From The Inbox

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Shortchanging championship holes

Many who have opposed the distances that the ball travels now grew up in a time when Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were at their zenith. Both hit the ball prodigious distances, with persimmon woods and balata balls. We also remember from photos the likes of Ben Hogan hitting 1-iron to the 18th at Merion in the 1950 U.S. Open and myriad other long irons to the final green to clinch a championship where a short iron, even a wedge, is now required. Where is the skill in that?    

Does anyone remember the 4-iron that Hale Irwin hit to the 18th green at Winged Foot in the 1974 U.S. Open, known as “The Massacre at Winged Foot”? 

One hole that comes to mind – and there are many – is the 18th at Glen Abbey Golf Club, a frequent site of the Canadian Open. This par 5, when we played it in the late 1970s, was not reachable in two shots unless you hit two very long and accurate wood shots. Going for it in two was a risk that most would not attempt. It was simply a three-shot hole. Years later, I can recall my amazement in watching Tiger Woods drive to the edge of the lake and hit sand wedge to the pin. Now, all of the players are doing the same thing. You may recall, this is the same hole where Woods hit a 230-yard 6-iron from a fairway bunker to the pin and won the 2000 championship.

Jay Hebert once told me how proud he was of the 2-iron that he hit to the 18th green at Firestone to win the 1960 PGA Championship. This past year, at the World Golf Championships event, players routinely were hitting a driver and a wedge. To me, the feat of hitting a drive so far that it required only a wedge to get home wasn’t the point, but how a great hole had been ruined. I could cite others with specificity, but what’s the point? Those who oppose reining in the ball just want to make the game easier.  

Bill Pelham

(Pelham played the PGA Tour in the late 1970s and early ’80s and is the author of “Burke and Demaret: The Wit and Wisdom of Golf’s Most Colorful Duo.”)


To USGA and R&A: Lighten up

I agree with reader Richard Walker (“From the Morning Read inbox,” March 2). Don't mess with the ball. The pros will find a way to score well. They are just that good.

So, the "tour ball" is introduced. The golfers who want to play the “tips” will try the “pro” ball. Oops, another item on the list of things contributing to slow play. If the ball rollback occurs and it does not rein in the pros, will there be a movement to change the driver specifications?

The USGA and R&A seem to be caught in a reverse time warp. Rather than embracing technology, they appear to want to keep the old ways and thwart innovation and perhaps add to the limited growth of the game.

The ruling-body officials should loosen their neckties. I’ll bet all of them have that new technology called cellphones. 

David Richner
St. Johns, Fla.


It’s not about the pros but the rest of us

Richard Walker is missing the point. It's not about the pros; it's about the rest of us.

I'm 72, with a 5.2 handicap index. I can carry the driver about 200 yards. Ten years ago, I could carry it 240-250, and the pros hit it 280-300. I still could relate. Now, with a 100-120-yard difference on our respective drives, I feel like I am playing a totally different game. Yes, I moved up to the senior tees, but that doesn't change much. I would imagine that new players, or older, less-skilled players who don't make solid contact, feel the same way.

The new technology helps only those with 110-plus-mph swing speeds. As far as hitting wedges like Phil Mickelson, try practicing a few hours a day and you will dramatically improve.

Scott Yard
Downingtown, Pa.


Mentors give golf a future

I couldn't disagree more with this article (“Simulation gives golf a real edge for growth,” Feb. 28).

If you want to grow the game, you do that by mentoring. Take new would-be golfers to the range. Teach them a basic swing. Teach them to chip and putt. Teach them golf etiquette, but don't get them wrapped up in the rules. Take them out on executive-length courses and teach them what to do and how to do it. Teach them what they should do and what to expect from others. Teach them how to play golf.

Learning the basics of how to play and how to play with others must be the focus. The rules will come and are far less important to the average golfer than the ability to play and to get along with others on the course. All that used to be accomplished by mentoring, and it should be again.

When I meet someone who wants to learn or is just starting out, I offer to help him or her learn the game. I have mentored many current players and hope to mentor many more. It's how I learned, and its lack shows up today in rude players with no understanding of golf etiquette and no desire but to smack the ball as far as they can, regardless of where it goes, and then get to the next tee box and do it again. These “golfers” play through or around without asking, do not repair pots or ball marks and drive across tee boxes and the edges of greens.

Simulation and video play are fine, if that's the game you want to play, but that isn't golf and it isn't teaching golf. If you want loud music, lots of beer, and just whacking a ball as far as you can, by all means enjoy your video play but understand that all that is teaching is how to play simulated golf. It Is not golf.

If you want to grow the game, then make yourself available to teach the game. 

Timothy Vice
Margate, Fla.


The man who would be champion

Your article made me think of my own history in USGA Monday 18-hole playoffs (“Revising history with USGA’s 2-hole playoff,” March 2).

In 1972, Bob Allard and I tied after 72 holes in the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. This was back when they had changed the event from match to stroke play. In the playoff, we tied the first two holes, but I made a par on No. 3 to Bob’s bogey. I lost the 18-hole playoff but would have been the champion in the new format (“In the news,” Feb. 27).

Some of us have only a few moments in golf to look back on and have our 15 minutes of fame.  

Schultz now joins Vardon, Jones, Sarazen, Nelson, Snead, Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus, Norman and Faldo as players who have lost Monday 18-hole playoffs.

Rick Schultz
Independence, Mo.


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