Jenkins, the best golf writer ever? Not so fast
It’s hard to argue with Gary Van Sickle’s assertion that Dan Jenkins was the best golf writer in history, especially so soon after Jenkins’ death – but I will (“A dead solid perfect ode to Dan Jenkins,” March 11).
In my opinion, Jenkins may be tied for that honor in regulation, but over time will be eliminated in a three-way playoff with Bernard Darwin and Herbert Warren Wind.
Darwin wrote about golf during the first half of the 20th century, mainly for The Times of London. He often is credited with inventing golf writing. No one can top that. He also was an accomplished amateur golfer – he played for the first British Walker Cup team, for example – which lent absolute authenticity to his writing. Have you heard about Francis Ouimet? Darwin was the marker on Ouimet’s card in the 20-year-old American’s 1913 U.S. Open playoff win over British pros Ted Ray and Harry Vardon that arguably made golf as an American sport. Darwin also was the grandson of Charles Darwin – yes, that Charles Darwin – which is cool and revolutionary all by itself.
Herbert Warren Wind? The USGA award for outstanding golf writing is named after Wind (in perhaps the last act taken by the USGA that no one has accused the association of getting wrong). Jenkins attended and wrote wonderfully about dozens of Masters; Herbert Warren Wind also was a fixture at Augusta National, and is perhaps best known for having originated the term “Amen Corner” (in a 1958 Sports Illustrated article). Can you imagine a Masters without Amen Corner? Then you can’t imagine a Masters without Herbert Warren Wind.
Reading anything about golf written by Jenkins, Darwin or Wind is a treat. Jenkins should stand the test of time, as Darwin and Wind already have.
‘Good golf’ can go only so far these days
Golf is good, but it is not perfect. We all have our own ideas of what our “good golf” should be, and then we gravitate toward the courses that most satisfy our needs.
As in any sport, there must be rules. Recently, in an effort to counteract dwindling golf participation, the USGA started a campaign to simplify the rules of the game. Originally, in 1744, there were just 13 rules. Of course, those first 13 rules applied to just one course. Today, there are 34 rules, which govern the play of thousands of golfers on thousands of very different courses.
The rules that govern play have become so convoluted that even today’s best professional golfers concede that they don’t understand them. This admission is disappointing. With the winner’s prize money being more than $1 million on the PGA Tour, professional golfers, perhaps while flying in their private jets to the next tournament, should set aside some time to familiarize themselves with the rules.
Not that long ago, 150-yard bushes on our courses served as simple things that estimated the distance to the green. They were planted there to help us get around the courses. Today’s golfers can get exact yardages off of their phones, and some have GPS rangefinders. They have been lured away from “good golf,” and now are learning to play the game on flat-screen launch monitors with video swing analysis and game-tracking systems, and equipment that minimizes mis-hits and, of course, the age-old promise of increased distance.
When I was young and developing my own golf game, I remember hearing wonderful stories about golf’s best players – champions such as Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead – and their abilities to hit fabulous shots. They would have been insulted if they were even offered a rangefinder. They played the game by feel. Their careers were highlighted by miraculous recovery shots created with their magical club selections. That talent is still alive, but it is becoming passé with the advent of modern technology.
Many of today’s everyday golfers seem finally to have given up looking for “good golf.” The numbers of interested golfers thought to be avoiding the sport due to the complexity of the rules are outnumbered by those sitting out due to the cost and time needed to play.
So, the decision seems to have been made by the game’s elders to ignore the discouraging amount of time it takes to play a round of golf. Instead, they have decided to work on simplifying the rules – rules that the everyday golfers know very little about . . . or was that the professional golfers?
Words to the wise, from the wise: Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair. But wait! To do what is fair, you will need to know the Rules of Golf!
The Rules of Golf are used to clarify what are the acceptable procedures of play and how the players conduct themselves. Those who elect to participate seriously in the game readily accept and willingly conform to these rules, along with the appropriate etiquette. It seems of late that some of the game’s top professional players have been remiss in this department.
Golf is a unique sport. It is a game that relies on players to police their own play and also to apply any penalties they may incur upon themselves. It is this individual responsibility that protects the field of players over an individual’s self-interest.
But keep in mind that golf is good . . . but it is not perfect.
(Sheppard is a golf instructor and life member of the PGA of America.)
Tighten reins on caddies
PGA Tour players don’t seem to hit a shot or a putt without some input from their caddies. To hear them talk, the caddies are a big part of their “team.”
Matt Kuchar pretty much shot a big hole in that theory when he won for the first time in more than four years with a local club caddie at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November. And he thought the caddie played such a big part of that victory that he rewarded him with $5,000 out of his $1.296 million payday ... an amount he originally defended as being very fair for what the caddie did (“Kuchar feels heat, pledges caddie bonus,” Feb. 18).
Caddies play too much of an in-round role in what is supposed to be an individual game. If you and I are equally average at reading greens, why should you be a better player because your caddie can read them better than mine? The role of caddies needs more restrictions than just alignment.
And maybe Jordan Spieth would regain some form and confidence if he just got up and hit it.
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