ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, Albert Einstein [above] announced his general theory of relativity. Space-time bends and sags, and along this rumpled surface called the fabric of the universe, gravity sends spherical objects on crazy curved paths around black holes – not unlike the greens at Royal Melbourne. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist wasn’t much of a golfer, but his Princeton mates did once drag him to Springdale Golf Club for a lesson. Frustrated, Einstein threw four balls in the air and commanded his instructor to catch. Then, in that intimidating German accent,he implored, “Young man, when I throw you one ball, you catch it. However, when I throw you four balls,you catch nothing! So when you teach, make only one point at a time!”
What golf might look like 100 years from now is uncertain, but we do know it’s the people with the bravery to challenge traditions who will shape it, much like Einstein himself. Over the coming pages are seven more individuals you’ve perhaps never heard of, but whose work could change the gameyou love beyond recognition. For the better, we think. – with Max Adler
PGA of Australia
- Revolutionising tournament golf
He was the man behind the world-first Surf Coast Knockout tournament that turned heads at The Sands Torquay back in 2011 with its final-day, matchplay format. Now PGA of Australia tournament director Andrew Langford-Jones is playing a hands-on role in bringing the World Super 6 to Perth’s fairways in February.
‘Langers’, not short on sources of inspiration himself having met the likes of Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana and Michael Jordan through golf, is a key member of the PGA of Australia’s newly-formed “Innovation Team”, led by PGA of Australia chief commercial officer Stephen Ayles and with a clear mission to reinvigorate the game.
Taking elements from the Surf Coast Knockout, Ayles says his team has lobbied hard to introduce the World Super 6 Perth – a landmark event featuring 54 holes of strokeplay before the final 24 players battle it out over a dramatic final-day, six-hole shootout for the cash booty.
“We trialled the Surf Coast Knockout and essentially what we did is take some elements from that event and create something different we hope will appeal to a wider audience and a younger demographic, while at the same time respecting the traditions of the game,” Ayles says.
Teeing off at Lake Karrinyup Country Club from February 16-19, the World Super 6 will be co-sanctioned by, and has the full backing of, the European Tour.
A regular cut will fall after 36 holes before the field is then further reduced to the top-24 following 54 holes. Those remaining players will then earn their places in Sunday’s six-hole shootout with any tied matches being decided on a purpose-built 90-metre ‘knockout hole’.
“Andrew has played an influential role in helping us introduce both tournaments but a lot of the work on the World Super 6 should also be attributed to the team we have put together here,” says Ayles. “We really want to change tournament golf in Australia. We have to. I’d like to think one day we could even hold an exciting one-day golf event that appeals to the whole family, much like the Twenty20 cricket boom has shown us. I’m confident we’ll introduce more exciting ideas with people like Andrew in our team.”
PGA Tour Professional
- Making golf cool again
After being bullied at school for wearing golf attire, Australian PGA professional Jack Wilson decided he was going to make a stand once he made it on tour. His mission: to change the archaic look of professional golf and make the sport hip and cool, and ultimately more appealing to a younger demographic. So this year the Victorian threw away his razor, added a splash of colour to his wardrobe and has been actively involved in introducing new people to the sport via shopping centre and school visits. Oh, and he’s also become the only tour pro we can think of who’s sporting dreadlocks. “Hopefully kids see me this summer and think, Hey, golf looks fun. I might give it a go,” says Wilson. “Too many people flick on their TVs and don’t understand golf. The sport’s not attractive and there are very few entertainers that capture the full imagination of the general public. Characters like Beef Johnston with his bushy beard, and Rickie Fowler with his bright, orange shirts and high-top shoes … these are guys who understand the importance of making golf more appealing to a wider demographic and it’s something I will continue to champion in Australia.”
PETE NICHOLSON & CHRIS STEFFE
Founders of Pro Golf IQ
- Getting your mind to play the shot
After playing golf socially for many years, Gold Coasters Pete Nicholson and Chris Steffe had seen literally dozens of golfers destroy a good round with head explosions after playing a bad shot.
“Tantrums, cursing and club throwing … I saw the lot,” recalls Nicholson.
It got the pair thinking – while the world’s top players pay thousands of dollars each month for expert sport psychologists to ensure they are at the peak of their game, there was next to nothing in the marketplace for amateurs to learn these same mental skills for dealing with pressure.
“Based on science and research from prestige universities, we discovered huge differences in the brain activity of professionals compared to that of amateurs in the crucial moments before playing a shot,” says Steffe. “During their pre-shot routine, studies showed that pros and amateurs use their left brain to analyse the target, hazards, swing speed, trajectory and direction. The top golfers then bring in the creative right hemisphere for rhythm, timing and co-ordination … in essence achieving a quiet mind and perfect mental stability. Unfortunately us mere mortals get stuck in the left-brain and overthink the task ahead. This negative mind-chatter can prevent us from getting into the ‘zone’.”
To coach amateurs to think the same way as the pros with a ‘balanced brain’, the pair created an audio system using techniques exclusive to the IQ programs called Inter-hemispheric Synchronic Mediation (ISM).
Simple to use with headphones in the comfort of your own home, Pro Golf IQ teaches progressive relaxation and guided visualisation to ensure the mind is in optimum condition for every shot.
“The world’s greatest players say that 80 per cent of the game is between the ears but how much time does the average golfer devote to mastering the mental game?” says Nicholson.
So does it work? The scorecards say yes.
“Our greatest measurement of success are the dozens of emails we receive each month with golfers delighted in their improvement, especially since the release of the powerful supplementary modules Putting IQ, Driving IQ and Pitching IQ,” says Nicholson. “We have high handicappers slashing five to seven strokes off their game and those in the lower bracket witnessing greater focus and concentration in the crucial scoring zone from 70 metres out.”
Australian Golf Digest readers can enjoy a great deal on the main Pro Golf IQ program for just $97 (RRP $219) or $194 ($495) for the full offering of sessions.
To learn more go to progolfiq.com/birdie
Founder of PNP Golf
- Simplifying the short game
It’s the classic entrepreneurial story: a guy who couldn’t get what he wanted so he just grabbed his tools and built it himself. That’s the story of PNP Golf – a short-game equipment company and the brainchild of retired Canberra businessman Paul Donaghue.
After pulling stumps on a productive career in the nation’s capital, where he founded Magnet Mart, Donaghue finally had the time to pursue his passion for golf, spending countless hours trying to improve his game.
“I quickly realised that focussing on my long game, as most manufacturers wanted me to do, was not really helping my score,” he says. “As most of my strokes are within 100 yards of the green, my short-game had far more potential for improvement.”
What started with a humble putter turned into something much greater for the 80-year-old. “I tackled the one flaw that kept me from making putts, lining up the putter face on the intended line,” Donaghue recalls. “I needed a club that would help me strike my putts on target. The Point N Putt putter is my answer. I no longer need to square the putter. By design I just point and putt my way around the course and am now holing more putts than ever before.”
Donaghue’s next challenge was finding a way to get out of bunkers and deep rough with more consistency. “I spent many hours on the course thinking about how to reduce the resistance of the sand and grass at impact so I’d get more power out of my swing,” he says. “The RAKE Wedge dual bounce rail design does just that. It combs through sand and deep rough like a hot knife through butter, instantly giving me more control and incredible accuracy.”
After years of research and development, PNP Golf specialty short-game clubs are now available to professional and amateur golfers alike and are individually assembled by a master fitter, hand-crafted to ensure the highest quality on every product shipped. Check out the full range at pnpgolf.com.au
DAVID & LYNDSAY SHARP
Owners of Curlewis Golf Club
- Driving golf clubs into the 21st Century
Drive into the car park at Curlewis Golf Club and you won’t find any spaces designated for the general manager, president or club captain. And that’s just one example of how this progressive Bellarine Peninsula club is breaking away from golf’s outdated traditions.
Since local tourism pioneers David and Lyndsay Sharp purchased Curlewis in 2015 – which was literally days away from insolvency – they’ve breathed life into a layout boasting enormous potential. The duo applied the midas touch that has seen their Jack Rabbit and Leura Park Estate vineyards become tourism hotspots.
Curlewis is creating waves around the greater Geelong area with forward thinking and inviting new policies, notably the removal of the dress code in the clubhouse. This is in addition to bi-weekly group lessons for women and free junior clinics on Friday afternoons. “What does a dress code really achieve?” says general manager Brenden Caligari. “Not much, besides telling that person he or she can’t relate to golf. You have to dress smart at Curlewis, but a collared shirt doesn’t make someone a human being.”
Curlewis is now the fastest growing club in the country with more than 180 new members signing up since the takeover.
There’s your future.