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« Clayton And Hemingway On Real Putting | Main | If Euros Support Anchoring Ban, What Happens In WGC's? »
Tuesday
Feb262013

Is Distance Entertaining? 

We mustn't forget the distance debate in all of this anchoring nonsense. One of my favorite claims of those eager to see drives continue to expand is the argument that fans would be turned off by shorter drives.

This assumes that golfers in person or on television can tell the difference between 280 and 320 unless they are informed of the distance the ball was struck.

But as usual, Geoff Ogilvy put this argument to bed by mentioned the Lord AP himself to John Huggan in a Scotland on Sunday column (by Huggan) about the current state of governing the game.

“It is absurd to imagine that professional golf would be less entertaining if we hit our drives 30 yards shorter,” confirms former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.

“I’ve heard multiple players argue that we are entertaining because we hit the ball so far. But Arnold Palmer hit his drives maybe 280 yards and he was the most entertaining golfer in history. It’s unbelievably arrogant to imagine that anyone on tour today is more entertaining than Arnold.”

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Reader Comments (29)

Or Walter Hagen.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike Clayton
Well I guess that distance gets entertaining in golf when there is a tournament but sometimes it feels like pathetic that the distance should be minimized asap.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
Chicks dig the long ball.

Seriously, with Nascar being on the forefront of recent sporting news,note that Bill Elliott qualified at 212 miles per hour at the Talladega in 1986.

Rusty Wallace also tested at Talladega for NASCAR in 2004 in an unrestricted car (no restrictor plate) and achieved a top speed of 228 MPH, and a one-lap average of 221 MPH.

However, they now race at a much slower clip- same for open wheel cars, and in drag racing, the fuel cars now only run 1000 feet instead of 1/4 mile to give he cars more room to stop. The top fuel cars are still running over 330 MPG in 1000 feet, from a standing start!

They also have rear gear restriction, a smaller engne than the funny cars, and they are carrying weight...and still the stands are packed, because a race is a race..Unrestricted, they could go 355-360 mph, in the length of #10 at Riviera!

... and a long hitter would stand out in golf, be it a 280 yard drive vs a 245, or whatever is deemed manageable, because it is all relative.
Speaking of Arnold, no sign of Rory on the commitment list but he has committed to Houston a week later. Vijay is on the list ;0)

What are the odds that anything is done about the ball in the next 5 years? 0%? 5%? 50%? Anyone?

I know a lot of the same people who are for the anchoring ban are also for the ball rollback. If bifurcation were necessary in order to achieve a rollback of the ball at the professional level, would it (bifurcation) then be deemed acceptable?
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I thought Wallace did 216 for that lap, not 221.
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKevin part deux
I was at Daytona as a guest of Miller the year Rusty flipped it like 14 times down the back stretch and basically walked away. That Daytona is one hell of an experience!!
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Hey Digsouth,

A Restrictor Plate?

Is that what Mickelson calls 10-inch diameter china used at the players' buffet line?
02.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Elling
I think people tend to forget, its not how far they hit the ball thats entertaining its how they play the golf course thats entertaining!!!
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRab
Or Seve.

DM
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDick Mahoon
That was funny SteveElling...not bad for a writer ;-p

Is distance exciting today? Sorta for me, more for the gob-smacking/jaw-drooping numbers that come which have made Carl the Greenskeeper's 'Cinderalla Story, Tears in His Eyes' masterpiece come to life...187...and he's got an 8-iron.

Call me an old fuddy duddy, but I remember the most exciting 10 minutes I watched on TV was at Firestone one year in the mid-80's and Greg Norman nailed a drive on 16 way down the hill and was thought to be the first player ever to have a go at it. While he was sitting on his bag waiting for the green to clear with Pete at his side, he said to the camera "We got about 275 to the front...we can fly it!" which to an impressionable young golfer like me was quite mesmerizing to say the least....and this was with persimmon and balls that felt like marshmellows at impact. (and yes he did fly the water...barely....and made a silly par, golf sucks sometimes eh?)

At that time, top Ams could hit a 3w 230-240ish so the shot was at least understandable to them....at the upper "what-if" end of their own abilities. The numbers today do not compute at all....hence bi-furcation won't change a thing with the Am game...they will always need all the help they can get! Pros could actually play sensible courses where green-to-tee isn't a sherpa expedition and rounds might take 4hrs max.

These days...275 downhill...big F'n deal really...some might use a 5w or hybrid for that. All it leads to are courses oversized for the majority of golfers.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Thats his whole point. Pro golf is no longer entertainment. Its robotics and its mostly boring to watch and even more laborious to listen to.

Arnies generation was full of amateur entertainers who played golf professionally. I vote for Lee Merry Mex after Arnie.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
Another good point by Ogilvy, He really gets it, architecture and now distance. Hmmmmm, I wonder if there is some connection between the two. I never really liked Ogilvy, not sure why, maybe he is a bit boring, I don't know. But I sure like the way he thinks. He is one of the few who get it. I am starting to not only like him I respect him.

Bubba's shot at the Masters was amazing to me not because of how far he hit the club but how much he moved the ball. THAT was cool to me. Shotmaking rather than distance is interesting to me.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
Well, there is the fact that the only other golfer who ever hit it there in the first place was someone who shanked his second shot...Bubba has the complete modern game.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
?? Is Distance Entertaining ??


Distance with the old ball was entertaining, because pros found the fairway 68% to 72% of the time even if it only went 280 yards.


Watching these robots getting up there and blasting it 350 yards while only finding the fairway 45% of the time is nothing less than a freak show. Most of these freaks then arrive at the green with their (crutch) long/belly contraptions wanting all of us sitting at home to believe they're the greatest golfers to ever play pro golf. What a farce. Not only can they not drive the ball in play, they need a crutch to putt with.

Only someone of the Tim Finchem mindset might think this is entertaining. And people wonder why rounds of golf take five and a half hours??
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDog n Pony Show
I was struck this weekend, during the tournament promoted as thrilling because it offers head-to-head competition, of how often what we were watching was two guys reading little books as they stood trying to decide what to hit next. Who cares how far they eventually hit it? That's boring. I can't imagine even Arnold being exciting if did that.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBif
And don't even bother going to a Web.com tour event. The rough is cut to 1" and the greens run at 9 on the stimp. These guys lash at the ball unlike anything you've ever seen and hit it 350 and then have a 70 yard wedge into every single green. Very uninteresting.

What's entertaining about professional golf has very little to do with tee shots. Any 5 handicapper can smoke a 300 yard drive in the fairway 65% of his round. It's what happens from that point that separates a 5 from a +5.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris from DE
If distance is entertaining, it's countered by guys hitting wedges into every par 4, which is much less entertaining. I'm willing to sacrifice watching them hit it 30-50 yards off the tee in exchange for more five and six irons.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeitz
I only find distance entertaining when I actually have a feel for how long the Pro shot is compared to my own. I once played against Nick Watney's high school in '99. He got up to the 2nd tee and asked us if there was any hidden trouble out there and I shook my head no. He then proceeds to blast the ball over the tree in the left center of the fairway and into the dry creek, just short of the green, that had to be about 320 from the tee. When the ball disappeared he turned to me and my teammate and said, "I thought you said there wasn't any trouble out there." It had never occurred to me that anyone could hit the ball that far so I was at a loss for words.

Watching him play that 9 hole match was truly entertaining, watching him (his partner was no slouch either) bomb the ball to places that I considered my layup option if I couldn't go at the green in regulation. More entertaining though was watching him make 15-20ft. puts on greens that had been aerated and sanded just the week before. He shot a 32 and I couldn't believe it. I had shot a 43 and was feeling pretty good about myself, yet he beat me by 11 without any trouble.

I have to agree with others above that shotmaking is more consistently entertaining than pure distance. I can appreciate a great approach to a tight pin position much more than a big hit unless I have something to measure it against.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKRoper
I've always had a soft spot for the well-red and well-spoken Ogilvy. But this line is a new level greatness from a man with many trenchant observations: "It’s unbelievably arrogant to imagine that anyone on tour today is more entertaining than Arnold."

Brilliant.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe O
Steve, for all the years I have been around motor sports, that is a new one on me. You can take that one to the party!

Kevin, part deux-
''I thought Wallace did 216 for that lap, not 221''

''220,221, whatever it takes'' Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom-- hey honestly Kev, I just lifted it from the web;it was late.

The announcers are ALWAYS jammed about major ball movement, from behind a tree, a sign, whatever....and pedestrian 320's don't even merit a mention half the time.

I was struck by a footnote on MD a week or so ago, when AP's last win was 40 years prior, and so Arnie stories were tossed all day....the mention was to all the players of today- how does AP still make millions a year 40 years after he was done--- he spends ''an hour a day'' signing autographs or being with the fans.
Great story KRoper!
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Another argument to support Ogilvy - they rarely show driving on TV broadcasts. I'd love to see someone chart the type of shots shown during a typical CBS broadcast. Yes, the leaders will get coverage of their tee shots if they are a big name, but I'd venture a guess that 95% of the shots shown on a broadcast are puts, short game shots, and approach shots. If the 350 yard drive is exciting, why doesn't it make the cut for television?
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJW
I like the Geoff Ogilvy that is presented to the public, I really do. But this line of reasoning is so far off the mark I'm astonished that he let it out in the open. Perspective, Jeff. Very few people were hitting the ball past Arnie in the good ole days. Mart Fleckman, aka the Easter Bunny and perhaps a few others (Weiskopf). The amateurs who followed Arnie certainly were not (or very few of them) There are literally a dozen other reasons his harkening back makes no sense. There are good arguments for limiting the distance a golf ball can travel. This isn't one of them.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrad Lambert
Shot making is more enertaining, but it is very difficult to get a feel for it while watching TV, unless they have a shot tracker. Shot making is very apparent when you stand on the tee and your buddy bends it around the corner, but it is difficult for tv cameras to show that perspective, but it is VERY easy to say "look how far it went!". If shot trackers were on every tournament tee, shot making and strategy would be discussed more by the announcers.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRJ
Brad, either you're missing his point or I'm missing yours. I don't think Ogilvie is saying that long hitters aren't entertaining, but it's about context. Roll the ball back and the long guys on Tour are still the long guys, and maybe you even get more separation between them and the just-kinda long guys.

I think what Ogilvie is saying is that 330 isn't any more inherently entertaining that 280. But 330 is entertaining when everyone else can only hit it 280. Arnie was entertaining at 280 because everyone else was hitting it 250. Golf can be just entertaining when guys are hitting shorter off the tee, so long as there's still a means for the long hitters to separate themselves.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeitz
I always enjoy watching Corey Pavin at Riviera. He doesn't hit it far but man he can work the ball. It is a lot of fun to watch. And it is a great deal of fun seeing a guy hit a fairway wood or a long iron with precision into a green (Shinnecock #18 for ex). That takes talent.

The other problem with the ball is that it is now tougher to work these new balls. So the ball is a problem to me for a few reasons (more difficult to move and it goes too far).
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim
Seitz, I would be down with Mr. Ogilvy on the 280 vs 330 comparison, but that's not how he concluded his statement. He said these guys believed they are more entertaining than Arnold. There is just no logical linkage there, in the absence of them actually saying that.
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrad Lambert
@Jim -

They could solve both problems by adding some spin back to the ball (which has been discussed on here before) ...

"Sure <insert young gunner here> .. you can whale on the ball with driver all you want. Continue swinging out of your shoes. It will still go 350 yards. However, it will likely go 270 yards straight and 80 yards sideways. That's okay though ... right?"
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPepperdine
Pepperdine,

Agree. Adding spin would really highlight the pure ball strikers. Would be nice, not sure it is going to happen but would be very nice to see and personally to play with. The new balls allow sloppiness in my opinion.
02.28.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim

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