ADAM BARR / INDUSTRY VETERAN – CONNECTING THE DOTS AND BUILDING BRIDGES OF GOLF

It is often said you can take the measure of a man (or woman) during

a round of golf – not by his score so much as by his demeanor, devotion to and enjoyment of the game. So too can you read a man by glancing at the titles on his personal library bookshelves.

 

What would you make, then, of a man whose first love was baseball? Who didn’t take up golf seriously until well into his twenties? Who loves the game yet acknowledges little natural athletic ability and a rather high handicap? Whose knowledge of the golf business is deep, wide and nearly encyclopedic? Who has forged an illustrious career in the industry? Whose library shelves are lined extensively not only with golf and baseball books, but also with the classics?

 

Who is this guy?

 

Adam Barr is president of Miura Golf (www.miuragolf.com), a custom golf-club company based in Japan and with North-American headquarters in Vancouver. Barr, a resident of Orlando, Fla., came to his new position in November 2010 steeped in qualities that made him what many believe to be a perfect fit for the job: exceptionally knowledgeable about golf equipment; polished and expressive as a storyteller; and highly recognized in the golf industry. Having spent over 12 years as a Golf Channel broadcast reporter, Barr is known as a savvy golf insider with a friendly, approachable persona. Behind that smile lies a fascination with the how, why and wherefore of all things golf. His wide-ranging golf interests include instruction, club making, club fitting, industry leaders, tour pros, current and historical perspectives and, of course, working on his own game.

 

Born in Pittsburgh, Barr, 50, is a graduate of the U. of Pennsylvania (B.A. in Literature) and Duquesne University School of Law. After having spent six years as a practicing trial lawyer in Pittsburgh and Chicago, he turned to freelancing, including editing tax publications and writing for golf publications. Inspired by his wife Teresa’s golf skill and love of the game, he began focusing exclusively on golf, serving on the Golfweek editorial staff as a business reporter for several years before joining Golf Channel in 1997. With his specialized knowledge of golf equipment, respect throughout the industry and extensive business-wide contacts, in 2010 Barr initiated Adam Barr Golf Gear Guide, a video-based golf-equipment news and information Web site.

 

When later that year Barr, whose entire golf career to that point had been as a media notable, was approached by Miura Golf to assume the role of company president, it was hardly their first communication. In 2003, when Barr and a Golf Channel crew had spent time with Miura company founder Katsuhiro Miura, Barr came away deeply impressed with the very fine quality of the company’s forged irons, wedges and putters. Miura and Barr stayed in touch through the years, the journey leading to this illuminative opportunity for Barr, who has made a seamless transition to his new perch. His responsibilities include guiding the growth of the global Miura brand, telling the Miura story and, as he always has done, connecting the dots and building bridges of golf the world over.

 

Barr shares some insights from his singular perspective into instruction and equipment:

 

• In your view, at what point are lessons most important to a golfer?

 

I can’t think of a time in a golfer’s career when he wouldn’t benefit from some sort of instruction, be it a complete how-to program, having a trusted teacher take a look “under the hood” or anything in between. The simple fact is, we can’t see ourselves swinging, and what we feel in a swing may not provide an accurate picture of what is happening. Just as people shouldn’t self-diagnose medically, they should also not fix themselves in golf, unless the issue is very minor.

 

• Has golf instruction had an important influence on you and your game?

 

Yes, and part of that has been the good fortune that has followed me throughout my career. I have had accidental access to some very knowledgeable and generous people. Quite a few of these lessons have stuck with me.

 

• What lesson tips have withstood the test of time for you?

 

The most enduring lessons tend to be the simplest. That makes sense; I am not an athlete, and anything that helps me overcome my difficulty with repeating motions is an asset. But one precept that has been especially helpful is to allow the right wrist (for right handers) some freedom in the putting stroke. This allows you to strike the ball with enough authority to keep it on line. The giver of that lesson was none other than Loren Roberts, one of the best putters in the history of the game. His right-hand-only warm-up drill, in which you allow some flex in your wrist as you hit 30-footers, is the best way to get a nearly instant feel for green speed.

 

• How did your Golf Channel travels and experiences affect your understanding of golf instruction?

 

What I learned first and foremost is that instruction is like Einstein’s theory of relativity: two bodies moving, sometimes in different directions. Students have their unique learning styles (aural, visual, lingual, etc.), and teachers have their particular teaching styles. Progress and satisfaction come when these styles match up.

 

Also, I have learned from observing the best players in the world that if you have been patient and worked hard to develop your best swing, one that you are confident in, you should doggedly stick with it. Do not change your swing to accommodate equipment. It should be the other way around.

 

• Explain what in your view is the role of golf teachers in encouraging their students to seek equipment tailored to their specific needs.

 

Once an experienced teacher has helped the student discover his own swing, and it is evident that that swing works, the teacher should make clear to the student that any equipment that requires you to fight that swing is counterproductive. Best to invest in proper fitting, careful trial and the development of trust in your gear. The game gets much more easy and satisfying if the equipment is not an impediment..


• As president of Miura Golf, based in Japan and headquartered in Canada, you travel extensively. Do you observe varying instructional emphases in different parts of the world? How do diverse customs and cultures affect teaching modes and outcomes?

 

Instruction is sought and revered uniformly throughout the world. Some players crave practice more than others; some actually enjoy swing-building more than actual on-course play. But I see instructors respected everywhere, especially if they have taken the time to build a connection of trust with students. That kind of reputation spreads very fast.

 

• What guidelines can you suggest to instructors for their students who play with custom-fit equipment?

 

Best to encourage the student to be honest with himself and keep the real goals of his game in mind. If six extra yards puts the student at risk of missing eight more fairways, the teacher might want to talk the student out of such an approach with patient reasoning. But every teacher-student relationship is different, and like parents, good teachers know that sometimes, the kid has to find out for himself.

 

A good teacher can be part of a three-way partnership: golfer, teacher, club fitter. A good fitter, knowing that his client is working with a particular teacher, will call to discuss the client’s game. Or the teacher may call the fitter and say, “We’re working on X, and I notice that in the longer irons, if he doesn’t have to press as much, we get a better flight. So maybe a softer shaft in the long irons?” That sort of thing…

 

• What insight can you offer instructors as they strive to build confidence and skill in their students of widely differing playing abilities?

 

The best instructors I have known understand that people play golf for many reasons. The player who likes to feel the pleasure of a well-struck ball may have different goals than the one who is challenging himself to always get better. These are just two examples. The reasons people play golf are fodder for a pretty thick book.

 

And the reasons may have deep emotional roots, things that go back to family connections and notions of one’s self-worth. True, that may be a heavy burden to lay on a game, but people do it all the time. Teachers need not be psychoanalysts, but if they understand that golf affixes itself to players’ psyches like moss to an ancient wall, they will have no trouble finding the patience necessary to make the game more fulfilling for their students.

 

And as I always say…if you want to give a golf teacher a heart attack from pure surprise….ask for a putting lesson. You’ll be the only one that year……

 

By: Sally J. Sportsman, USGTF Contributing Writer, Orlando, Florida



 

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