From The Inbox

Restricted-flight ball would make pro golf fun again

From the Morning Read Inbox readers respond to recent articles surrounding golf equipment and golf isn't fun, but it could be rewarding

Restricted-flight ball would make pro golf fun again
John Hawkins and Jeff Rude make the point that the failure of golf’s governing bodies to control improvements to golf equipment is a threat to the professional game (“Hawk & Rude,” Aug. 23).

They are correct. There is nothing fun about watching a handful of golfers on TV make birdie after birdie, with never a difficult par save. Boring. And it’s boring to watch pros hit nothing but wedges and 9-irons into greens on par 4s, or 6-irons into par 5s.

Televised golf is going to die from lack of drama. It’s time for the PGA Tour to adopt the restricted-flight ball, and make every player use the same ball, as in every other sport. Golf-equipment manufacturers will howl, but they are destroying the professional game. Imagine what would happen to football if quarterbacks could throw a new ball 80 yards, or kickers could routinely kick 65-yard field goals.

Golf soon will be like professional bowling, where everyone rolls close to 300. Not interesting. It’s time to make the pro game harder, so that it’s fun to watch.

Ken Bass
Raleigh, N.C.

It's no day at the beach
I'm with Jeff Rude (“Hawk & Rude,” Aug. 23). Pace of play is the potential killer.

A five-plus-hour round will drive people away. By the time you get to the course, warm up, play that five-plus-hour round, drive home and then get cleaned up, you've taken up almost the entire day. So, you've taken that time away from your family or business.

Here in Florida, I'm in a senior league that plays once a week, but only for nine holes. I'm only semi-retired, so this works great for me. Depending on the time of year, we tee off at 7:30 or 8, play about a two-hour round, then spend time in the clubhouse figuring out who got closest to the pin, etc. I'm home before 11, and I still have a half-day during which I can do work. Even on days (such as Friday) when I had a particularly lousy round, I had a good time.

As for technology, who cares? Actually, I think cost per round is more important than technology. Playing every week can be expensive; it adds up.

Mark Liquorman
Land O’ Lakes, Fla.

Lower scores not a problem for most of us
I don’t agree that the lower pro scores is a USGA/R&A problem (“Hawk & Rude,” Aug. 23). It’s a PGA Tour problem. As Jeff Rude points out, this is only a problem for the pros. For most of us, the longer distance is great. And Jack Nicklaus has always encouraged amateurs to use the right tees. Technology helps us in this regard.

The Tour could institute its own rules that apply only to the pro game — such as COR or CC limits (only on drivers, by the way) and lower launch speeds on golf balls. Professional baseball sets its own rules for bats and for the fences. Football does it for goalposts.

I’d also like to see a lower club limit. Chick Evans used seven in winning the 1916 U.S. Open. Four wedges? Evans had none. To get the right yardage, flight it down or choke down or play a three-quarter swing. Let the PGA Tour emphasize skills, not science.

The Tour is about a mix of entertainment and selling equipment. Medinah is a tough course, but when everyone is under par, there’s less value to the performance, less appreciation for a low score. And maybe club or CC limits will give golf manufacturers a new angle for selling.

Golf has its own “terminal velocity” – essentially, 18 under for a round. The Tour has to hold back scores or they’ll get compression of a different sort.

The Tour is the one at risk, but its leaders can fix it. They just have to decide to do it.

Jeff Jurs
Bartlett, Ill.

‘Fun’ golf starts with proficiency
I enjoyed Barney Adam's article (“Guest essay: Golf isn’t fun, but it could be rewarding,” Aug. 21). The differentiation between “fun” and “rewarding” may be in the eyes of the beholder.

In any endeavor, reaching proficiency is rewarding. Having reached that proficiency, the endeavor can have some fun elements, even golf.

Is frustration a precursor to proficiency? Frustration in golf will manifest itself when you measure yourself against the pros, or playing the wrong set of tees dictated by the architect or against course par versus your playing-ability par. No fun in frustration.

For those looking for fun with “golf,” head to Topgolf.

Dave Richner
St. Johns, Fla.

Try some self-reflection and get a move on
There are numerous opinions about how to “fix” slow play but limited honest reflections on the real culprits or those actions that indirectly influence the five-hour round. Most people rarely accept responsibility for their overall impact on others or are selfishly indifferent.

The three biggest culprits are PGA Tour players, collegiate players and the networks that televise their play. By televising everything they do before hitting a shot, they are teaching the new player, the player who is searching for a game without improving his swing, the easily impressionable, and the average player who will never break 100 that this pre-shot routine is the answer.

I don't care how long the Tour and college players take to play, but I detest watching all of the pre-shot analytics and discussion live. They are playing for their livelihoods and a lot of cash, and for the most part they are selfishly indifferent to their effects on their fellow competitors and the game in general. That being said, we don't need to watch it on TV. We see less golf, and we encourage slower play by doing it.

Do the following actions that we watch encourage a faster or slower pace of play? A college player and his coach conferring on each shot ad nauseam. A player and his caddie adding and subtracting two numbers in their yardage books and then discussing it for 15 seconds. A third-grader can complete that task in less time. Jim Furyk's putting routine, including rubbing his waist with his wrists, marking the ball, standing behind it and then repeating the process over again on every putt. More caddie conferences and 30 seconds to pull a club. Everything J.B. Holmes does before pulling the trigger. Watching Jason Day commune with his inner self visualizing his shot, and then after his finally stands in to hit it a bird chirps and we get to watch the whole process again and hear a commentator tell us how important Day’s routine is. And, 2½ minutes to hit a putt. Really. None of these actions encourages the golf masses to play at an enjoyable pace.

If the network producers used videotape and showed the shots of these types of players on delay, namely 5-10 seconds before they really did pull the trigger, we might get to see more actual golf shots, and the obscenely long pre-shot activities would not be encouraged and indirectly promoted as "the way to play." It is not the way to play for 97 percent of us.

If you want to grow the game, quit asking someone to drop a bill and then watch the two wannabe Jason Days in the group in front of them for the next five hours when pre-shot or no pre-shot they have no chance to hit it out of their shadow. Anyone who takes more than 30 seconds to get a yardage, check the wind, pull a club, step in from behind the ball, assume a stance and pull the trigger is a slow player.

Hopefully someday TV will help us out. In addition, when the players’ sponsors see less of their logo on the screen because their player is a human rain delay, there will be pressure from another direction, the pocketbook, to pick up the pace.

Dave Parske
Fort Myers, Fla.

Turtles, rabbits and how to handle them
Why is it that many private clubs do not seem to have the problem that public courses do regarding slow play?

At our club, a four-hour round is “tolerated,” but a lot of groups who get behind a “four-hour” group are waiting on most shots from the fairway. Meanwhile, at the best public course in town, rounds close to five hours are tolerated, keeping golfers like me and my friends from even considering playing there.

What is the difference? I suspect it is because a) golfers who pay to join a club are more serious about the game and understand the etiquette of not holding up the group behind; and b) golfers at private clubs are more sensitive to the peer pressure of holding others up or the visit from one of the golf professionals to tell them to pick up the pace and let the groups behind play through.

It seems to me that the answer for the public course is more intensive monitoring by the golf staff, with an educational aspect to help the turtles understand why they are being told to speed up or stand aside. There would be no harm in offering them incentives to do that, as well. Let the group(s) behind you that are playing much faster through and we will give you vouchers to use with the drink cart or in the clubhouse.

Second point is on allowing groups to play through. I agree that some groups are just going to be naturally slower than others. It is not always the higher-handicaps who are hitting more than 100 shots. Sometimes the low-handicappers are more hung up on pre-shot routines and exact yardages and wind direction and play slower, as well. Once there is a hole open in front of them, they should have the common courtesy to let a group waiting on them to play through. At courses where everyone is riding golf carts, this can take place pretty quickly. Then both groups can play at their preferred pace and enjoy their rounds accordingly.

Golf-course personnel, either from the pro shop or marshals, need to have the spine to enforce requiring the turtles to let the rabbits play through. Now, if you have three consecutive groups of turtles so that there is no open hole except for the those that are open in front of the pack, more drastic action by the course officials is required to break up the logjam. But it can be done.

The pro shop staff may be afraid that the turtles will not return, but they will be surprised to find that there are a lot of groups staying away from their course because the turtles are not dealt with and that speeding up play will increase interest in their venue.

Mike McQueen
El Paso, Texas

An idea whose time has come
It’s time to let PGA Tour players use rangefinders.

John Miiller
Bozeman, Mont.

Common denominators for the slowest among us
I’ve played tournament golf for most of my life. These are my observations of slow players and their common factors.

The players who rush between shots (sprinting to the ball) are the slowest when they get there. Here are a few others:

Defensiveness (when called out); denial (of problem); questioning (the data collected against them); rationalization (“Everyone does it”); minimalization (of effects on others or being blind to it); arrogance; misperception (that they play fast relative to others).

They also own a list of other players to whom they point that are slower.

Regarding Bryson DeChambeau, there never has been a PGA Tour player more consumed in the moment with detail. It takes time to process.

Matt Sughrue
Arlington, Va.
(Sughrue is a clinical psychotherapist and sports performance coach.)

Water can flow only so fast through the funnel
Maybe the slow pace of play that everyone is complaining about (pros excepted here) isn’t due to a few bad actors who take too long to take their shots. What if it is due to the golf courses jamming too many people out in too short of a time?

Four-and-a-half hours to play 18 holes – the standard time I see posted at many courses – is based on 15 minutes per hole, per foursome. One local course here started boasting of tee times spaced 10 minutes apart, and play still slows down (three par 3s on the front nine will do that). If you want good pace of play, then space the tee times further apart. Some of them are eight minutes apart. Most places devolve into "tee off after those guys have hit their second shots and are out of range." When groups are that close together, you always will end up waiting for that group to finish putting before you can hit into the green.

A following group should be arriving on the tee just as the preceding group is stepping onto the green. Par 3s will jam up on a busy day. Not every course has a par 3 preceded by a par 5, does it?

Players can’t always prepare for their shot if it is going to distract another player. I do think some players take way too long to hit their shots, though. I play with one of them.

If the game is in trouble because pace of play is too slow, doesn’t that mean that there is a lot of participation? The courses around here are never empty. In fact, I won’t go to some of them because they are too crowded.

Peter Rosenfeld
Albany, Calif.

The naked truth about Koepka
Let’s face it and say it: Brooks Koepka is an idiot. Really good golfer but an egotistical moron.

The naked photos in ESPN’s “Body Issue” say enough about this guy. I’m tired of him already.

Retire to your mirrors in your house, Brooks. We’ve seen more than we need of you.

Tom Rice
Stamford, Conn.

Pleasantly surprised by Tour finale
I was among the many skeptics who found the notion of PGA Tour professionals beginning the final event at 5, 6, 7 or more strokes under par, versus their competitors, to be an impractical solution. It just seemed preposterous. The whole concept left me kind of disinterested.

Well, in very short order, they made me a believer. Much to my surprise, the Tour Championship has provided some of the most compelling golf I’ve watched all year. Before play began, I failed to recognize that the players close to the top of the FedEx Cup point rankings were mostly the very best (according to the Official World Golf Ranking). Watching the game’s most elite players compete and perform, at a tough, demanding venue, has kept me virtually glued to the TV set.

I didn’t see it coming, but it’s been nothing short of a great surprise.

David Vranesich
Oxford, Mich.

Major distinction
Most of my friends are avid golf players and viewers, and none care or understand the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup format. All they know is millionaires are gonna make more millions.

Forget about it. It’s the majors.

Larry Ashe

McIlroy won the week, but Koepka still rates No. 1
Great win for Rory McIlroy in the Tour Championship.

It was huge for his bank account, but does the victory mean that he is the best player on the PGA Tour? No. That’s still Brooks Koepka.

Great year for McIlroy. He won on some unbelievable courses. But would he trade a FedEx Cup for another major? Yes.

The five biggest questions going into next season for the PGA Tour are: Can McIlroy win a major again? What does Tiger Woods have left? Can Koepka continue his run of great play in the majors? Are more players going to continue to come off the Korn Ferry Tour and make an impact immediately on the PGA Tour? Is Xander Schauffele the best player without a major now?

This was an excellent season. Don’t worry, because the next PGA Tour season starts in a couple of weeks in West Virginia.

David Coleman
Middleburg Heights, Ohio
(Coleman is a member of the PGA of America.)

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