What Makes a Golfer Great
Getting to the PGA Tour isn’t for everybody but it truly is the beginning for an ambitious professional career.
While a golfer would have exhibited their true talent during the process of getting to the premium tours, once there, they are up against hundreds of others with a similar skillset.
Ultimately, what factor separates the good from the very best?
Is it the skill they inherit or the fact that they have the most recent equipment?
It could be their caddie’s desirable knowledge or that their coach is one of the greatest throughout the circuit.
Furthermore, it could be an amalgamation of all the factors listed above.
One thing is for certain, the most influential aspect of them all is the individual’s skillset - without it, there would be no sponsorship deals!
So, it’s only right we start there.
Typically, the golfers who make it to the highest level have been playing since youth and they have experienced extensive coaching and development that has effectively issued them with the platform that they now find themselves on.
However, that’s not always true; Bubba Watson has publicly noted that he has never had a golf lesson in his life and his quirky style would suggest that it’s true.
However, while any human can be taught a specific way, when they’re out on the fairways, they’re on their own - excluding their caddie!
There’s no manager ready to issue instructions like football, or even a coach in the stands as you would see in tennis.
The moment they arrive for a tournament, the mindset of the individual takes precedence, and we all know how mentally tough the sport of golf is.
The difficulty with professional golf is that everyone present has at least one thing in common: natural talent.
Golfers cannot fluke their way to the most prestigious of tournaments, so if they are looking to best one another, you must look past natural talent because they all possess that in abundance.
Ultimately, who wants it more? Who is going to put the most time into practice and refining their skills?
It is said that Cristiano Ronaldo is the first to attend training and he is also the last to depart, that’s what being one of the world’s best footballers means.
While there are several other potential benefits that can help strengthen a golfer, the individual work rate, mindset, and desire is what ultimately matters most.
When a professional golfer starts to show promise, it won’t be long before an equipment manufacturer approaches them regarding a sponsorship deal.
Ultimately, the selected player will be paid to use that manufacturer’s equipment, similar to advertising the product.
The brand effectively think: ‘If the world’s best use our equipment, it might influence amateurs to buy the same gear.'
Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa are all sponsored by TaylorMade.
On the other hand, Justin Thomas is sponsored by Titleist, Hideki Matsuyama by Srixon and Jon Rahm is the poster boy for Callaway.
While any golfer can use whatever brand of equipment they wish (away from sponsorship deals), the chosen clients will be given extra care and special treatment.
It is the brand’s job to make sure their golfer is fully fitted for clubs and if any alterations will need to be made prior to a tournament.
While there are many unsponsored players who play on tour, the majority of the better players will have some sort of sponsorship agreement.
What this effectively does is allow the golfer to relax - their equipment needs are all fully catered for.
They might visit a fitting centre every now and then to get updated sizes or new equipment if they are about to tackle an unorthodox course.
Believe it or not, the equipment deal is far more beneficial than one might think and considering all the sizes and fittings are someone else’s responsibility, it allows the golfer to focus on one thing: winning.
Golf Ball Deals
This one is similar to equipment deals but there are a few players who play with one brand’s clubs and another brand’s balls.
The best example of this is Rickie Fowler who is sponsored by Cobra/Puma but he uses the TaylorMade TP5 Pix - where he helped co-design the ball in 2020.
The same can be said for Bryson DeChambeau; he’s sponsored by Cobra/Puma but he uses Bridgestone balls.
Typically, the favoured golf ball on tour is the Titleist Pro V1 but the Pro V1X is just as popular in some cases.
Titleist are a good example of possessing a product that is in high demand, considering they can’t sponsor everyone to use their golf ball.
In fact, only a select few would be sponsored to use it, which means whenever anyone wins with the Pro V1 or V1 X, they are getting exposure as a brand.
Golf ball deals will certainly help players but to attribute them to success seems baseless and therefore, not a huge factor in terms of offering an advantage.
While golf ball sponsorship might not be overly valuable, you can bet that the caddie is unquestionably the difference between victory and defeat.
Employing a competent caddie is a necessity for every golfer and while you might hear one or two strong words directed at their sidekick, it’s always in the heat of the moment.
It’s ironic in a way because yes, golf is a solo sport, but that sentiment undervalues the role of the caddie and what they bring to the ‘team'.
Knowing correct yardages, their players’ distances, becoming experts at understanding the strength of wind or the dampness of the rough is something that is certainly not understood overnight.
While the golfer may have the ability, the caddie has the knowledge and if you can pair a skilful golfer with a wise caddie, you are effectively creating a dangerous duo.
For that reason alone, the choice of caddie is not something to be taken lightly - look at the immediate reaction of McIlroy’s decision to employ long-term friend Harry Diamond on the bag.
Perhaps the biggest influence after the golfer themselves, a competent coach can be the difference between a large cheque and a trophy.
Using McIlroy as an example again, his decision to employ Pete Cowen has produced wonderful results: winning twice in six months having gone winless since the 2019 Tour Championship.
Moreover, we must revisit the mental impact that golf has on the golfer - one day they can be scoring in the low 60s and the next they’ll be comfortably over-par.
Having a coach in your corner to remind you that golf is difficult and that not every day can be positive will certainly soothe the mindset.
Furthermore, implementing swing changes in addition to boosting the mental state is arguably the greatest role of the coach.
Above all, a coach operates as a reference check: am I swinging correctly? Why am I missing to the left? How do I minimise my shortcomings with the putter?
Having this reference tool allows the golfer to share their troubles but also their jubilations after their most recent win.
There we have four factors that ultimately decide if a golfer can perform to the best of their ability.
While equipment deals alleviate the stresses of securing gear and ensuring that the fitting process is smooth, the three main factors of a quality golfer is through the teamwork of three people: the golfer, their caddie, and the coach.
With three competent professionals working toward a collective goal, the golfer already has a head start on the field.
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