What does a PGA Tour player’s team consist of these days? A lot of people. It used to be basically just a player and a caddy, but a lot of players wouldn’t even have that. You used to just get to the course and get a local guy for the week. Players would fly commercial, stay at local hotels, and act pretty much like normal travelers. Nothing fancy.
As the money has grown in the sport, the team has as well. Which makes perfect sense, from an investment perspective. If you pay your team a total of $1 million, but make $20 million, it’s quite the ROI.
So, from currently being on a tour player’s team, and watching some of the best players in the world up close, here are all the roles I’ve seen being filled, whether by unique individuals or by a few people with broad specialties.
-Swing coach (duh)
-Personal Trainer (more duh 😁)
-Physical Therapist/Massage Therapist
-Statistician (This one actually is freaking awesome, will explain more below)
-Short Game Guru
-Equipment Builder (when your livelihood is precision, having a go to person for this matters)
and, in extreme (read: wealthy) circumstances:
-RV driver/travel facilitator (A good number of the top tour guys have their own RV and will pay a service to drive it nationwide)
-Home Practice Facility Co-ordinator
-Pilot (ahem, Tiger Woods level)
That’s a lot of people.
A couple of the cooler roles that I’ve seen are:
1) Statistician. You can pay for a service (or hire your own if you wanted), of guys who study every shot from shot-link data and then map out a course for the tour guys. What this means is that they have every flag position and scoring average to that flag available on courses that have previously hosted a tour event.
This information will tell you whether the odds say to lay up, leave the ball to the right side of the flag, left side, long, etc. When walking a practice round for the Houston Open last year, we were looking at previous year‘s flags and then noting how, say to a front left flag, the odds of getting up and down would vary from 20-90% just depending on what place you left your approach shot. You still have to hit the shots, but this data will let you know that the odds of getting up and down from X bunker are impossible, while the other bunker is almost automatic, based on history.
Unfortunately this hyper-specific information isn’t readily available for us amateurs, but we can actually learn some of the same principles from guys who work with the tour guys. Decade golf is a great place to start for those interested in learning more about when to hit certain clubs, or have specific targets. Link here: https://decade.golf
2) Equipment builder. This one always has fascinated me since my days as a Nike Developmental Team athlete. The equipment is so specific at the highest level because the precision is so necessary. Tiger Woods would test 100 drivers of the exact same build to find the one that was .01% better. I picked up one of his drivers one time at The Oven (Nike’s golf facility) and gave a knowing look (because the driver looked way off on it’s loft, more like a 3-wood) at the master builder in the room and he goes, ”Yeah, it’s built that way for exactly the way he’s swinging right now.” This was in reference to one of his swing changes and building a driver to fit the swing change. As he got more fluid with his motion, his driver returned to a more normal shape and loft.
Tour guys don’t trust hardly anyone to do their club work, and when they find one they like, they’ll stick with him forever. It’s not unheard of for a craftsman to get hired by a new equipment company whenever the equipment company signs a mega-star player that happens to like the old craftsman.
3) RV Life. I always wanted to get good enough to do the tour life with an RV. The thought of buying the same bed for my RV and for my house at home so that I never slept on a different mattress or pillow was far too intriguing to me. It’s pretty cool to hear the stories about the players all staying at the same campsite, the families playing or hanging out together, and then the travel agencies coming in and driving the vans to the next event while the players play the final round and then the family flies to the next event, where the RV will hopefully be waiting for them. Pretty cool to see that in action.
These are some of the coolest to me, but as always, everyone’s looking for an edge, so there may be other roles I haven’t heard of yet. If you know of any specific hires by a tour guy I’d love to hear them in the comments below. There’s always going to be the hunt for the small percent improvement that a new type of specialist may offer.