Brett Cyrgalis Podcast and "Golf's Holy War" Book

I have the book on order (Amazon usually ships so they arrive on release date, but mine comes tomorrow for some reason), so I haven’t read it yet, but I was a bit surprised at some of the comments on the podcast.

As briefly as I can make them…

  1. “Science” ≠ “technical” ≠ “mechanical” ≠ “feels”
  2. The D-Plane takes about four minutes to understand. Leitz didn’t know any more than 200+ other guys and gals.
  3. The Golfing Machine is not at all relevant today, and it was never “scientific.” “Faux-engineering” maybe…
    I don’t know, and I’m nearly sure I’ll be wrong after reading the book, but the podcast just felt… weird. Not from @Randy’s side - I thought the questions were good and @Randy went where Brett took him, but from Brett’s side… huh? I hope I’m wrong about the book.

From the excerpt on Amazon:


I disagree that this has happened.

Heated? C’mon.

Have I been in “heated” Facebook group discussions? Yeah. But hell, half the time (or more) it’s between two “scientific” people arguing about which model means what, or something like that. And those same “scientific” teachers then go out on a lesson tee and don’t talk about any of the science, but teach entirely by “feels” to a student.

Wow, so screw you, Chris Como. :stuck_out_tongue: (Chris put in a lot of time with Tiger talking about his back, did a ton of research, saw a ton of specialists, etc. I won’t speak for Chris, but… this is misleading at best. Heck, it disparages even Hank and Foley. It’s not like Tiger forgot all he learned from those guys.)

Basically, this “feels like” (and the podcast did little to dissuade me from believing this is the case) that Brett has somewhat artificially created these two boxes and then seeks to pit them against each other.

That’s not how the golf world is. I’m sure that’s how it is for some people some of the time, but the vast majority of active and good instructors live in the middle. They understand the science. They teach with feels, games, drills, creative aids, etc.

It goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway, but please don’t take the above as negative toward Brett or even NLU. I like hearing opposing views, stuff that makes you think, etc. Maybe the book will be that. Disagreement is not necessarily “dislike.” And again, I haven’t read the book yet. I might be coming back on here to say “yeah, the above, never mind. That’s not what happens in this book.”

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I’ll be interested to hear what you think after reading the book. I want to buy the book and I want to like it. But nothing I’ve heard from the TV or podcast interviews has gotten me to actually click buy. I went to Amazon fully thinking I was going to pre-order, but I read the description and thought “what the hell is this book even trying to accomplish?”

Yeah kind of felt the same way after the pod. Didn’t really understand the point he was trying to make? If its just a traipse through golf history, with a lens of science vs feel, then I guess I could see it. But I agree that his answers and book description just feel extremely trumped up.

As @tdogg21 said, I’ll keep an eye out for further reviews but haven’t smashed that buy button yet.

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That might be a 10x better summary than my post above. I had a bunch of thoughts, but couldn’t congeal them into a cohesive thing.

What does Ben Hogan have to do with anything? And does anyone actually think that Ben Hogan wouldn’t have been all over Trackman if it had been available to him?

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I bought the book after seeing the title. It arrived yesterday and I’ve started reading it.

I listened to Brett on his pods with Randy and Shack too. For the most part I enjoyed them.

There’s clearly two camps in golf currently - whether you label them modern v antiquated or scientific v traditional. What is “right” for the game is open to interpretation. I’d like Brett to have made some more definitive statements rather than provide expository perspectives in his podcast appearances. We’ll see if the book is the same I guess.

The issue is definitely heated at times. Any brief look at a rollback discussion tells you that. Same with a brief look at the exchanges involving Fawcett or Lou Stagner.

The soul of the game is definitely eroded in today’s form of golf. Statistics and science have irreversibly changed the nature of the game - hence the impetus for Brett writing the book.

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We have been hearing this more and more lately across sport - basketball (“efficiency”, I mean, look at the Rockets) and baseball (Moneyball, obviously, and the rise of the 3 true outcomes) are the two quick examples that come to mind.

I have often blamed the amount of money in the sport (larger prizes = larger research pools to figure out how to claim the prize) for this.

Thoughts? Can we combat this?

Am I reading in to your post to assume that you’re viewing statistics and science as a negative change? Longing for more feel and “soul”?

I don’t know basketball well enough to know exactly what the efficiency you’re referring to is + what statistics / science show in basketball…assuming match ups, but not sure I’d buy in to “heat maps” at the professional level

When it comes to golf though, if we say science = (equipment) technology, then it is a whole different conversation. Not looking to reignite the distance debate, but I’m not sure we can combat it. Like if we limit driver CC, are we bringing back the nature of the game to “the way it was meant to be played” or just forcing our way in to stop progress?

Rambling at this point…

Nandy - absolutely it’s $$$ at the core of the change in the game. Always is.

I don’t want to necessarily espouse those views as my own, but, they’re becoming more popular.

Just for an easily accessible example - the style of basketball that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant played is barely found in the NBA anymore. This chart often gets cited, and it’s not data-reactive, but also, data-driven. Players are coached on efficiency and whatnot. You should buy in to heatmaps at the professional level. They have so, so, so much data, and use all of it - even down to “shot type” (post, open jumper, fadeaway, etc).

Furthermore - when it comes to golf, I wouldn’t say science = (equpiment) technology, but rather, I’d say science = strokes gained, and dispersion charts, and DECADE (yes @iacas I know it’s flawed, but it’s still an OK example at best). Instead of carving shots (as Mr. Hogan did), players are playing a stock high shot all the time. Fly it high, land it soft, who gives a shit about the architecture or shape of the course. How far off that hazard should I aim? Etc. Obviously this doesn’t encompass the complete nuance of the picture, but I hope that it illustrates some of the points that are covered.

You can’t roll back understanding of how to efficiently play the game. You can only change the game. This is a frustrating part of discussions in the “distance” debate - half of the problem isn’t how far the ball goes, it’s that the players know so much about where to hit the ball for best effect.

After all, in any sport that you want to win - you have to maximize your expected value. Even football has expected yards gained per play and expected points per possession and whatnot… some coaches even have statisticians (cough, Carnegie Mellon) in their ear helping call plays.

@MatthewM I know it’s money and always has been. Real tough to combat TV revenues.


I agree. I was a little confused at the direction of the podcast/book. I think there’s a lot of old school golf wisdom that science/technology basically proved wrong. Having said that, you can’t teach a golfer to multiply vectors to fix excess axis tilt. The best teachers have to put the puzzle together in a way that makes sense for every golfer. I think Brett’s idea is to talk about the friction between the science of golf and the religion, but I’m not sure there’s much to say.


And it is possible to live in both. I am in an open relationship with a Ping titanium driver, a Titleist 983K and a MacGregor Persimmon. It works for us.


Ball go far

There’s apparently 272 pages worth…


“Two books are paramount to understanding the state of modern golf, and most golfers haven’t heard of either.”

Then, of course, TGM is listed as the side ostensibly supporting the “science” side.

I’m almost “out” on this before it even really begins. TGM, again, is NOT the “science” side of golf. Hard disagree there.

But I’m going to keep going.

There’s a longer review here at my forum if you want to read it, but I’ll just paste the conclusion here.

I disliked this book tremendously. I didn’t hate it by any stretch - it’s still a book about golf. But I disliked how utterly it failed to live up to its promise. To the subtitle. It’s not that the author doesn’t seem to come down on one side or the other (honestly he probably feels both have an important role in golf, if I had to answer). It’s that the topic is almost never actually discussed. You get quick biographies, quick stories interrupted by off-topic or irrelevant stuff. And that’s why I dislike it so much - it promised something interesting, something alluring, and with every turn of the page, only managed to waste my time in waiting for that topic to be discussed. I dislike the book because the time I spent reading it could have been spent much better doing something else.

I felt like it would be this way going in, so if you want to tell yourself I made my mind up before I even started, go ahead. I hoped so badly that I was wrong… But I kept being reminded that, after listening to the podcasts with the author, I was worried that the author truly was going to use The Golfing Machine as “the text” which represented the “science” side of the game. And, in that sense, I’m actually glad how little the topic was discussed, because at least then I didn’t have to hear and read about how a 50-year-old book has any role in the modern “science” of the game.

I’m glad I’m now done spending time on this book.

P.S. This is just my opinion of course. I have nothing against anyone here who disagrees with me, the author, TGM (I have multiple editions two feet from me), mysticism, etc. And I very well could be an idiot about the whole thing, completely missing the point in some obscene way. But the above is how I feel right now, and have felt throughout reading the book.

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Thanks @iacas. That’s a solid review. So much hope, promise and wishful thinking show you really wanted to like the book, but couldn’t. This was my fear. I’ll likely pass for now unless there is a compelling case otherwise.

Just finished this book. I have no idea what I just read.

Tiger and Hogan stuff I already knew. Meandering thoughts on different teaching philosophies. A random splash of TPI and The Kingdom.


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BTW, this absolutely does not occur in this book.

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