Keeping Score

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Gear drives changes in golf

With all due respect to the younger golfers who never saw Arnold Palmer’s massive forearms, the fluid but country-strong swing of Sam Snead, the towering drives of Tom Weiskopf, or heard the sound of a shot struck by Jack Nicklaus in his prime, get over yourselves (“Distance takes leap in golf, but what’s next?” March 6).

If you really believe that it’s all athletic prowess and the gym-rat approach that has rendered many courses little more than a pitch and putt to today’s golfer, and that those who played pre-Tiger Woods were little more than physical slugs, here’s what I suggest: Go find yourself a set of MacGregor Tourney PT1 irons with some nice heavy steel shafts in them. Get yourself a Powerbilt Super Citation driver, which will be about the size of the modern 5-wood. Find yourself a dozen or so wound balls circa 1970. Why a dozen? You’ll find out after a few mis-hits. 

I’d like to attribute driving the ball as far or farther in my 60s than I did in my 20s to my physical fitness, but that would be delusional. It’s almost like saying that Fred Couples, at age 50 and with a bad back, averaged 30 yards longer than he did when he was in his mid-20s and physical prime (which he did) because he was somehow channeling Benjamin Button.

I’ve read with interest the “just narrow the fairways and grow the rough” philosophy of negating the distance effect of modern golf. But it’s still a gap wedge out of the rough.  

Comparing the skill level of athletes from another time is always risky business, no matter the sport. As is whether you’d rather see a towering 3-iron or a 9-iron for a second shot to a tight pin on 13 at Augusta National with the Masters on the line. I’ll leave that for others to argue. But let’s don’t pretend that equipment doesn’t have more than a little to do with it.  

Mark Vaughn
Danville, Va.

(Vaughn is the general manager at Goodyear Golf Club in Danville.)


Fitness plays role in modern game

Olympic athletes keep breaking records, not because of equipment alone. It is their workout regime and the hours they put into their training.

To isolate the ball as the culprit in golf is wrong. It is a combination of equipment, strength and the hours of practice. All this worry about golf will not be golf if it is a driver and a wedge on each hole is nonsense. The TV ratings prove that more people are watching golf. When Dustin Johnson hits his driver, it causes more people to applaud his skill, so let us leave things as they are. 

Praveen Vohora
Surrey, British Columbia


What about technology and women?

The distance discussion may be overlooking something: How has the new technology improved the distance of quality female players?

I’m wondering if it’s not more about fitness and increasing clubhead speed than about equipment technology. 

John Hales
Laguna Beach, Calif.


Lofty aspirations

I can't say I agree with Glenn Monday's letter saying he would much rather see a pro hit an 8-iron instead of a 9-iron (“From the Morning Read inbox,” March 7). To my mind, a great shot is a great shot, no matter what club was hit.

As someone who has played now for just over 45 years, I can look at one of my irons from afar and usually tell which number is on the bottom. Years of cleaning and re-gripping them, as well as playing with them, has given me the power to pretty much tell one from the other. Maybe it's the camera angles on TV or lens distortion, but I would swear that many of the clubs the pros play are tweaked to lofts that don't correspond to my set of irons. To my eyes, a pro's 7-iron looks like it has the loft of a 5-iron. Not that all this distance hoopla affects me that much anyway.

In the past two or three years, I have moved forward and play tees more befitting my much slower swing speed. Even when I was a single-digit handicap (eons ago now), I never played from the tips but relied more on my short game and putting.

As for the ball, leave it where it is. With the technology the manufacturers have today, they could make a ball that even I could hit over 350 yards, but thankfully the USGA restrictions prevent that.

James A. Smith
Virginia Beach, Va.


Don’t tell us what we can see

It’s all subjective, but I’m not a fan of David Duval’s work broadcasting the on-course play (“Duval rises to new heights behind mic,” March 5). In studio, he is fine, but on the course, he and Steve Sands never stop talking. All they do is tell us how great the players are.

The good golf broadcasters know when not to talk. It’s on television, so we can see what’s going on. It’s not necessary that they fill the airwaves with their assessment of each “golf shot” (an overused Duval term).

The European Tour announcers are the best. They are witty but not talkative.

I can’t watch the Champions Tour because Lanny Wadkins never shuts up.

What I would like to see as an experiment is a tournament broadcast without any announcers, just the on-course microphones to catch player/caddie discussions and the score, yardage, club selection, etc., posted in the top corner along with the other graphics. 

Mike Villarrubia
Metairie, La.


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