conscious so at tournaments and in rounds you need to become aware of any patterns happening. Many times you wont realise but when you reflect on a round you may see it more clearly. Then try some ways to stop it happening.
If you are frustrated and annoyed with the game because you can’t play like you used to put things in perspective. This is especially important if you have had an injury, accident or operation for example. The body just won’t work like it used to so take it as it comes and enjoy those extra shots you get. You are still on the course playing and that’s what matters.

Ready golf worth a look

By Duncan Simpson
New Zealand PGA Secretary
Ask any random group of club golfers what their main gripes are, and the chances are that pace of play will be high on the list.
Of course, no one will admit to being the cause of (or part of) the problem, so it is perhaps unsurprising that little progress seems to have been made over the years.
However, there could be light at the end of the tunnel.  The proposed changes to the rules of golf have a strong emphasis on speeding up play, and so far they seem to be getting a positive response.
Trying the new rules out at club level (but not in competitions) is being encouraged by the Royal  & Ancient, including the adoption of “ready golf” as a key element, so rather than waiting for whatever 2019 brings, perhaps it’s time to have a close look at what can be done right now.
The first – and most important principle – is that the whole club needs to commit to ready golf, otherwise different groups will be playing at different paces and potentially even more frustration will result.  Secondly, health and safety is paramount.  You need to be aware of where your fellow players are at all times, and be particularly careful if they are in front of you when you play a shot.
Next: use your common sense – ready golf is not speed golf.  If your objective is to get from the 1st tee to the 19th hole in the shortest possible time, then I suggest you and your group book the first tee time of the day, and go for it.  Otherwise, the aim should be to cut out some of the time wasted by sticking strictly to the current rules around who has the honour, and waiting for the player who is furthest from the hole to play first.
As an example, if the player who has the honour is not ready to play for whatever reason: putting on wet weather gear, taking a laser measurement (by the way, it’s not necessary for all four players to laser a par 3, as I’ve seen on a few occasions), writing down the score, searching for a tee or any of the other things that delay teeing off.  It may go against the grain to relinquish the honour, but if it is clearly helping to save time, I’m sure we’ll all get over it.
Hit your shot before helping to search for a lost ball, where it makes sense.
Usually the player has the best idea where his/her ball went, and four searchers don’t necessarily find a ball four times faster.  If everyone goes searching before they have played their shots, you will simply be adding time to an already delayed hole.  In any case, the R & A is wanting to reduce the allowable search time to three minutes from 2019, so we may as well get used to speeding up this area because the current five minute allowance is often stretched beyond the limit to become a major factor in slow play.
Quite a lot of time can be saved around the greens as well by not sticking rigidly to the current order of play.  Players can start putting while another is raking a bunker, and putt out where possible rather than marking their ball.
There are of course plenty of other ideas for speeding up play (see for example my article “Let’s speed it up in 2016” from two years ago), and perversely, these may have exacerbated the problem.  In a game already over-endowed with rules, regulations and protocols, golfers don’t like to be told yet again how to suck eggs.  The beauty of ready golf is that it is about using your initiative and common sense according to the situation, and most of us are already using the principles some of the time.
Where it has been tried on a larger scale, the results have been impressive: groups in the R & A’s spring meeting this year were told to adopt ready golf, and completed medal rounds on the Old Course in an average of three hours and 38 minutes.
It’s all about small gains: it’s not difficult to save a minute and a half per hole by following the suggestions above, which might not sound a lot, but amounts to 30 minutes across a whole round.
If you think that’s worth having, why not talk to your club and PGA professional, and give it a go?

New Zealand golf coaches punching above their weight

By Andrew Whiley
A voice from the south

The talent of the NZPGA golf professional is world leading.
Per capita, I believe we have the most successful and talented golf coaches, when you look at the world rankings.
These coaches have developed players to play and win on every major tour.  But best of all, they are actively working with the next group of young players coming through, including junior players from the age of five.
Even though some New Zealand golf courses aren’t as difficult as those in many other countries, the accessibility of the game makes our players develop faster.  There are few barriers to playing the game here, so everyone has the opportunity to tee it up.
We have lots of golf courses while fees are very reasonable compared to other countries. I also believe that the high quality coaching education through the PGA provides opportunities for coach development and a lot of opportunities to develop players that come from many different moulds. Everyone is taught excellent fundamentals as part of the comprehensive PGA programme.
In 2008, my friend, NZPGA golf professional Andre White, from the Manawatu Golf Club, first took off on a three week trip to work with his student Tim Wilkinson.  They had worked together since Tim was 13-years-old and they had created a very strong student/coach relationship.
Today, Andre can spend up to an hour in the office of the Manawatu golf shop watching Tim hit balls on a practice venue at a PGA Tour event, as if he was right there.  As Andre says “Facetime is brilliant.  I can see, hear and feel like I’m actually there.”  He can even engage in some of the conversations with a few of the tour players he knows as they come and talk to Tim while he is practicing.
“I know Tim’s swing inside out and I’ve taught him to understand what he is happening, so I am passively guiding not actively teaching”.
Andre has also picked up an Australian PGA tour pro who is regularly sending footage through to him using Facetime as well.
“I have spent time with him in person, so we have that relationship and we use technology for nearly daily student/teacher work which can continue, even when I am miles away”.
When you consider all of our professional talent, like the Kiwi players that are on the world tours like Ryan Fox and Michael Hendry who are coached by Marcus Wheelhouse (Auckland), or coach John Griffin (Queenstown) often works remotely with Steve Alker along with Paul Parlane (now based in Los Angeles).
There’s also Steve Jessup (Taupo) who coached Danny Lee to a US Amateur win and onto the PGA Tour, and Guy Wilson (North Shore) who guided Lydia Ko to be a world class player and Richard Woodhouse (formerly from Nelson) over in Queensland working with some of the top Australian pro and amateur golfers.
We mustn’t forget Gareth Winslow, head coach of the Shanghai women’s golf team and former coach of China women’s national team, who has had an influential impact on the women’s game in China over his last 13 years of living there.  And there are many more NZPGA members living here in NZ and overseas that have had success at all levels of the game — too many for me to mention in this article.
I believe the success our golf coaches is due to their passion for knowledge and the time they spend continually educating themselves for the benefit of your game!  I regularly see our PGA members attending seminars and continuing education sessions.  Sessions like the recent one hosted by our own PGA at Remuera, where some world class speakers shared their expertise. Then there are the pros like Kerryn Jamieson from the Pakuranga Golf Club who spent time with some of the leading teaching minds on a recent visit to California.
So whether you are taking a lesson from some of the pros I have already mentioned or from pros like Shelley Duncan at the Otago Golf Club, Alan Rose at the Wanaka Golf Club, Jason Tilley in Christchurch, Kevin Smith in Wellington or Andrew Horan in Hamilton, you really are working with some extremely talented teaching professionals that know their stuff and can really help your game.
The one thing I can assure every golfer in New Zealand is that we have many world class golf coaches right here in Aotearoa, so tap into their skills and improve your golf this summer.

Are we giving way to the casual golfer?

By Paul Gueorgieff
Editor, Golfer Pacific NZ
Following is an argument I have been thinking about for a couple of years.
Initially it was just an argument, for the sake of debate.
I liked the principle of the argument but thought it would never happen because it was far too radical.
But it has got to the stage where I think it is worth a throw of the dice.
Many clubs are struggling for membership numbers. It seems everyone has an opinion to why this is so.
The game takes too long, say many.
There needs to be shorter forms of the game, say many.
The game has too many rules, say many.
Clubs need to relax dress standards, say many.
I say rubbish to all those statements.
The game has long taken a little more than four hours to play, for a group of four players. I know that occasionally a round can take five hours and that is too long.
I blame the professional golfers for that. They are the worst offenders for slow play.
We see them on the television and unfortunately some of us copy them.
So do we need a shorter form of the game? As long as the pros play 18 holes we will always want to the play the game the big boys do. In other words, the answer to a shorter form of the game is no.
Are there too many rules? The answer, again, is no. Every game must have rules and no matter what the game is, when a rule doesn’t go in our favour we feel aggrieved. Quite frankly, most of us are too lazy to learn the rules.
We should allow golfers to play in singlets and thongs. Okay, that’s an exaggeration but I don’t want it at my golf club.
I was recently looking at the website of an American golf club which hosts one of the best amateur tournaments in the United States.
One of the conditions of being able to play at the course was that the bill of a cap must be worn towards the front. I don’t have a problem with that, whatsoever. It’s called standards.
A friend of mine had a round of golf at one of the top courses in Wellington. After the game he joined his group for a drink in the clubhouse.
He ordered a bottle of beer and the bar lady placed a glass on the counter in preparation to pour the contents of the bottle into the glass.
My friend interrupted the bar lady to say: “It’s okay, the bottle will be fine, thanks.’’
The bar lady responded: “Sorry, but we serve our drinks in a glass.’’
My friend was initially taken aback but subsequently appreciated the club had standards. If you go to any decent bar in town, the drinks are always served in a glass. They have standards.
So why are clubs struggling for members? I say it is, in part, because we allow green fee players to play almost any time they want.
It is the members that keep the club afloat, they are the reason why the club can afford to keep the course in pristine condition, they are the reason the club exists. But because the financial state of many clubs is in a parlous state we encourage non-members to play almost any day, any time. We are desperate for their money.
As a consequence casual players know full well they can play for just a fraction of the membership fee. There is no need to become a member despite the fact that the main reason the golf course exists is because of the members — the ones who fork out an annual subscription.
I once played at a public course — it had no members — in Australia and it was a disgrace. The fairways were full of divots, virtually none of the bunkers had been raked and on one of the short par threes, the green was littered with pitch marks. You could hardly putt on the green because it was that bumpy from the pitch marks. It was a course I would never return to.
So what’s my argument that’s too radical?
I believe green fee players should have limited access to a members’ club. It could be to the extent that the only green fee players allowed are those invited by a member. In such a case the member would be required to pay the green fee and it would up to the member to whether or not he recouped the fee from the visiting player.
This is radical thinking, I know.  But something has to change. Why have club members when any Tom, Dick or Harry can also play virtually any time, any day?

Life as a club professional

By Anthony Barkley
NZPGA Professional

Often when I am asked what I do and I say I am a professional golfer the response is often interesting. Generally I need to clarify that I am just a club professional not a playing professional and certainly there is a huge difference in what we do and what we earn. Why we become club professionals is varied. Myself, I wanted to play for a living, wasn’t good enough to be honest, then I wanted to coach full time but opportunities are rare in NZ for this so the idea of becoming a club professional grew on me and here I am today. We generally do it for the love of the game and to essentially make a hobby into a living. I know I had a lot of help when younger so there is also an element of giving back in what I do. But the golf business is changing so we have to change with it.
I think you have to be a certain kind of person to become a club pro. Certainly you need to like meeting people as in our roles you do get to meet all sorts of different characters. In my role here at Rotorua we do get to meet lots of International visitors which are great and we take pride in trying to make their experience as memorable as possible. One of the first important roles is to be the face of any club when people come to play golf. Often we are responsible for first impressions of the club as the shop will be where people gravitate to first.
Another role we need to do is provide a facility to help players with their golf. Coaching is obviously important but it’s also the need to have a well stocked golf shop where we can provide an expert service in club fitting and club advice. It’s actually an area I love as when I get a client not one is the same so it makes you think and create a set suitable for that person. Technology has been a great help these days and for us the indoor Golf Studio is fantastic. As a club professional we do however rely on a certain amount of loyalty from our members in the shop which is becoming more and more difficult these days with larger chains marketing budgets much higher than ours. I must say that people should not be fooled as prices are normally the same (sometimes cheaper) from your local pro in regards to current product.
Has online sales affected our business?
I think if you looked at business 10+ years ago when online sales were pretty much nonexistent pro shops used to be more profitable. I remember being told that a yearly sale weekend used to turnover close to $100000. Now a sale doesn’t grab people as people are so used to seeing sales. The internet has certainly opened or made it easier to find golf gear and if you don’t have a good site you will miss out basically although actual sales in golf online are not that high yet. We have an online site that as I write is being re-worked that will offer online golf sales from Drivers to ball markers which will be great but how much will it help us? Time will tell.
Certainly owning a golf shop has its challenges. We now have to compete with some chain stores, mark ups (how much we make) is not as high as people think and we do have to work some long hours (myself I average 50-60 per week). This is not to make you feel sorry for us as most club pro’s don’t mind working hard and we just have to. It’s the nature of the business and it’s a business where survival is the goal. This industry is tough so certainly if there is anyone out there thinking we are making a killing please re-think.
Here is an area that I have been asked many times. Some people over the years have been convinced that all the golf gear is in on consignment. I wish that was the case as these days all product you see in a shop has to be bought.
I guess these are some of the more challenging areas of being a club professional. But it’s not all negative as being able to help people is a big one for me. Forming relationships with members and guests is great and trying to help a club to be better is interesting. Developing players such as juniors and beginners is very rewarding when you see them learn to love the game. I guess one of the negative aspects is for me is not playing
So I hope this article helps you understand what being a club pro is like. Understand it’s not all roses and chocolates (although many pro’s do end up eating too many of them) but most of the time is very enjoyable.
Please jump onto my online sales site, you may find something you need.

Golf is a game for life

By Duncan Simpson
New Zealand PGA Secretary

A recent report from England Golf and the PGA of Great Britain and  Ireland has calculated that golf in England has a “social value” (based on enhancements to health, enhanced wellbeing and so on) of around £1.8 billion, with every £1 spent on golf generating £1.17 in benefits.
These figures look impressive on the face of it, but I’m surprised they are so low.  Given the well known Swedish research which demonstrates that golfers live on average five years longer than non-golfers, I would have thought the extra economic contribution from golfers over that period alone might have come up with a higher figure.  In addition, golfers are less of a burden on the health system — the report comments on reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, cancers and type 2 diabetes amongst golfers — but again, the benefits calculated seem to be on the low side.
The English report also does not seem to consider the potential additional benefits generated by the life skills that golf teaches.  This includes the values taught in The First Tee programme: courtesy, perseverance, responsibility, confidence, judgement, honesty, respect, integrity and sportsmanship.  Sadly, the programme — aimed at teaching life skills to children in lower decile areas — is not currently active in New Zealand, but anyone taking up golf will soon be exposed to all of these values.  They will also learn another hugely important skill: relationship building.
“Doing business on the golf course” is generally viewed by non-golfers as an excuse for avoiding real work, but all business revolves around successful and sustainable relationships, and four hours or so on a golf course will tell you a lot about whether a prospective business partner has the sort of attributes that you can build a relationship from.  The same applies in reverse, of course.
I have travelled a lot on business, and have played golf as part of the relationship building process, often when there was a language barrier.  We may not have finished up by signing contracts on the back of a golf cart, but without golf it would have been much harder (if not impossible) to start a business relationship.  It’s perhaps no coincidence that every US president since Eisenhower has played golf — if the world’s most demanding job has a place for golf, there must be some beneficial contribution from it, and no doubt our former prime minister Sir John Key would also endorse this.  Calculating a dollar value from the additional business created directly or indirectly by golf might be problematical, but perhaps not impossible.
It does help if you can play golf to a reasonable standard, otherwise your patience and values will be severely tested, as illustrated by any random sample of club golfers.  A little professional help can go a long way to fixing this.  My English grandson’s school provides a short course of PGA-delivered lessons as a curriculum option, and already at the age of 13 he has a good appreciation of the basics and a sound foundation to build on.
At the other end of the scale, a German friend of mine in his early 70s, who has now retired and found the time to play more golf, has gone through 10 hours of lessons with his local PGA professional, and is highly enthusiastic about the resultant reduction in his handicap.  Which other sport can achieve similarly positive results across such a wide age range?
Perhaps the lesson from all of this is that the PGA/England Golf Report is a good start, pointing the way for more detailed research (not least in New Zealand) to reinforce the health, social and economic benefits of golf, and to help get external funding agencies seriously involved in programmes that leverage these.
Is it too much to hope that golf might become a compulsory part of the school curriculum, or that doctors might start prescribing golf as a means of tackling the massive health problems caused by obesity and its associated side effects?  It might seem far-fetched, but currently throwing more money at the health system or the socially deprived doesn’t seem to be successful in any country I can think of.
It’s surely time for a more lateral approach, and golf needs to go out and promote itself more widely outside the industry to play its part in this, and start achieving its true potential.

Investing in golf for healthier Kiwis

By Andrew Whiley
A voice from the south

As we head towards the general election and healthcare becomes an issue, I am surprised that sports like golf are not rated high enough by the government and other political aspirants.
Involvement in golf, and sport in general, is a way to live a healthier lifestyle, to decrease healthcare costs and generally have citizens that live happier and longer.
Last month the news was full of stories about New Zealanders, especially women, being among the world’s most sedentary people.  The Activity Inequality Project, by Stanford University, charted the average daily steps of people in countries worldwide by tracking the data from an application on participants’ cellphones.
New Zealand was ranked 35th out of 46 countries. The study found the average Kiwi walked just 4582 steps daily. Even people from countries such as the United States, often thought of as the unhealthiest country in the world, walked more than New Zealanders.
I do know that many people do not take their cellphones on a walk so perhaps the data can be misleading.  For example, what happens when you leave your cellphone in your car when you arrive at the golf course?  It will show you as inactive for those hours.
So what are the health benefits of playing golf?
In October 2016, chief medical officer at the European Tour Golf, Dr Roger Hawkes, and lead researcher Dr Andrew Murray of the University of Edinburgh, made a presentation to the United Kingdom parliament, which included MPs and associate members, on the health benefits of the game of golf. This presentation was supported by research from the World Golf Foundation, with the aim to increase interest and participation in golf.
The presentation focused on the considerable physical and mental health benefits of golf. The research carried out by the project had found that key benefits included improvements in life expectancy, improved cholesterol levels and body composition plus golf was expected to decrease the risk of over 40 major chronic diseases. It also appears to improve overall wellness and self-confidence.
Dr Murray added that it was clear that golf has overall health benefits which for many years have been underplayed.
Golf can provide health benefits for people of all ages and backgrounds, providing moderate intensity physical activity. This has a key role in improving life expectancy, helping to prevent major chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart attacks, and improving mental health. The golf and health project has brought together golf organisations from across the world, including partners such as the Royal and Ancient, the PGA’s of Europe and the European Tour.
An earlier Swedish study found that golfers have a 40 percent lower death rate, which corresponds to a five-year increase in life expectancy.  The Norwegian Golf Federation revealed that a golfer walks over 8km and burns around 2500 kilocalorie during an 18-hole round of golf.  Other benefits from these studies showed reduced stress levels, improved sleep and as golf is a low-impact activity, that there is a very low injury risk.
A great report that is important for New Zealanders was undertaken in Australia by Victoria Golf and was titled: The Community Impact of Golf.  The physical health benefits contribute $32.7 million per year due to the prevention of ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, colorectal cancer and breast cancer.  Golf’s mental health benefits contribute $1.1 million per year due to the prevention of anxiety and depression.
When I look at the investment made in smoke free activities and other government initiated medical-related campaigns, I believe there needs to be a greater investment in getting our country more active and into sports like golf.
In June 2015, New Zealand Transport Agency chief executive Geoff Dangerfield said that total investment in cycling over the next three years was expected to be between $380m and $400m, delivering over 250km of new urban cycleways.  Cycling was now the fastest growing mode of transport in several cities and towns, he said.
“Put simply, cycling is good for our cities, it’s good for the environment and it’s good for our health.”
I don’t disagree with some of the above statements, but I think it is important to be realistic.  Less than one percent or a $2m annual investment in golf would have a dramatic impact on introducing more New Zealanders to the game and be able to present the recreational, health and social benefits to a wider audience.  Cycling may be good for our cities and health but golf is great for our body and soul.
I call on everyone involved in the game of golf, from those in leadership roles at New Zealand Golf, from regional association level and club levels, to those at a political or medical level to speak up and request that the government make a greater investment in the game of golf for a mentally stronger and healthier New Zealand.

The question of developing New Zealand’s golf talent

By Dean Murphy
New Zealand Golf Chief Executive

Not many days go by without me being asked either one of two questions: Why does New Zealand Golf invest money into developing talented players? or Why doesn’t New Zealand Golf invest more money into developing talented players?
For nearly 30 years New Zealand Golf has led, in one form or another, a talent development and refinement programme for the emerging golfing talent throughout the country. Over this time these programmes have been well regarded internationally and this continues to be the case today.
While our investment in this area has significantly reduced in recent years to make way for increased investment into club support programmes, developing talent remains a core part of our business and in my view rightly so.
The purpose of investing in this area is to inspire the growth of golf in New Zealand. We do this by supporting the development of players who aspire to win golf majors and medals. When our players perform on the world stage the whole game benefits by way of increased profile, positive perception changes and lifts in participation levels.
Initially New Zealand Golf programmes were considered to be at the cutting edge of player development as very few such programmes existed. In recent years, international focus and respect continues to be shown to New Zealand programmes given the success of various players on the world stage, including the likes of Danny Lee, Ryan Fox and the sensational Lydia Ko who reached the No 1 position in the Rolex World Rankings soon after turning professional. The key factors in the New Zealand programme successes to date are:
• A strong base of young players from around the country who have good support from their golf clubs, their districts and their coaching teams.
• A long-standing club, district and national competition schedule that forms the competition pathway for these players.
• Well-established district and national development programmes that provide extra support to the very best of our emerging talent.
While we have been successful in the past, the performance golf landscape continues to evolve. As time has gone on most of the national bodies New Zealand competes against now have sophisticated, professional, competitive and well-funded development programmes.
The tailoring of individual programmes for players, the maintenance of them by their coaching teams and the level of investment into their overall programmes by national bodies has seen the evolution of the ‘golfing athlete’. The golfing athlete and their team now leave no stone unturned in their quest, and are continually asking the question; will ‘doing this’ improve my performance?
The challenge for those of us in New Zealand who support our emerging talent, including district programmes and New Zealand Golf, is to sustain the excellence of our programmes in this increasingly competitive and professionalised international sporting environment.
To do this we are going to need increased levels of investment across all aspects of our programmes. I think, conservatively, we currently need an extra $750,000 per year to just keep pace with our international counterparts — twice that if we want to develop the types of programmes and facilities that will increase the probability of more successful New Zealand golfers being produced. It’s a tough problem to solve but very important for the future success of our game.

Is golf lacking a bit of grunt?

By Paul Gueorgieff
Editor, Golfer Pacific NZ

I’ve had an idea.
I know, that’s frightening.
After all I’m a guy who discovered that it’s perfectly fine to place your marker in front of the ball on the green.
The rebel in me saw me take up this procedure several months ago and I am still doing it today. Although I admit I was comforted by 1998 New Zealand Open winner Matthew Lane who said we should all place the marker in front of the ball to lessen the chance of cribbing — also known as cheating.
So what’s my latest idea?
Last month I heard a guy on the radio who had monitored the grunting noises of tennis players.
This guy, sorry he should known as a researcher of nonverbal communication, said the grunts of tennis players gave clues to the outcome of a match.
This joker, sorry he should be known as a researcher of nonverbal communication, said the pitch of a grunt was a key to who won and who lost.
This guy, the researcher of nonverbal communication, said high-pitch grunters were more likely to lose than low-pitch grunters.
But the important bit, in my mind, was did the grunting help?
The answer was yes, according to the researcher of nonverbal communication, better known as this guy or this joker.
The advantages were both physiological and psychological. They are two big words but I’ll do my best to explain them in the context of grunting.
The first one is physiological. That means that grunting helped the tennis player physically hit the ball harder, perhaps by one or two percent. Quite clearly, one or two percent, could be the difference between winning and losing.
The second term of psychological is mental, in the brain,  an emotion, a behaviour. The verbal communications researcher said sports psychologists argued that grunting helped improve focus and perhaps help pull off that winning shot.
So all of this got me thinking. I could hear the wheels grinding in my brain.
Why don’t golfers grunt, I asked myself. All golfers want to hit the ball harder and further, so would grunting help?
All golfers want to maintain their focus to help pull off that winning shot, so would grunting help?
Can you imagine Rory McIlroy grunting like Rafael Nadal with a full-blooded drive. And instead of the ball travelling a mere 330 yards, it would be two percent further at 336 yards.
And can you imagine Shanshan Feng screeching like Maria Sharapova as she unwinds off the tee?
Of course you wouldn’t need to grunt hard for a shorter shot. For example a wedge shot, where accuracy was the key, could be tempered to a squawk or a squeak. And a short putt could be accompanied by a cluck or a soothing hum.
Now the most frightening part of all this was that I tried it. On a quiet day at the practice range, before I wrote this column,  I tried grunting as I hit the driver. It took a while to get the timing of the grunt correct but I started to think this could help. Now that is frightening.
Also frightening was the strange looks I got from the golfers playing the hole near the practice range.

Funny game, golf

By Paul Gueorgieff
Editor, Golfer Pacific NZ

What happened at the United States Open?
This is the tournament where, generally, even par is just about a winning score.
The course at Erin Hills in Winconsin looked formidable. It measured a very long 7100m and pictures of the long grass in the rough dominated most previews of the event. It looked like even par would, indeed, be a great score.
But what happened? Even par got you 32nd. The winning score, by Brooks Keopka, was 16 under par. There was a total of 27 players who broke par. In the third round Justin Thomas posted a nine-under par 63, matching the lowest score in major championship history and breaking the lowest score in relation to par at the US Open. So it can’t have been that hard.
But then at the other end of the scale the world’s top three ranked players Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day along with one of my favourite players Henrik Stenson didn’t even make the cut. Funny game, golf.
One over par was the cut line but Johnson, McIlroy and Day weren’t even close. Johnson was four over, McIlroy five over and Day 10 over par. So it must have been hard.
McIlroy said before the tournament the long grass of the rough would not be a concern because the fairways were wide. So the course wouldn’t be that hard.
The long distance of the course, the longest in the history of the four majors, would suit the big hitters, said many. Keopka fits that bill but Brian Harman, who shared second, is far from long off the tee. Yet another contradiction. Funny game, golf.
The US Open is supposed to be the toughest test in golf. Back in 1974, one year after Johnny Miller famously posted a final-round 63 to win at Oakmont, US Golf Association (USGA) president Sandy Tatum presided over what became known as “The Massacre at Winged Foot,” which Hale Irwin won with a score of seven over par. When questioned about the organisation’s dastardly set-up, Tatum simply replied, “We’re not trying to embarrass the best players in the world. We’re trying to identify them.”
That has always held as the standard company line, but there’s no question the USGA has relished its role as the wicked witch of the four major championships. Since 1990, the winning score has ranged from 271 on the low end to 285 on the high end, save for McIlroy’s 268 in 2011 at a Congressional course so waterlogged it became an exception to the rule.
The long grass of the rough at Erin Hills made for good pictures but clearly it did not come into the picture for a good number of the golfers.
Justin Thomas, who scored 63 in the third round, said: ``The US Open is supposed to be very uncomfortable. It’s kind of what the USGA and US Open is known for — making you kind of hate yourself and hate golf and just really struggle out there. I don’t mean that in a bad way.”
Funny game, golf.
We now look forward to the British Open at Royal Birkdale. Will the rough be penal, will the fairways be narrow, will the bunkers be impossible, will the big hitters be suited? Who knows. Great game, golf.