I have had a ton of time between originally writing this article in July of 2021 and now. I’ve seen and ingested hours of elite golf, and thus far, I have learned the most from watching Rose Zhang.
For a player that might peak at 145MPH ball speed with a driver, it’s her efficiency that more than makes up for whatever she might not have (at least for now) in the power category. My hot take on Rose is that she is in more control of her golf ball than any other player in the world. When I say “raising the floor”, her floor and her ceiling are closer together than anyone I’ve seen up close.
So as a case study, she’s fascinating if you truly want to shoot low scores ALL the time.
Enjoy the article I put up two years ago as it truly gives you an insight as to why you should pay close attention to the bags of the LPGA (and Champions Tour) and their approach to the game in general. It’s a path to success, TRUST ME.
Why am I doing this?
Well, for one swing speed plays a huge role, 99% of the players that tee it up have ball speeds closer to the LPGA/Champions than the PGA Tour. I’m sure some folks in the forums somewhere are huffing and puffing, but it’s the truth. Secondly, LPGA/CT players play golf courses as they are designed where PGA players might play 60% with all the long carries, cutting off doglegs, etc.
This is not a commentary on the distance debate; it’s a wake-up call for us weekend warriors that want to get better. The fastest way to lower your scores is not hitting it further; it’s setting up your mind, your bag, and your ego for efficiency.
Since taking the Callaway gig I’ve seen what this looks like 1st hand. I’ve been to Major Championships on all Three Tours and what I see every time is oddly inspiring for my own game and yours.
These are 3 things that LPGA and Champions Players do that we should all do. YES, even if you are a low-handicap bomber, these can still help.
- Play to a FULL shot: I follow Rose Zhang for a lot of her practice rounds and one of the things I loved about her prep is the focus on finding a full shot into the green. At no point is there any concern about a forced carry, pounding it way down there, or playing to a narrow part of the hole. She’s always working away from trouble, always playing to the fat part of the fairways, and always finding the tee club that leaves her with a FULL shot into the green. I suck at this; I find myself with more 1/2 shots and awkward 3/4 distances than I care to admit. Not effective for a guy that plays twice a month. You know the drill, melt a drive down there, 60 yards in, nice 5. #rallykiller
- The bag setups are built for control: Pay attention to the bags on the LPGA and the Champions Tour. TONS of Hybrids, Barely any 3-irons and 4-irons, and the gapping is flawless. Take Olin Browne, for example (Callaway Staffer #1). His entire setup is built for height and spin. “I love loft,” he told me, “if you play with too little, you have nowhere to go, most of us know how to take loft off, but to try and add it is not the way.” You would be surprised that a good number of the iron lofts on The Champions Tour resemble specs you would see 20 years ago IE 36-degree 7 iron, 48-degree PW, etc.
- SPIN. SPIN. SPIN: You’ve heard me preach that “Spin is King.” On both of these Tours, spin is something that is cherished. If the spin goes down for any reason, you better believe the player will find clubs that mitigate that with the launch and descent angle, Hence why you see more Paradym, Apex Pro, Apex ’21, 7-woods, 9-woods, 11-woods, etc. It’s not forgiveness they want (although this is a nice feature); they all hit it out of the middle a ton, what they desire is ideal launch windows that help them score. SPIN and its younger brother descent angle are paramount to control.
I was chatting with Retief Goosen, and at the time, he was testing a new 3-wood. Goosen still POUNDS it, 170+ ball speed, but he’s also a player that has always played with spin. When I asked him about what he looks for in a 3-wood, “I want it to go up with spin, not ballon spin, control spin. I don’t want a 2nd driver, I want a lay-up club.” It’s funny that with all the technology at their disposal, VERY few of the Champions Tour players hit their irons any further now than in their younger days; the only club that they even consider maxing out is the big stick. But not at the cost of control.
So what’s the Point Wunder?
I’m writing this because, more than ever we ALL have the opportunity to look at our games in a different way. Start to look at distance as a secret weapon and not the benchmark of your whole game. Trust me, that’s a thing. It’s easy to get caught up in hitting BOMBS, I get it. But get honest, do wanna you be the longest player that finishes at the bottom of your flight or the saltiest that wins his club championship?
Next time an LPGA or Champions tour event pops on SIT AND STUDY, watch where they hit and why they hit it there. You’ll thank me.
Be the player that is sneaky long and shoots his handicap on any course and not the player that pounds it and shoots 90 on a six handicap. That ain’t cool.
Take me for example, I chased getting longer for four years, and my game SUFFERED. It was awful. I added spin with CSX, better launching and more forgiving irons, and a Driver that never dips below 2400 RPMs of spin. My handicap is now back down to a 1… and my golf swing didn’t get any better, it still sucks. I just got smart and stopped kicking my own ass.