From The Inbox

Take a few cues from Brits in dealing with distance

With their deep bunkers, wicked ground game and nasty brush, U.K. courses force golfers to keep the ball in play or suffer the consequences, a lesson for their free-swinging colonial cousins

I’ve played more than 200 rounds in the U.K., so I know a thing or two (“Blueprint to fix distance woes already exists,” Feb. 17).

The English and Scots have the perfect solution for distance: deep, penal traps and maddening bounces into them, along with knee-high gorse. They use the same clubs and balls as we do. They don’t build 8,000-yard courses. Pros tee it up on courses 100-plus years old. The top guys shoot under par but not 20-30 under like they do on the American “bomb away” tours. More thinking and less bombing, just like at Riviera Country Club during the past week’s PGA Tour event.

A ball that would go 10 percent less distance would reduce a 330-yard drive only to about 300. The scores still would be way under par. Instead of a driver and a wedge, the pro might need a 9-iron. Meanwhile, amateurs would be far more penalized because their distance would suffer.

Under those circumstances, I would foresee fewer people playing golf, fewer clubs and balls being sold and more courses throwing in the towel.

Lou Body IV
Jacksonville, Fla.

And right on cue, a Scot offers a few tips
The hit-it-and-rip-it brigade may want nothing other than to watch professional golfers drive the ball prodigious distances, although frequently not on a straight line, but we all know that the courses required to allow them to do so are not at all suitable for the average club member (“Blueprint to fix distance woes already exists,” Feb. 17).

There should be more to golf than the ability to hit the ball a very long way.

Some of the very best and most enjoyable golf courses in the world were designed 50-100 years ago, some even longer. The best require careful course management to safely maneuver a path around 18 holes. They may not measure 7,500 yards or longer, but they certainly can challenge even the best golfers.

What have those courses got that is missing in the modern designs? Many more strategically placed bunkers on each hole than is the current trend; the occasional dogleg, some with high or strategically placed trees that make it very risky or impossible to cut the corner; and generally smaller greens with tricky undulations that test even the very best putter.

Instead of brute force, these courses require skill and patience and are much more enjoyable to play.

Today's course designers should be requested to consider planning courses that require much less acreage and cost less to maintain, and that would challenge the world’s top professionals yet allow the average golfer to enjoy their round.

You do not need to travel far in Scotland, England, Ireland or Wales to find these often-magical gems.

Mike Wilson
Innerleithen, Scotland

Eliminate par as a reference point in scoring
Morning Read's Alex Miceli points out that Riviera was an excellent test for the professional participants (“Blueprint to fix distance woes already exists,” Feb. 17). As the results show, scores in relation to par can be mitigated with course setup.

So, here's a question: Should the concept of par be eliminated?

There seems to be a gnashing of teeth when our professional stalwarts post low scores in relation to par. The USGA and its U.S. Open comes to mind.

Par seems to be an arbitrary number. For example, a 500-yard hole for the average duffer is a par 5. But the same hole for the elite professional young guns could be a par 4. And some par-72 courses become par 70s for the professionals. Arbitrary? Probably.

Why not just have a low cumulative score be posted on telecasts, with a cumulative score for the day's round by hole and also a second cumulative total score for where the golfer stands in the tournament?

Counterintuitive to other sports in which high cumulative score wins, the low total score wins in golf. Let's do away with the "in relation to par" measurement.

An example of cumulative scoring: We old codgers are trying to shoot our age or better. In relation to age, not par.

Dave Richner
St. Johns, Fla.

A golf course should appeal to more than touring pros
There are different types of golfers, and a golf course needs to fit the needs of all players (“Blueprint to fix distance woes already exists,” Feb. 17).

Redesigning some holes to make the play more penal leaves the high-handicapper out in the cold. Redesigns should be fair to all golfers.

Making a course too penal undoubtedly would demoralize the average-to-high-handicapper and decrease the number of rounds of golf played, which has been an issue in recent years.

Mike Romanzo
Sarasota, Fla.

With Miceli out there, how can golf fail?
I totally agree with Alex Miceli (“Blueprint to fix distance woes already exists,” Feb. 17).

The golfer today does not really have to think his way around a golf course. Rip the driver and use a wedge to put it on the green from wherever it ends up.

Bayonet and Black Horse, the old Army courses at Fort Ord, Calif., were perfect examples of what Miceli wrote about with a golf course and its defenses. Miss a fairway, and you now have to punch out and hope it is toward the green. If you place the tee shot in the correct landing zone, you can attack the green.

The course has been made a lot easier, but it is still a thinking-person’s golf course.

Great article and insight. We need more individuals like Alex Miceli influencing the game to keep it growing.

Dennis Young
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Miceli hits it straight and true
That was a beautifully written piece by Alex Miceli and a compelling argument for utilizing current course layouts to test the game’s elite players (“Blueprint to fix distance woes already exists,” Feb. 17).

Bob Eberline
Northville, Mich.

Path to hall of fame is littered with good intentions
Almost every sport, profession, business, etc., has a version of a hall of fame (“Is Bubba Watson worthy of World Golf Hall of Fame?” Feb. 14). My observations over time have led me to conclude that they all follow a similar pattern.

They all start out well, with good intentions, but dilute and regress, as such:

1. “We need a hall of fame to recognize the true greats of our (sport, profession, business, etc.).”

2. Several years pass. The true greats whom everyone agrees merit the honor have been inducted. For golf, for example, this would be Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, et al.

3. Then the hall-of-fame poobahs exclaim, “We need to have an induction ceremony every year, with a lavish banquet and hors d’oeuvres.”

4. Now the poobahs have a problem. They need to find inductees to honor at the annual banquet.

5. The result is that after the true greats, the ones for whom the hall of fame was designed, have been inducted, the woods and fields are combed to find new honorees every year.

6. And now the hall of fame has morphed into the hall of good.

I see this phenomenon more pronounced at the local level, for various sports or business organizations. Oftentimes they will be inducting people of whom observers might not ever have heard.

The obvious solution is to have objective and high standards. But this means that many years there simply might not be an induction banquet, and that omission would not fly.

The horse is out of the barn.

Jon Lucas
Little Rock, Ark.

Bubba Watson merits a spot in World Golf Hall of Fame
To exclude Bubba Watson from the World Golf Hall of Fame would be grossly unfair (“Is Bubba Watson worthy of World Golf Hall of Fame?” Feb. 14).

Performance results should be rewarded and applauded.

Jon O’Rourke
Vienna, Va.

On the plus side, golfer could be shooting his age soon
The USGA indicates that the main reason why distance is a problem is that the gains have sidelined some favorite old courses, which can’t be lengthened, and new courses that are being built with excess yardage.

Rather than saying the ball is too long and we need to fix it, the USGA should be laying out a blueprint for the ideal course.

First, define how long a course should be. What is the approximate maximum yardage for par 3, 4 and 5s within the boundaries of the suggested course length? On this ideal course, where should “penalty areas” and bunkers be placed for strategy purposes? Where are the tees for elite and rank amateur players?

Topography and wind would have parts in these yardages, but let’s say level land and no wind. They must have some thoughts because they will be handicapping the course for the new handicap system, right? If 7,500-8,000-plus yards is too long, what is just right? If it is, say, 6,000-6,500 yards, that would imply that the ball needs to be rolled back 20 percent or so.

If you roll back the average amateur drive of 212 yards by 20 percent, that would equal 170 yards. For my group of old guys who average 210-240, that would be a maximum drive of 192 yards. Yup, I really want to look up and see my driver going as far as my current 3-5 hybrid. Sounds like fun!

I don’t think there is any course built in the past 50 years that would have the very hazards the USGA wants golfers to strategically think about placed where the drive would go 170-195 yards from current tees, although this would clearly require golfers to move up, which is another USGA mantra. Would this not result in massive reconstruction of golf courses? I mean, the tees and the hazards would all have to move, right? If you roll the ball back 20 percent, how much will this save a golf course in a year? After the massive renovation, that is.

If the USGA can’t answer these questions but instead just say the ball is too long and we are going to pass some club/ball restrictions, then it has abrogated its responsibilities.

I took up golf when I was 31, with persimmon woods and mid-20th-century irons. With big-headed metal drivers and stronger lofts on the irons, I pretty much hit the ball as far now, at age 67, with any particular club as I did when I started. And that is enjoyable. If I deteriorate to the point at which I drive the ball shorter distances and don’t need 14 clubs because the yardage spacing would be only 5 yards, I am going to start bowling.

The USGA will lose if it persists.

Or, I could buy 50 dozen modern balls and go find this 5,500-yard ideal mythical course and drive the green of every par 4 and hit the par 5s in two. In 10 years, maybe I will shoot my age.

Donald Beck

Long live The Riv
I was so happy to see Adam Scott win at my favorite course on the PGA Tour, and maybe in the country: Riviera (“Keeping score,” Feb. 17).

Its greatness has stood up to time and the changes that the game has thrust upon it. The beauty of that piece of real estate is a sight to behold.

Scott said it is his favorite course on Tour, and Rory McIlroy said it should host another major championship.

Long live Riviera, a George Thomas/William Bell gem from 1926.

Bob Geismar
Boca Raton, Fla.

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