Iron Byron: Repeat after me

By Jason SobelMarch 14, 2012, 2:00 am

Byron Nelson is largely credited with being the “Father of the Modern Golf Swing.” No less an authority than Jack Nicklaus considers him the straightest driver of the golf ball that he’s ever seen.

Ask folks at Glen Garden Golf & Country Club – the Fort Worth-based course on which Nelson honed his craft – and they’ll maintain that he could hit a few dozen balls from a shag bag, only to leave them lying in a dense pile 200 yards away.

No compliment, however, is as weighty as the fact that when a robotic machine was built to demonstrate the most efficient, repeatable golf swing, it was named for Nelson.


Sobel: Nelson: Golf's gentleman

Photos: Hogan | Nelson | Snead


Iron ByronIt’s no coincidence that the Iron Byron honored its namesake. When golf manufacturer True Temper first commissioned engineer George Manning to commence working on the project in 1963, he examined high-speed photography of top professional and amateur golfers in his testing facility, measuring their swings against one another.

What Manning concluded by the time it was fully developed three years later was that only one swing perpetrated the same exact numbers every single time.

The owner of that swing was none other than Nelson.

“We were looking to have a very efficient swing – and what I mean by efficient is a minimum amount of energy for a maximum distance hit,” Manning explained years ago. “What we discovered when we went through the pictures is that Byron Nelson had an extremely repeatable and extremely efficient swing. That’s what we wanted in the machine, so we designed the machine to copy that swing.”

For years, the original Iron Byron was employed by U.S. Golf Association officials to test various properties of different clubs and balls, ensuring that each conformed to industry standards. According to an older online definition of the machine, “Iron Byron's swing is so consistent that the USGA claims it must replace the center line of the test fairway every two years because of the turf damage caused by golf balls landing in the same spot over and over and over again, between 1,000 and 2,000 times per day during the summer months.”

The uses for Iron Byron range beyond testing, though.

Paul Wilson, an instructor based at Las Vegas-area Bear’s Best, has been using the machine as a teaching tool ever since the idea struck him as a eureka moment in 1999.

“I was making people copy the swings of pros, but I should have had them copy the machine,” he explained. “The three elements of the machine are directly related to the three elements of the swing – direction, spin and contact.”

And it all goes back to Nelson, of course. Perhaps the all-time master at those elements of the golf swing, he not only understood each of them, but executed them to near-perfection.

Nelson once said, “Swing the club as though you were driving 60 miles an hour on the highway. Not too fast, but not deathly slow. Once in a while, if the risk isn’t great, you can push your swing to 70, but never go faster than that.”

Man imitating machine – until a machine was produced to imitate the man. Call it the sincerest form of flattery. Iron Byron was built to replicate the most efficient, repeatable swing that existed. It couldn’t have had a more appropriate namesake.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee: