Q&A with Bruce
As a tournament player
golf course manager
As an instructor/coach
As an events producer & charity
> Have you ever shot a
In my career, I
have scored five holes-in-one. So far. One of those was on a
par 4 hole. I scored my first hole-in-one at the age of
> What do you like most about
I love being
outdoors. Most golf courses are beautiful, and you’re
outside with nature. And since golfers often play by
themselves, or with just two to three other people, you
almost feel as if all that green space was prepared just for
> Why do you prefer golf over
I like the fact
that I am playing against no one but myself. The only
factors involved - other than weather and course conditions
- are my own skill and my own decisions on every swing. My
score is not impacted by other players. I am out there
completely on my own. I am solely responsible for my success
baseball, basketball and football feel confining to me. You
move around a diamond, or back and forth across the same
floor, or up and down the same field. In golf, you travel. You journey across an expanse of land. You walk up and down
hills, you cross bridges over water.
Golf is, to me,
more challenging than other sports. For example, a lot of
non-golfers aren’t aware that the “goal” moves from day to
day. The first task of each day on a golf course, before the
course opens for the day, is for the staff to change every
hole position. The clubs I use, the yardage readings I take, and
the greens reads
I do one day will change the next day, since the hole will
be in a different location on the green every single day.
Of course, there is
the social aspect to golf as well. You can carry on
conversations during a casual round of golf. That’s
difficult to do in faster-moving sports. Golf is often
referred to as a gentleman’s game. It has a cordiality to it
from its inception. While in other sports players are often
coached to skirt the rules, golfers are self-policing. We
call penalty strokes on ourselves.
> Who is your favorite golfer?
I like Jack
Nicklaus a lot. His swing is radically different from mine,
however. I also like Johnny Miller. He was, for a time in
the early 70’s, the best ball striker I have ever seen.
> Those players you mentioned are
“old school” golfers. Do you see differences between the
styles of older players versus that of the younger players
of today (2012)?
Two of the
differences - and I consider them detriments - that I see in
most younger golfers today are pace of play and lack of
strategy. I believe golf instructors are to blame for some
Regarding pace of play, I’ve seen instructors tell kids to “take your time.”
They tell the students if they don’t feel confident before
the shot, to step back, take more practice swings and then
set up again. The student often adopts this approach
for the actual game, not just in practice, and this slows
down play considerably - for
everyone. All this does is create more doubt for the
player and break their rhythm.
Golf is a long game compared
to other sports, and it is difficult enough to hold your
concentration and focus. It is even more difficult when you
overthink every shot and question every address.
Regarding strategy, the strategy of many younger players seems to be simply to hit the ball as
hard as possible from the tee. This often means
they will hit it into the rough and then have to battle
their way back to the fairway or green, which can ultimately
mean a lot of lost strokes.
The great players will
strategize every shot ahead of time. They will map out the angles, and
plan to maneuver from
here to there. You don’t want to just whack the ball with
maximum force in the general direction of the green and then
have to pay for it later. Players can lose many strokes when
they have to recover from a powerful but poorly placed tee
This often results in players having to hit more
tactical, “recovery” shots to get out of a jam, rather than
advancing more easily from well-placed strategic shots. Younger players are often so caught up in hitting the ball
far that they forget the object of the game, which is to
shoot the lowest score.
> What is the thing that irks you
the most about the game?
it is pace of play. I often feel hampered by players who
move at a funereal pace. By myself, with no one in front of
me, I can play 18 holes in less than three hours. Playing
slower has nothing to do with how well you play, and can
actually break your rhythm.
Another thing that
slows down pace of play is when the other players in a group
are not out of the cart, standing to the side, and ready to
step up to the tee immediately after their partner has hit
their tee shot. The extra seconds or minutes it takes each
player to walk up to the tee, take practice swings and
position themselves for the shot compounds geometrically
with each hole. This is why it takes some groups five hours
or more to play 18 holes.
When I play with
older professionals, and if no one ahead of us is slowing us
down, we can finish in under four hours. And that’s with a
foursome. Everyone in the group has to be ready to go as soon as the
previous golfer has teed off.
While your partners are
walking up for each shot, you should be doing your prep –
warming up, taking some practice swings, and figuring out
your yardage by using your rangefinder or eyeballing it from
Obviously, once your partner moves into his
address position, you must freeze. Nothing is more maddening
to a golfer than seeing or hearing someone talking or moving
around while you are at address and trying to focus on the
> You have played in Europe as
well as in the U.S. and Canada. What are some of the
differences you see from country to country?
facilities in the U.S. are so afraid of losing revenue that
they allow players with no skill to play. As long as you pay
your money, you can play. By contrast, in Europe, before you
are ever allowed on a golf course, you must pass a
proficiency test. They don’t just let anyone walk onto the
Some clubs in the
U.S. follow the European example. To quote Jackie Burke at
the Champions Club in Texas:
"To get into Champions, your
handicap has to be 15 or less. I don't care how much
money someone has, what race, sex or religion they are,
none of that stuff. All I want are people who have
invested a lot of hours in the game. A respectable
handicap usually reflects that. I have nothing against
high-handicappers, but I don't want them in the
majority. It doesn't make a lot of sense filling a yacht
club with people who can't sail a boat.”
> But how would beginners ever
If feasible, course
managers might consider setting aside
certain days or hours just for beginners, or certain days or
hours for advanced players. Courses with more than 18 holes
could possibly even set aside an entire course for the less advanced player.
Ski resorts do this by providing beginner slopes and black diamond
Another example is a foot race. You wouldn’t force advanced runners to stay behind
beginner joggers and run at the beginner’s pace. It would
ruin the enjoyment of the sport for the more advanced
Allowing all skill levels to play the same
course all at the same time also puts undue pressure on the beginner
sees more advanced players constantly encroaching from
behind, and can't help but feel their silent pleas to let them "play
The Course Manager
> What do you see as common
problems in golf course management?
physical management of the course itself - the greens and
fairways - and there is the management of the course as any
other for-profit business.
Regarding the former, good grass
management is first and foremost. Many course
superintendents use too much water and too much fertilizer. That said, players’ expectations are often too high. Everyone expects their local golf course to look like
Augusta National. You have to manage club members’
expectations just as skillfully as managing the operations
of the club itself.
Regarding the latter, managing a
profitable golf course is not hugely different from
managing any other business into profitability. You have to
have the right person at the helm - someone with experience,
a proven track record, great people skills (because so much
of what you do is deal-making), and a really good nose for
business in general.
> What is your approach to golf
I tackle golf
course management in a similar fashion to my playing
technique - with strength but with strategy. Just as the
primary goal in playing is to shoot the lowest score (and if
you can do it with style and grace, so much the better), so
the primary goal in golf course management - or any business
- is to drive down costs and drive up revenue.
playing and course management, there is a balance to be
struck between the overarching vision and the day-to-day
details. You have to pursue both at the same time. Your
goals are always to decrease costs through deal-making or
restructuring, and increase membership and revenue through
price points, aggressive marketing and investment. And you
have to manage expectations all along the way as you grow.
> Why do some courses flounder or
Poor money management. Not knowing the
local market, the target audience. Having unrealistic
expectations. Lack of vision. Lack of good marketing
and advertising. The list goes on.
> When it comes to caring for the
course itself, where do you put your focus?
Good greens and
good tees are paramount. Greens especially, because that’s
where the real scoring takes place. Players will often
forgive spotty fairways. But if the putting surface is in
poor condition, people simply won’t play. They will get too
frustrated. Even a high-handicap player will tire of
playing a course where he or she shoots much higher than
their usual scoring on better-maintained courses.
condition of the greens matters above all else. That said,
if your course is a wreck everywhere but the greens, you’re
still not going to reel in many players. So you can’t ignore
the rest of the course either. Golf is played everywhere
along the journey to the hole. The entire experience must be
pleasant or your players won’t come back.
> Where do some instructors make
common teaching mistakes?
have a one-size-fits-all approach to coaching. Every player
is different. Your height, weight, body structure and
personal style all factor into your swing. I prefer to teach
one-on-one, or with a group of no more than three students
at a time. In a group, I will often tell the other members
of the student group to stay by the cart until it is their
turn to swing. I don't want one player trying to incorporate
into their own game comments that I am specifically
tailoring to another player's physique and style, because
what works for one player may not be the best approach for
And the psychology
of every player is different. You have to factor that into
your teaching as well. The shy player can and does react
differently to criticism than the cocky, overly confident
The Events Producer
> What makes for
a successful events producer (and/or charity fundraiser)?
Networking is essential. Sometimes,
you must seek resources from every conceivable corner to
pull off a successful event.
There is salesmanship as well, of course.
One must be a type of ambassador for the company, the club
or the cause. And that means the ability to sell
yourself, as well as the event.
A dash of the entertainer helps. You
must have the ability to engage people, to garner their
interest, to entertain them, but also to educate them.
Most of all, you have to love what you are
doing. And that is true, no matter what. I love
playing, teaching, managing courses, and producing all kinds
of events, particularly golf tournaments. Nothing
brings me more satisfaction than bringing the joy of golf to
others. Naturally, doing these things for a living and
for profit is terrific. But if I can also help
charitable causes with my skills, so much the better.