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Dawson: Today's Higher Trajectory Means More Extreme Bounces!?

The beautiful undulations on the 17th fairway at Royal St. George's. (click to enlarge)John Huggan defends Royal St. George's but shares this peculiar theory of R&A Executive Secretary Peter Dawson, talking about the many harsh bounces found at Sandwich in 2003 and how the R&A has widened out the course since then to address player complaints.

"We were aware that a very low percentage of the field were able to hit those three fairways eight years ago," continues Dawson. "That was because of the severe contours on all three. And, I also think, because players tend to hit the ball so much higher these days. It's coming down more steeply, so it is more likely to go sideways on landing.

Having a hard time with that one.  I'm sure some of the engineers out there can help me understand Dawson's theory. Maybe I'm just biased thinking the hotter the ball is hitting the ground the more it bounces, no matter the trajectory.

"Anyway, we have widened the first fairway on the left. And we have reshaped the 18th to make it more likely to accept a drive. We moved it to the right, which has the effect of 'softening' the slope. And it is probably slightly wider. We have not changed the 17th fairway because we do think that is playable. I just think you need to know how to play that hole. It's a great hole.

He is right that the players have to adapt. And with almost no rough, many of these points may be moot. Except with Donald Steel, the real consulting architect who told Lorne Rubenstein he's not a fan of the widening.

He wrote the following in an e-mail this week:“I advised the club once that, ‘You take Royal St George’s for what it is or not at all.’ Unless there is wind, I fear they will kill it. When I was there at the end of May, there was virtually no rough, and there hasn’t been much rain since. Fairways and greens were in good condition. The first (where Tiger lost his ball with his opening tee shot in 2003), 17th and 18th fairways have been widened and are undoubtedly easier. Anyway, it will be interesting – always is.”

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Reader Comments (12)

Dawson's theory doesn't hold water. A higher trajectory entails less bouncing in all directions except vertically. The vertical components of the bounce is mostly neutral with respect to going sideways.
On the other hand a lower ball will skip and roll a lot more and pick up many more bumps along the way.
Not sure what he was really thinking.
07.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterGiovanni
I refer you to my comment (Post#7) under the thread titled


Again I feel we are seeing courses modified instead of the ball/equipment. Soon these magnificent courses will be no more, butchered, not for design progress but for the glory of Television and Money.

I wonder if the R&A believe in the saying ‘A fool and his money are easily parted’ as they certainly seem to have very little respect for the average golfer.
The golf governing bodies are absolutley full of it. They come out and talk a big game about making courses competitive with modern tech and blow it once they listen to the players. They players arent complaining about how easy its become, they want it easier. I find it laughable that someone would demand a particular result after a shot. Sure we bitch about bad breaks but thats what makes us golfers. The USGA/R&A need to sack up and say these are the rules and these are the courses.
07.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarker
Giovanni, a ball with a lower trajectory, hit down the fairway, will bounce and roll - generally down the fairway. A ball coming down from the sky can bounce off in any direction. While I'm not sure I agree with the conclusions, his logic is not really that difficult to understand.

Melvyn, a massive over-reaction to some fairway widening in my opinion. If you want to be upset with anyone, maybe you should aim it at the players who do all the whining about how 'tough' something is, until it gets changed.
07.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
Press Agent, that logic is wrong, which makes it difficult to me.
The more the ball falls close to vertical, the less it has speed and bounces to go places.
It is easy to picture in the mind a ball falling at 90°with respect to the ground, and it is never going to go far from where it landed, albeit in any direction as you say.
On the other hand a ball scooting forward will hit many different obstacles and end up unpredictably far to the left or right.
07.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterGiovanni
If the fairways are very firm and full of round mounds I can see his "logic." A low, screaming stinger of a drive, upon landing may hit a mound and be deflected off its course at a modest angle but continue to roll mostly forward. By contrast, a towering bomb might appear to drop almost vertically and upon hitting a mound, be knocked wildly left or right.

The key word here is "appear." I really don't think there's so much of a difference between the heights of the today's drives vs. yesterday's that the results would be significantly different. I'd love to know if the fairways are mown to the same height as they always have been. A tiny change could create a huge difference in the left-right roll, regardless of the flight of the drive.
07.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterCBell
Giovanni, because the vertical component of velocity is determined only by acceleration due to gravity, upon contact with the ground a higher drive will be moving downward faster than a lower, flatter drive.

In his book on the short game, Paul Runyan used this principle to argue for opting for lower trajectory chips rather than higher ones, in order to minimize variability when a ball lands on a slope, mound or dip in the green.

In practice, though, I doubt Dawson's argument has much merit. I expect the greater influences are:
1) course maintenance (height of fairway)
2) course conditions (damp or dry weather)
3) longer distance in general. For any two drives struck at the same angle off-line, the one which travels farther will end up farther from the center of the fairway.
07.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterCBell
A ball coming down has a speed and a direction (together they are called a vector). That vector can be broken into two vectors, one parallel to the (level) ground and one perpendicular to the (level) ground. The vector parallel to the ground (presumably moving towards the hole) is unaffected by the bounce (but slowed somewhat by the drag of the grass). The vector coming straight down can bounce in any direction (sideways, forward, backward) depending upon the slope at that spot. Add them together and you get the resulting vector and off the ball goes. Balls coming down more steeply may have a greater downward velocity, and hence may take a bigger sideways bounce, which appears to be bigger yet because of a lower speed parallel to the ground moving towards the hole. So I think he has a point. And all this is more apparent on hard fairways where the ball does not partially plug absorbing energy in all directions.
07.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJ
Duh. If you've ever played links golf, or any golf when the turf is firm you know he has a point. A ball will not drop from the sky on the side of a hill and stop there. Maybe the rolling ball will eventually move an equal distance from the initial line, but the player playing the low rolling shot will be expecting this, no? The high trajectory modern driver drive has no place at Sandwich. Hit it low.
OK, Norman won there... did he ever hit it low?
07.12.2011 | Unregistered Commenterlloydcole
Just saw a BBC interview with Tom Watson- Tom didn't looked to excited to tee it up this Thursday, said course and conditions will be tough.
07.12.2011 | Unregistered Commenterjjshaka
I'm wondering if Mr Dawson's comment on the bounce of the modern golf ball is based on the USGA/R&A's 10 (or is it closer to 15) year famed, yet unpublished, study of the golf ball ??????????

07.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDGS
Dawson is correct. See Zack Johnson's Masters victory. Augusta was cold/hard and playing like Turnberry with Trees. His low driving trajectory shots bounced more forward than Tiger's and Reteif's from what I noticed
07.13.2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz

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