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Just add time and practice?
These Guys Are Good, But How Good?
By kickntrue on 7/6/10
By Matt Snyder, ClubSG Contributor

Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. His column will appear each Monday on ClubSG. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

Every time that I watch the PGA Tour, I am impressed with the ability of those players. However, I am also curious of how much of their success is attributed to all the luxuries of a Tour pro. Obviously, these guys are the best in the world, but how much better are they than the guy that only plays 25 times a year and is a scratch golfer at the local public course? This is a conversation/debate that I have had with several people and I would love to know the answer. It is my opinion that, while the pros are great players, they are not THAT much better than the best local amateurs.

Now, don't get me wrong, I know they are the best players in the world and I'm not trying to take that away from them, but they also have everything imaginable to foster their talent. Think about the guy at your club or the best local player that you know. I think it's safe to say that we all have a name or two in mind of the best amateur player around and he's probably scratch or even better. I'm also guessing that he has a job and probably some other hobbies that take up most of his time. Yet, he can step out of the car and onto the first tee and shoot par or better without all the things that accompany a pro. Imagine how much better that guy would be if he quit his job and spent eight to ten hours a day playing and practicing golf. Now, picture him being sponsored by a major company who would supply him with the exact equipment that he needs. Oh, and don't forget to supply him with a caddie to give him an exact yardage and conditions report for every shot. But, we’re not done yet. Lastly, take that local course that he plays and remove all the imperfections, trample down all the rough, remove any out-of-bounds stakes, place spotters on every hole, and manicure every blade of grass as if it were a movie star. How good is the local scratch amateur now?

Oh, and don't forget to supply him with a caddie to give him an exact yardage and conditions report for every shot.
Alright, alright. We cannot ignore the effect of the pressures that the professionals feel with millions of people watching. In fact, I think it's safe to say that the ability to handle the pressures alone is enough to separate a lot of the guys that make it from the guys that don’t make it. Just think about how nervous most of us get on the first tee when there is another group or two standing there and watching us tee off. Understandably, the guys on the PGA Tour have dealt with people watching them play for long enough that I’m sure that they have become immune to a lot of those nerves. Even still, they feel the gravity of the pressures and they have to be able to handle it.

The other variable between the local amateur and the PGA pro is the difficulties of the courses they play. I pointed out some of the ways that I believe the PGA courses are easier, like hardly any o.b. and rough that is flattened by spectators, but the added challenges should also be mentioned. The obvious difference is the length of those courses. But, the biggest added difficulty between the local club and the courses that the pros play is the speed and slope of the greens. If you have never played on greens that are rolling 11 or 12 on the Stimpmeter, you can’t overestimate how much it exaggerates the mistakes you make around the green. Chips and putts must be so much more precise on the greens that the Tour pros play on than those of the local public links. Fast, undulated greens also magnify the importance of accurate approach shots. You will not have success on those types of greens unless you leave the ball in the correct places. However, with all the practice rounds and charts of each green, there is no guesswork involved for the pros. A Tour pro knows exactly where he needs to hit each approach shot on the course. On the contrary, amateur players on local courses deal with making guesses on almost every shot.

With all the practice rounds and charts of each green, there is no guesswork involved for the pros.
It’s probably impossible to measure how much of a difference there is between the best local amateurs and the professionals. It is a pretty subjective comparison. So, the real question, in my mind, is what a typical PGA professional would shoot at a local public course. He has to play without hitting range balls, spending an hour on the putting green, or having a caddie. He has to deal with the terrible lies, less than perfect greens, slowness of other groups, out-of-bounds stakes, bunkers with varying levels of sand, and fairways mowed as high as the typical first cut of rough on a Tour course. I would pick an average player somewhere between Chris DiMarco and Steve Stricker. If I had to choose a number, I’m picking +2. I could see them shooting as well as even, but I highly doubt they would be under par, much less 65 or 66 like most people seem to imagine. I know they are good, but I don’t think we give enough credit for their results to the luxuries that they enjoy. I make the case that most scratch “part-time” amateurs have enough talent to make it professionally if they could only handle the pressure and have all the benefits of a full-time Tour pro. Sounds crazy, I know, but I believe it’s closer to true than you may think.

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.


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[ comments ]
Copper366 says:
Also they should have to play with 4-8 year old equipment and balls off the store racks.
7/6/10
 
rodmccolman says:
Lee Trevino came to our city to play a friendly match with some of our local talent and played one of our better private courses. He had never seen our course before and just showed up same day and shot the course record 63. These pros are that good and would destroy our courses because of their length and precision and talent,end of story.
7/7/10
 
teggernaut says:
I agree with rodmccolman. The length of pro courses is the biggest contributing factor. The pros are able to be long as well as straight. Take for instance this year's British open - St. Andrews will be playing 7305 yards which is almost 1000 yards longer than my home course off the whites. I reckon they would destroy my local course.
7/7/10
 
zmaynard says:
You act like the conditions they have on tour make the courses easier... I disagree wholeheartedly. Just look at the last 2 tournaments, I don't know a public course with 4 inch cut rough, just off the fairway. The greens are super nice on tour but they are fast, fast, fast and multi-tiered. I just don't see that anywhere else unless you are playing at a 140+ slope public course (which most aren't). I see where you are getting at, but i would be more interested in an amatuer playing with a caddie, enduring all the same conditions as we see on TV. Oh wait, that has already been done, and most of them soon 5 over each day and miss the cut. (Obviously there are a few that play well)
7/8/10
 
MgolferOwen says:
For me, the length is actually a help. I played a course recently that was 7300 yards. Never played it before and played really well. Why? Because my regular course leaves me with lots of wedges and shorter shots. 7300 yards I could let my driver go and still have 8 and 9 iron full shots into the greens.
7/9/10
 
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