Even though he clearly wants his name and likeness to be ‘out there’, I won’t be promoting a 14-year old prodigy in California, who has launched a YouTube video that stopped me in my tracks and made me think: if the competition is Charlie Woods, what’s any other, self-professed, ambitious, 14-year old supposed to do to secure the financial support necessary to launch a career in pro tour golf, if your father is not a multi-multi-millionaire?
Charlie’s peers can take all of the incremental steps they wish but this young man wants to do it in one giant leap by hoping that a Sports Agency eyeballs his video and notes the impressive data spewed out by his personal launch monitor. Who knows, he may be on somebody’s books by now – provided they were able to afford the signing on fee ($1500+ minimum). The Agency attitude is take the young man’s parents’ money and if one protégé manages to hit the jackpot, it can pay for multiples of investment failures.
In his home, this 14-years old, YouTuber has a mini cable machine for strength-conditioning on which he performs a range of movement exercises (daily); an indoor practice putting mat with straight lines and a putting laser; a practice net with a simulator and costly launch monitor on which short-game shots can be measured (for elevation and spin as well as distance). All that is needed is somebody to pay for this ultra-focussed, data approach that goes completely against the grain of past generations taught the complete opposite: excel at team games first, maintain a low profile, be seen and not heard, swing slowly, learn the craft of plotting one’s way around golf courses, be a master of ball control.
Instead, today’s modus operandi is to generate as much swing speed and media hoopla as possible to show the world one’s astonishing ‘data numbers’ while articulating technical jargon as impressively (incomprehensively?) as any of the verbose sultans of swing who operate on social media platforms.
Bryson DeChambeau has a lot to answer for. He is the poster boy and inspiration for all of this. There are kids everywhere trying to drive the ball between 350-400 yards into a screen and succeeding at it. If this is the future, there will be no challenging courses to play on. After all, 400-yards used to be a hefty par-4 requiring two shots with wooden headed clubs (yes! real wooden ones).
I have one question: Can you replicate it on a golf course in competition and shoot in the mid-60s day in, day out? Because, that is what pro golfers must do to make their millions.
The way golf is going it could end up in a projected year 2100 when, according to author Bob Labbance, the then world’s best player, 7 feet 2 inches tall, Kampalati Samir from India, sizing up a 270-yards, 6-iron, second shot approach following a 525-yards drive on a par 4 measuring 795 yards, seeks the advice of his caddy, who mumbles: Swing smooth, stay committed, and keep your eye on the ball! (some things never change!)
What is even more unsettling is how accurate these super-fit, super-flexible athlete, whizz kids are with their drivers. Using modern low spin club heads and golf balls, the once slowly-acquired skill of timing is no longer necessary.
Athletic youngsters can be taught to hit booming tee shots in a matter of weeks because golf balls that self-correct in flight have changed the game. The only shots that take any length of time for a 14-year old to learn are the short ones, especially lag putting, which, unless you are a born genius, can take years of hard won experience of reading greens, playing on different grasses, and thousands of hours of practice.
When today’s future stars practice, they have an expensive machine to help them calibrate yardages and feels for distances. Should something go awry they can instantly adjust their swing path and angle of attack. When practicing on the golf course they will have a deWiz watch on their wrist to record every shot they play for analysis later, or on the spot. The quality of information, coaching and practice drills available today are extraordinary. It’s no longer a game, it’s science.
No mention of finishing high school, going to college, working one’s way up through the amateur ranks; winning events at under-age level by shooting scores in the low 60s. Somehow, the bullet-proof confidence that all of those ‘inconveniences’ build can be skipped.
But, they can’t!
There is no disguise in this precocious, young man’s end game of attracting an agent who will source the sponsorships that will help him on his way to becoming a professional golfer. Today’s super-confident, super-focused kids see no need to join a golf club, play in regional and national amateur junior championships to use them as stepping stones of measurement against the competition they will face.
Aiming to go straight from a driving range simulator onto one of the ‘hundreds’ of exploitative mini-tours delighted to relieve you of any cash investment in the form of entry fees has about as much chance of survival as a snowball in hell. Pro golf is all about competition. If you cannot stand on your own two feet and fight for your cheque, you are wasting your time! There is golf.
There is playing in handicap competition golf. There is scratch championship golf and now there is simulator golf, which is what it says - a simulation. The first three are ‘real’ in each its own way, but hitting balls on a simulator is not remotely like real golf.