Distance has apparently become a real problem. I know I have too much of it. Don’t you? Golf courses are too short now, and many have to spend millions to make a their holes more challenging for .00000000000003% of the golfers on the planet. Why? Most think this “problem” is just the golf ball. This ball distance talk has heated up this year, especially after Dustin Johnson nearly made an ace on a 400 yard par-4 in Kapalua. People got all amped up about the ball going too far with no mind what the conditions were (downwind, downhill, hard ground). I’ve hit a 430 yard drive, in the mountains, on hard ground, with a heavy tailwind. I hit about a 520 yard drive also. It hit the cart path about 20 times. Roll back cart paths!
The subject of bifurcation seems to be making a comeback this year. Bifurcation in golf is the splitting of the golf ball into two different models: a “tournament ball” which the PGA Tour players would use, and a regular ball that Joe golfer would use. The tournament ball would be limited more in its distance than the regular ball.
I’m not a fan of bifurcation, and surely the golf manufacturers aren’t. The reason that 300 yard drives are impressive is because it takes some skill and athleticism to make it happen more than just a rare lucky swing. When I get ahold of one and hit it as far as Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlory, or Tiger Woods, I get excited.
Hitting a big drive is fun. That’s one of the few things that can help me stay interested in golf. How can I compare myself to those great golfers if I’m playing a different ball? Aspiring to hit shots like those pros is part of the fun, and the challenge.
Roll Back The Ball
Instead of bifurcation, some think all golf balls should be “rolled back.” Haha nice pun. The golf ball should be put back to a maximum distance number that’s in some golf governing body members’ heads, a distance shorter than it goes now. What distance? What’s fair?
This theory REALLY takes the fun out of it, and all it will do is make golf harder for those who don’t hit it far, most amateurs and Corey Pavin.
Rolling the ball back certainly wouldn’t help the golf equipment industry. It would pretty much kill every golf ball advertising and PR campaign theme since the beginning of golf balls, “this ball is longer!” What would the companies advertise if the ball is rolled back? This ball is the longest best rolled back ever!
What Else Should Golf Roll Back?
The problem with distance, if one actually thinks it is a problem, isn’t just the ball. There are many, many other factors involved in how far the golf ball travels these days. PGA Tour golfers are no longer out-of-shape pot-bellied smokers who drink booze all night, don’t work out, don’t have extensive teams of trainers and coaches, and don’t practice. Well, other than John Daly. PGA Tour golfers work out like crazy, have incredible flexibility, and have some of the most amazing advances in technology behind their swings and their gear. I’m not talking about just the golf ball. Here’s list of a few of the things professional golf would have to roll back other than the ball, though I’m sure there are some I’m missing.
Fitness – First, we will have to roll back fitness. Pro golfers today are super-fit (usually). Roll them back from the gym.
Flexibility – We must find ways of making today’s golfers more stiff and less flexible. No more yoga. No more flexibility training. Roll it back.
Personal Trainers – Speaking of training and fitness, part of that whole combo includes personal trainers. They’ll have to go.
Dietitians – Part of the fitness component is dietitians. Golfers who eat better can be more flexible and strong. Roll back the dietitians. Go back to the food pro golfers ate in the 50’s (except probably Gary Player). Make ‘em all eat fatty diets with lots of carbs! No more kale. Roll them back from precisely calculated sports diets to greasy burger
Golf Coaches – Golf coaches will certainly have to be rolled back.
Golf Shaft Technology – Shafts are as much to blame for distance as the golf ball. They’re waaaaay too good these days. Shafts must be rolled back.
Driver Head Technology – Driver head engineering is certainly a distance culprit. What is it this year? Jail face break twist technology I think. Roll back the drivers!
Swing Analysis & Launch Monitors – 99.9% of tour players utilize launch and swing analysis to optimize their swing, their shafts, their launch angles, spin rates and so on. Launch monitors have a huge impact on today’s distance problem. No more launch monitors. Roll ‘em back.
Golf Grip Technology – Golf grip technology certainly helps the pro golfer connect to the club. Let’s roll back that connection. Make the grip weaker, less stable. Roll it back.
Golf Course Conditioning – Hard ground certainly is a contributor to the distance problem. Short, precisely cut grass is too. Roll ‘em back. Let’s make some soft, wet courses with longer fairways and be sure to cut those fairways with inconsistent, dull mower blades. Roll back the roll so to speak.
I find it mildly confusing and entertaining when I hear that golf courses are “too short.” Many courses are ruining their original designs and spending millions by adding more length because .0000000000000003% of the golfers in the world can hit the ball so far. Meanwhile the average golfer’s scores haven’t improved in decades. In fact, over the last few years average golfer’s scores have edged upward. All that extra distance the average golfer is getting these days is really helping!
To fix this mythical distance problem golf’s governing bodies are considering solutions that will hurt the golf equipment industry and simultaneously make golf less fun for the average player. With all this talk of the golf industry’s struggles and the need to “grow golf,” making it less fun is a really dumb idea.
If the committee concludes that such facts could not reasonably have been seen with the naked eye and the player was not otherwise aware of the potential breach, the player will be deemed not to have breached the Rules.
The above line is the key to the new changes, and I completely agree with the sentiment. If it isn’t humanly possible to conclude there’s a breach in the rules, then there are no rules broken. That’s the good part, but not the elephant in the room.
What’s completely missing from the new rules is the way that rules infractions are discovered, reported, and the timing in which these notifications happen. I’m talking mainly about the viewer call-ins, emails, or social networking of rules infractions. In the case of Lexi Thompson, she was notified and penalized an entire day later, and during her final round. In my opinion, any possible infractions and related penalties should have an expiration date. Perhaps once the next day’s tournament tees off, all possible issues from the previous round become invalid. If there isn’t an upcoming round, perhaps one hour after each player finishes the tournament is the point at which any questions about rules violations become moot.
That time limit can apply to any source of the possible infraction, whether another player, a spectator, a rules official, or some fat dude sitting on his couch eating Cool Ranch Doritos who has nothing better to do than shuttle his DVR back and forth 12,000 times to see if Segio’s ball moved on the 13th at Augusta in the final round of the Masters. That has to be the worst run-on sentence I’ve ever typed, but it sure rolls off the tongue nicely.
In my opinion (yes I realize nobody is asking for it) there should be NO call-ins. No emails. No tweets of rules infractions. There’s no other sport on the planet who allows such a thing and it’s one more way the golf industry makes itself look more dumb in the eyes of the general public.
Here’s where my opening tee shot ended up in my Tuesday league one afternoon. Easy ruling right?
I’m not Tiger Woods in 2009 and don’t have 20 people to move a rock for me. So play it as it lies or take an unplayable lie penalty, right?
Wait a sec though.
This rock is also the 150 yard marker on the hole. Hmmmm. Free drop? Not because it is the 150 marker. Rocks and shrubs which are natural things cannot by definition be immovable obstructions. An obstruction is an unnatural thing, like a sprinkler head, bridge, building, yardage pole, drain, cart path.
Bushes or Boulders used as Yardage Markers
Q.Our course has installed bushes that serve as 150-yard markers. Are players entitled to relief from these bushes?
A.No. A bush is a natural object, not artificial, thus it is not an obstruction (Definition of “Obstruction”). The answer is the same regardless of whether it is used to indicate yardage.
A couple of months ago Rory McIlory launched an iron into the lake at Trump Doral. In an awkward moment, the Donald gave Rory the club back on the range the next day. Then this past week McIlory tossed a 3-wood at the BMW after he was dissatisfied with his shot.
Last week I watched a golfer on my home course, a former basketball player who is well known in Salt Lake (no it is not John Stockton or Karl Malone), toss his driver off of the 18th tee behind him. The white-headed TaylorMade bounced across the pavement of a local road and ended up near the 4th tee. He had thrown his club out of bounds. I yelled over to him, “you threw your club out of bounds. You are going to have to throw another one off the tee.” He didn’t think that comment was very funny. I did though.
These club throwing events I’ve witnessed recently have inspired me to post the Rules of Golf Club Throwing, so those of you golfers who throw a club know exactly how to proceed after.
Rule 69.6: Throw Club In Hazard
In the case of the first McIlory toss into the lake at Doral, rule 69.6 comes into play. The rule states that if a club is thrown into a hazard the golfer has several options:
Incur one throw penalty. Re-throw the club from the original position.
If the club is throwable from the hazard, the player can throw it from the hazard as long as he doesn’t ground the club or move loose impediments.
Incur one throw penalty. Take a two club drop no nearer the hole at the point in which the club entered the hazard, then throw the club from there.
Incur one throw penalty. Pick a point on the opposite side of the hazard, equidistant to the point the club entered the hazard and throw the club from there.
Rule 69.6 A: Throw Club Out Of Bounds
In the case where the basketball player threw his club out of bounds from the tee there is only one option:
Incur one throw penalty. Re-throw club from tee or original position club was thrown from.
Rule 69.6 B: Thrown Club Lost
I watched a player throw his driver in disgust up at Soldier Hollow Golf Course a couple of years ago. He threw the driver into some very deep grass. The grass was not a hazard area and it was not out of bounds. A player in my group yelled over to the thrower, “you will have to throw a provisional in case you can’t find the first one.”
The options a player has after throwing a club which may be lost are as follows:
Throw a provisional club. Declare to playing partners that the club is a provisional. In the event the first throw is not found, the provisional throw becomes the club in play and a one throw penalty is assessed.
The player can declare the first throw lost and throw a second club, under penalty of one throw.
The player can proceed to look for the first thrown club and throw it as it lies if found. If the club is not found, the player must return to the original throwing position and take a “throw and distance” penalty, throwing a new club.
In the case of McIlory’s throw at the BMW yesterday, the club was not lost and not in a hazard, or unthrowable. The throw would simply count as a throw and he would throw the next one where it lies.
Yesterday at the Valero Texas Open Phil Mickelson broke his 8-iron hitting out of a fairway bunker on the 12th hole. Video is below.
Silly rules question: If Phil Mickelson’s ball ends up back in the bunker along with the club head which broke off, is that a penalty for grounding his club in a hazard on the next shot? Or is the shaft now “the club?”