We visited Birmingham, AL in early January to catch up with H&B PGA Tour Staffer Robby Shelton. Shoal Creek, Robby’s home club, was kind enough to host us on their outstanding property. Robby gave us an inside look at his career, how he approaches different shots, and his thoughts on apparel. Many thanks to Shoal Creek and Robby, and we hope you enjoy this installment of In Good Company.
What are your career goals for 2023?
My main goal is to win. I’ve wanted to win on the PGA Tour since I was a little kid, so that's the number one goal. I also have my eyes set on the FedEx Cup and making the top 30 finale. I know it’s a big feat, but that's something I've always wanted to do.
Qualifying for East Lake opens a lot of doors for us and basically sets your schedule for you. Having that level of comfort and knowing where you’re playing the next week is huge from a consistency standpoint. Once you know what events you’re playing in, it helps you get into a groove and everything is fun from there.
How did you get into the game of golf?
I started playing golf when I was four years old while growing up just outside of Mobile in the small town of Wimer, AL. My dad set me up with clubs for my 4th birthday. I actually didn't love it at first, but I watched an “inside the bag” video when I was five and immediately went outside and started hitting shots in the yard and the rest is history.
Something about the video triggered me in a good way, and I was head over heels for the game since that day. I’ve wanted to play golf my whole life, and it has been a dream since I was a little kid to be on the PGA Tour.
Can you share a little on your junior career and how that evolved into playing for Alabama?
My junior golf days were a blast. My mom would drop me off at the course with a bunch of friends, and we just played golf from sunrise to sunset every day, especially in the summer.
From there, I ran with it and signed for any tournament I could and started winning a few, which made it even more fun. Coach Sewell from Alabama first came out and watched me play during a local Alabama junior event when I had just graduated from eighth grade and was heading into high school. I went back and forth on my decision to attend Bama, but ultimately headed to Tuscaloosa. I had the heart for Bama, and it was a good choice looking back on my time there.
You spent three years in Tuscaloosa, correct? How was your time there?
That’s right, I made the call to turn pro after my junior year. My years at Alabama were awesome right out of the gate. I had a couple individual wins, and we won the National Championship at Prairie Dunes. Overall, it was a terrific season. I played just okay during my sophomore year, stepped it up my junior year and turned pro right after that season.
I took the opportunity to take my game to the next level and tried Q School my first year out on the Korn Ferry or Web.com tour back then. I actually missed it at my home course. I played PGA Tour Canada Q school the following year, which I ended up winning. I then went up to Canada where I finished second on the money list. This earned me full Korn Ferry status and the rest is history.
Birmingham seems like a nice spot to live and play. Why did you decide to settle down here?
So my wife is from here, which was one of the big reasons to call Birmingham home. She grew up about five minutes from Shoal, and it was an easy decision.
The golf setup is world class, and I’m lucky enough to be able to play and practice at both Shoal Creek and neighboring Greystone. Both courses are great and demanding, which helps keep my game in shape. A handful of tour pros - around 15 of us - are based here specifically for that reason. It’s easy to get a game at either club any day of the week and both courses are very generous to tour pros.
I’ve been at Shoal for about six years now, and it has been a dream. It is truly an incredible property for practice and play. The Championship course tests all aspects of your game, the practice facility is amazing, and the people here treat you so well. It just makes me a better player, and having a good group of other tour pros here is huge.
2023 will be your second season on the PGA Tour. Tell us about your first season back in 2019.
Sure. My first year out on the PGA Tour was in 2019, and I was feeling good. I racked up a couple wins on Korn Ferry, so I was feeling confident heading into the season. I had two top tens in the fall and played well the rest of the year. I finished 66th on the FedEx Cup, which was good enough to keep my card.
Fall 2019 was the start of COVID, so it was kind of different playing without spectators into Spring 2020. I got through it though and made it all the way to the BMW, which was my goal. Unfortunately, I didn't have quite the amount of finishes I wanted but had a few top 5’s and kept the fight going.
You had an outstanding season last year on Korn Ferry. How did it feel to be back in the winner’s circle and capture your ’23 PGA Tour card?
Last year on the Korn Ferry was terrific. I won twice and played really well basically all year. My confidence was up, and I finished second on the ’22 KFT money list. A lot of credit is due to my new coach down in Tampa. I made a trip down there last January and saw him a couple times and he got me back on track. My goal was to get back to swinging like when I was a kid, and the few drills he gave me have seemed to work. He got my confidence going again, and I started to play the baby draw that I grew up on. Just seeing this ball flight helped me visualize, and everything kind of fell into place. This mindset coupled with starting to putt well resulted in a few wins.
Anything you’ve learned about life on tour? Anything that helps you stay focused from week to week?
Like most things in life, but especially if you want to play good consistent golf on tour, developing a solid routine is key. I’ve learned that setting a routine I can follow while I travel is the best thing to keep me focused. It sets you in your ways and if you stay on the right path, you usually end up seeing positive results.
We’re all chasing it out on tour, and it’s easy to get ahead of yourself which leads to things going astray. Speaking specifics, my wife will usually travel with me which helps a lot. On the playing front, I take advantage of Monday and Tuesday as practice days or I’ll practice on Monday and actually play on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I’ll either practice, play in the pro-am, or play at least 9 holes.
I’ve found it is just as important to stick with a routine during the off-season. I’ll get to Shoal or Greystone around 9AM after a workout. I’ll hit balls and chip/putt for a few hours. Then I usually try to go play at least nine or maybe 18. As long as I run through the bag and get the confidence up, I can go straight to the course.
How do you approach each week? Do you have a set game plan depending on the course?
I do have a game plan going in, but ultimately for me it falls back onto what feels best that week. I’m a big feel player and have learned that sticking with what feels right always works.
Back in 2019 during my first year on tour, I went away from my natural draw and tried forcing a cut shot and the results were poor. I hit a draw and that’s what works no matter what the shot calls for. There are different courses - like the big boy properties - where you might hit a driver as opposed to some of the tighter courses where you have to be a little more strategic. It just depends on what feels good that week.
We teamed up on the apparel front early last year. How has your experience been with H&B?
The Holderness & Bourne product has been great for the past year and a half. You all make it super easy for me, and it was an easy decision to partner up. The fit on your shirts is perfect for me and the shirt stays tucked in when I’m playing.
For some weird reason, I was having trouble finding a brand where the shirts would stay tucked. Pretty important!
Everything your team sends me is great, and I get pumped each time a new shipment arrives. On the style front, I’m a classic guy and your preppy and tasteful styles/colors are perfect for what I’m looking for. The collar is a bonus too. I’m playing a lot of golf and your collars always stay sharp throughout the year and give me a more confident and polished look.