Keeping Score

From the Morning Read inbox

Making sense of the distance debate

There was lots of good sense in Alex Miceli’s article on ball distance, particularly the fact that the best scoring averages haven’t changed in decades (“Golf’s distance debate falls short on logic,” Feb. 27).

It seems as though, with some course alterations, golf is just as hard now as it was way back. It's not necessary to lengthen a hole to make it “bomber-proof,” nor to rein in the golf ball. Just add hazards or narrow fairways at critical distances. If the longest hitters can keep it that straight, they deserve to benefit, but make them think about the risk-reward ratio on almost every hole.

When Tiger Woods won the 2006 British Open at Royal Liverpool, he took driver once in 72 holes. Eddie Pepperell won recently on the European Tour at Qatar and hit 3-wood more than 30 times. I won my club’s scratch knockout at 60 and was asked how I coped with the guys knocking it way past my drive. My answer: “I get to play to the green first; they get nervous.”

A generation of golfers has grown up knowing only the large-headed driver, and that's taught them that they can swing as hard as they like. They'll never fail to make reasonable contact. Yet the longest driving average on the PGA Tour has gone up just 5 percent in 20 years. It's playability around and on the greens, and distance control with the approach shots, that counts. If my wedge went 150 yards (plus or minus 10 percent), what would I use from 100? 

As for speed of play, I don't care how long it takes them to play the last round of a major championship, as long as players don't delay when it's their turn and therefore gain an advantage by making other players wait (as happened five weeks ago with J.B. Holmes and Alex Noren at the Farmers Insurance Open). Club golf is different, 

and members and visitors should have it emphasized that they have to follow good pace-of-play guidelines. The most important of these is to walk briskly to your ball as soon as you can and without waiting to amble along with your playing partners.

Of course, we don't have the curse of buggies on most British courses. They race down the fairway at 10-plus mph, have to wait for the green to clear, then zigzag between two balls 50 yards apart. It’s a recipe for slow play and annoyance.

Golf is a sport. Get out and walk and keep your weight down.

Terry Wall
Winchester, England


Golf isn’t broken, so don’t try to fix it

Good article on the subject about deadening the ball. A key point that you make resolves the entire issue in my mind: scoring averages over the past 20 years or longer have really not changed much at all.

So why tamper with the ball and driving distances?

Comparatively, people still love to witness baseball’s home run, basketball’s three-point goal, football’s Hail Mary pass, etc. Golf is no different, with athletes doing something that most of us can only imagine.

Leave it alone. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Gary Radford
Fayetteville, N.Y.


Ignore the hype and find your fit

Statistics can be misleading. Alex Miceli says that the scoring average on the PGA Tour has remained relatively constant since 2000 and the introduction of solid performance balls, notably the Pro V1. Distance has shown little, if any, substantive improvement to scoring on the PGA Tour, Miceli wrote.

That might be true if the pros were playing the same golf courses, but the standard 7,000-yard Tour course in 2000 now approaches 7,600 yards and is heading to 8,000 because of increased distance off the tee.

Why not have different balls for the pros and the non-elite amateurs? I don’t play the ball I play because any particular PGA Tour player uses it. I know that using the same ball as Dustin Johnson does not pump my yardage up to the 300-plus level, nor does it allow me to stop a 7-iron on one bounce.

I experimented and found the ball that I hit the farthest and which felt good chipping and putting. All the advertising in the world does not change that. Marketing may get me to try a product (club, ball, glove, etc.), but if it doesn’t work for me, who cares if it works for Jordan Spieth?

The equipment manufacturers will not quit promoting equipment; they will just change the way they market it.

I am amused by the Titleist commercial showing Tour players touting the Pro V line, with maybe one LPGA player in the mix. Given that the swing speeds of most non-elite amateurs are much closer to those of the LPGA players than the PGA Tour guys, it would seem that knowing which ball the women play might have more meaning to lumps like me.

Mike McQueen
El Paso, Texas


1 game, 2 sets of rules works

The argument for not having "bifurcation" of the rules and equipment specifications seems to be nonsense.

We have bifurcation in baseball and football. There are restrictions on field size, pitching distance, outfield-fence distances and equipment. In youth ball through college, metal bats are allowed, but professionals can’t use them. Why? The ball goes farther when struck with a metal bat. This does not seem to affect participation rates. There are hundreds, even thousands, of players using fields and equipment not allowed at the professional level.

As a senior golfer, I want distance as much as anyone, but I also see that we are losing golf courses because of significant expense increases for course maintenance. Courses that want to have professional tournaments find a way to meet those expenses.

Here in San Diego, the Farmers Insurance Open has eliminated the playing of the Torrey Pines courses for me. I cannot justify $200-$250 for a round of golf. Not that long ago, we paid $25. The first time I was fortunate enough to play Pebble Beach, I paid $50, including cart. Now, it’s $500-plus. Why? The need to have a professional golf tournament there.

We hear the argument that golf is losing participants because of time to play a round. This is a direct result of distance and the cost of upkeep on the longer courses.

I am sure that everyday golfers would be happy to see the time and money for a round stay affordable, even if they were playing a ball not used by the pros.

John Cochran
Chula Vista, Calif.


Professionals or not, get on with it

“They are earning a living, so give them as much time as they need," is one retort that often is given by those who defend professionals’ slow play. I find that defense ludicrous.

The NBA has a shot clock for a reason: to identify the team that is best at scoring, not the team that is best as passing the ball until finding a high-percentage shot.

Similarly, a golf professional should be able to size up a shot, pick a club and execute a swing so that 18 holes of golf can be played in 4½ hours or less, and that is a generous amount of time.

If you cannot manage to do that, then you may be skilled at striking a golf ball, but not skilled at playing golf.

Kevin Elsken
Springdale, Ark.


A better understanding of golf business

As a retired golfer who enjoys everything that the game provides for the amateur player, I must say that reading Morning Read each day has made me realize how complex golf is from the standpoint of the business of golf versus the playing of golf.

As an amateur, I have enjoyed playing golf for 50 years, and that has been my only focus. The business of golf was not really something that I gave much thought to, other than how much it will cost me to play 18 holes. Simply playing golf was my main focus. 

Reading the articles in Morning Read has greatly enhanced my understanding of the business of golf.

There are two sides to every coin, and finding a solution to a problem is always more difficult than a casual observer might think. The business problems in golf are complex, and coming up with the proper remedies will take time.

Ron Yujuico
Euless, Texas


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