Keeping Score

From the Morning Read inbox

1 set of rules for 1 game

Even Jack Nicklaus agrees that technology/distance has been detrimental to the game – for the PGA Tour, not just amateurs (“Solution for distance debate: 2 sets of rules,” March 9).

Nicklaus hit the ball as far, if not farther, relative to today’s players with their technological advances – especially when you consider the wound/balata balls and persimmon woods that he hit. So, he is in a very good place to lead this conversation.

Courses and setup (similar to what was found at the recent WGC Mexico Championship) help to reign this in, but it still has become a bombers’ game, and this is not how the game was intended.

I have hovered for decades between a 1 and 3 handicap, and I do not want special rules for the rest of us. Just so the USGA and R&A can justify the absurdity of the effects of technology on the game?

Three simple things must happen to save the purity of this game: (1) technology must be reined in; (2) courses must be set up to defend against bombers (not just lengthened; that is the easy and unimaginative way out); and (3) marshals must be utilized more effectively to speed up play

Let’s also not succumb to the legions of snowflakes who find golf to be “too difficult and too long.” Trying to appease them already has led to enough absurd chaos in our culture, and it would only ruin the innate intangibles that make golf “the greatest game ever played.”

Sorry, Ted Bishop, but your thinking on this subject is just plain wrong-minded for the long-term health and prosperity of the game.

Jerry Garcia
Newcastle, Calif.


2 sets of rules for 2 disparate games

Kudos to Ted Bishop re: two sets of rules. All of his points were spot on. A set of “pro rules” seems sensible, but would they be enforceable? For USGA- and R&A-sanctioned events, obviously. This would open up opportunities for events to be held at the various iconic golf venues. But, do some of these courses have the infrastructure to handle 50,000 attendees per day? Being bussed in from offsite parking lots for an hour or more is like waiting on the tarmac for a gate to open at the airport. 

I am fairly certain the PGA Tour professionals would adapt to a restricted-flight ball for the USGA and R&A events. But the PGA of America’s Pete Bevacqua and the PGA Tour’s Jay Monahan appear to have a different outlook on the rollback question. Might they consider their memberships’ collective thought of “if it ain’t broke, don't fix it” and implement their own rules and allow the pros to play the current ball?

Perhaps the USGA and R&A leaders and employees should be the test group on a restricted ball. They could do the on-course study for a year and report back to us on their personal test results.

David Richner
St. Johns, Fla.


Keep rules same for all

A big part of the attraction to the game is comparing my performance to the best in the world. Bifurcation destroys that opportunity. And the ball/distance is not a problem; there are so many other factors.

Every golfer would play a lot better if he or she practiced the short game.

I do not watch the pros to see them bomb it (tell that to Hank Haney). I watch to see their short-game skill level. That's golf.

The USGA is lost in its decision-making.

I'm 72 and a 5-handicap. No bifurcation. Do that, and I quit the game.

Larry Guli
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


Different games call for different rules

You’re exactly right. We have baseball and softball. Tackle football and flag or touch football. There’s no reason why the differences between amateur golf and professional golf can't be accommodated.

After all, even though they look the same, they are different sports.

Bob Jones
Salem, Ore.


Par doesn’t really matter

Changing the par score for each hole does nothing (“From the Morning Read inbox,” March 9).

Let’s state that all par scores, any hole length, is zero. Whether the course is a par 72 or a par 0, the golfer with the lowest score wins. Nothing changes. It would be a waste of money changing signage and scorecards.

Technological breakthroughs (ball, clubs, training equipment) along with improved athletes with their own eating and physical regimens are causing many courses to be irrelevant.  

Most existing courses are landlocked and cannot lengthen their yardage. For golf courses that do increase their yardage, their higher costs for maintenance must be paid by golf fees/rounds played per year. If time of play increases, fewer rounds would be played, resulting in less revenue to maintain the course. This will result in higher fees and/or a decrease in course maintenance, resulting in a probable death spiral for the course. How many courses shut down in a given year due to financials?  

There are some alternatives, if the PGA Tour wants to keep the number of courses available for play for consumers:

1. reduce ball flight; 

2. shrink hole size;

3. limit to eight clubs (Most pros use driver, wedge, putter. They can have five other clubs for show, and this would lighten their caddies' load. In fact, if eight or fewer clubs were used, maybe have the pros carry their own bags, with no caddies. This would add additional fatigue to the competition.);

4. limit technology used in “wood” clubs.

Bill Martin
Quitman, Texas


Senior amateurs play their own game

Noticing how the golf ball-rollback discussion dominates golf news, I wanted to share a bit of a conversation which I heard in the clubhouse at my home course.

Three fellows in their late 70s, all low-handicap players in their youth who continue to play once a week and are well known for their excellent level of play from the senior tees, were chatting with the club pro in the restaurant after their round. I heard the club pro ask what they thought about the proposed ball rollback for PGA Tour pros that was in the news. They looked at one another, obviously not knowing what he was talking about, and one of them said, "What's that?" When the club pro briefly explained, the fellow said, "Oh, well, we don't play the same game as professionals, so that doesn't concern us. We have to order lunch now."

So, there you had three very good customers of a public golf course who play every week and also have lunch in the club restaurant. That is surely the type of customer that a golf course wants and appreciates. Those are the players who will help a golf course stay in business, not the long-hitting Tour pros. It’s a different perspective to consider.

I don't know what the solution will be, but in my view, many amateur golfers, especially seniors, don't really care.

Ron Yujuico
Euless, Texas


Ball rollback would be bad for golf

Distance does not need to be rolled back.  Bifurcation of the rules for the pros and the amateurs is a terrible idea. The USGA runs 15 annual tournaments. Four of them are professional events: U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Senior Women’s Open. The rest of the tournaments are amateur events and, with the exception of the Latin America Amateur, all are decided by match play. What does it matter how far the ball goes in those events? It doesn’t.

The PGA Tour and LPGA never will agree to roll back distance. There is nothing wrong. Yes, the ball is better than 20 years ago, but that is because of technology.

Is the USGA so shortsighted that it never anticipated that with all the technology being developed over the past 25 years that increases in distance wouldn’t have occurred? The golfer now is bigger, stronger and more athletic. We all swing harder than we did 20-30 years ago. Teachers teach kids to swing hard. Get the distance; the accuracy can be dialed in later. Even Gary Player always said to swing hard. Try to hit the ball as hard as you can. Swing speeds are up, and so is distance. Ball speeds are up because we can generate more clubhead speed. We work out at gyms to stay in shape, and we live longer.

There are plenty of short courses that are just as tough. The problem is that the USGA wanted to attract more golfers to the game, so it allowed distance to take over as a way to entice people to try and hit it longer. Now the USGA realizes that it has lost the art of shot-making and that no matter how far they make a hole, someone will hit a wedge to the green. So what. 

Dialing back the ball will hurt the PGA Tour players’ pocketbooks, especially if they use a different ball than the amateurs. How will the ball manufacturers market a ball to amateurs? Play Brand X because it goes straight and spins on the green. No one on Tour plays this ball. The whole idea is we can play the same ball as the tour players do. Why would a ball manufacturer pay a pro to play a ball that they can’t market to anyone?

Golf is a game of skill and determination. The best players are the ones who get it into the hole in the least number of strokes. The scoring averages haven’t gone down over the past 20 years. The course records aren’t being broken. Those who say that the old courses are obsolete are mistaken. They may be shorter than current courses, but they also no longer can accommodate the larger corporate sponsors, tents, parking and the thousands of spectators that come to a golf tournament.

If your club doesn’t have 36 holes, then the U.S. Open won’t be held there.

Unless courses are built for the U.S. Open, like Chambers Bay and Erin Hills were, the old courses can’t handle the crowds any longer.

Anthony S. Polakov
Sherman Oaks, Calif.


Economic interests will play role

I suspect that players will be opposed to the bifurcation for economic reasons. The value of a player’s endorsement of a manufacturer’s equipment likely would be diminished by bifurcation.

As an avid golfer and hockey player (and senior, at least by PGA Champions definition), I perceive golf to be the No. 1 sport in player equipment-endorsement opportunity. The convergence of an affluent purchasing group, an equipment manufacturer paradigm of semi-annual new-product releases and the fact that any active player can use “what the pros use” serve to create this phenomenon.

While football’s Peyton Manning, tennis’ Roger Federer and other non-golfers may have equal or greater endorsement portfolios, few if any of the products they endorse are equipment used in or related to their sport.

Mike Kukelko
Oak Bluff, Manitoba


Copperhead, Champion test pros

The PGA Tour needs to play more courses like Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead and PGA National’s Champion to really challenge and make the best in the world have to think about how they are going to play each shot. 

David Coleman 
Middleburg Heights, Ohio

(Coleman is a PGA of America member.)


Please accept our apology, Paul

Dear Paul Casey,

Let me apologize for USA TV and the media.

You won the Valspar Championship. Tiger Woods did not.


Mike Sprouts
Wallburg, N.C.

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