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Furyk: "They pinched the fairways down. Everyone was playing from the same spots."

2013 PGA runner-up Jim Furyk unintentionally and innocently said something that I find to be an indictment of the Oak Hill setup which, as we know now, is merely in response to distances overwhelming architecture due to regulatory complacency of the USGA and R&A.

You get four pops a year; this golf course set up very well for my game.  I love the golf course.  I played pretty well the last time here.  I was excited to come in.  They pinched the fairways down.  Everyone was playing from the same spots.  It's set up very well for someone like Jason or I for our game.

Furyk and Dufner hit more fairways and deserved to separate themselves from the rest, but he's also admitting that the course negated an advantage someone might have for being able to use distance and accuracy to their advantage.

Again, that's not the fault of Oak Hill or even the PGA's Kerry Haigh who want to keep things sane.  This imbalance is the fault of the USGA and R&A for not protecting the role of skill and the meaning of architecture.

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Reader Comments (15)

The funny thing is that all this lengthening of golf courses just isn't working - I don't think I've ever seen a year of Majors in which so few drivers were hit - even Furyk can get it round without one most of the time. 8 irons on 178 yard par 3's - now what could be causing that I wonder ?
08.12.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdavid
Oak Hill looked (and played) quite different to 1995 during the Hyper Cup. The way courses are being set up these days is contrived because of the ball. The 5th and and 15th at Oak Hill were both dreadful golf holes! They were radically different in 1995. Put the ball back to its 1995 characteristics, I say!
08.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
It was a great event, but does have a bit of the 1998 baseball feel to it.
08.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCheeks
The player with the best combination of distance and accuracy did win the PGA.
08.12.2013 | Unregistered Commenterpanco
When the USGA lost control of distance, they also allowed technology to create accuracy. Because the modern golf ball and driver reduce side spin, accuracy is not as hard as it used to be.
08.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterUncle Fester
By your logic, Uncle Fester, everyone should be hitting drivers 320 right down the middle, no? So why would the best players in the world eschew the big stick this week and hit more 3woods and hybrids? Saw plenty of missed fairways with those clubs as well.
08.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterShady golf
Shady: part of the reason players drive the ball so far is pure distance driven technology. The other part is swing speed has increased.

In the persimmon & balata days, the big hitters were tormented by accuracy problems. Any mishit resulted in enormous sidespin and the ball ending up in the next county. As a result, they did not swing for the fences often. Furthermore, short hitters got an accuracy advantage to offset the distance advantage of big hitters.

With the modern ball, players don't have to worry as much about sidespin. As a result, the big hitters are only limited by severe rough and pinched fairways.
08.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterUncle Fester
The event winner was one of the best ball strikers around and he gained a distinct advantage by driving it so straight.What is so wrong with that?I get the complaints re technology/set up but Oak Hill is not the Old Course- never has been -and we had a good winner so no moans from me.And having spent the whole week with the R and A I can tell you they are DEFINATELY looking at the ball.
08.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
It is a fair point that if you look back at this year's majors: Augusta, Merion, Muirfield, and Oak Hill...very few drivers hit on the last three courses. I have to say it was actually very enjoyable and all champions were worthy. In my opinion Scott won the Masters primarily with ball striking, Rose was kind of both putting and striking, Phil was mostly puttting, and Duf was striking. So good balance, thoroughly satisfying majors this year. DEATH TO BOMB AND GAUGE.
08.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPGT
How many drivers did Dufner hit in the final round...

08.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
BTW - I want to see all of them have to decide whether to hit driver. In the old days, there was a risk/reward for long drives. When a guy bombed one into the fairway, it was exciting because he had "earned" the advantage that distance offers. When he hit a banana that landed in the next fairway, he paid a price.

On the typical PGA Tour setup, the equipment makes it a reward/no risk decision for most players. With massive sidespin minimized, they hit as far as possible 95% of the time. Week in Week Out - the bombers on tour have an enormous advantage over "accuracy" guys.

If you are going to complain, you should offer a solution:

Rules Changes for PGA Pros
1) Measure a circa 1980 driver head. Limit clubhead size to that.
2) All clubs must be solid. Furthermore, they must be substantially made of one thing (wood/steel/titantium/carbonfiber) with additions limited to things like weights (not moveable) and sole plates.
3) All clubs in the bag (except the putter) must have the "same" shaft. If you have a Dynamic Gold S300 in your 5 iron, you have it in your driver. If you have a graphite wonderstick in your driver, you have the same model in your 5 iron.
4) While I would love to fix the ball, I am not sure how to go about doing that. If I was the USGA, I might decide that a "freeze" would be appropriate and stop approving any new designs until I sort it out.
Golf is a game of skill. At the highest level, we should resist the urge to make it "easy" for anyone.
08.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterUncle Fester
You do realize the faster you swing the club, the further offline a golf ball will travel with every degree open or closed the clubface is at impact. Yes, there is less sidespin, but I will counter that the increases in ball speed makes it just as difficult to hit the driver in play. Also, with less sidespin, the gear effect is reduced resulting in the pushed and pull drives not curving back into the fairway. If it were so easy, again, EVERYONE would be ripping the driver (not the case, except for Dufner).

Look, throughout golf's history, golf course design and setup has been tweaked to combat equipment technology. My question is this: where (or when) do we dial it back to? When was the tipping point in golf history when the course architecture became so compromised as a result of the best players in the world hitting it too straight and too far? 1950? 1960? 1990?

If you think about it, a course that was designed in 1905 did not play to the designer's INTENTIONS in 1940 with the advent of the steel shaft and new golf ball - no way, no how. So it was REDESIGNED - bunkers moved, new tees created, trees planted, etc. to make it more of a test. And if it weren't tweaked, then golfers were hitting shorter clubs into holes that were designed for longer ones, reaching Par 5s in two, etc.

When Tiger hit a PW into 15 at Augusta for his SECOND shot with a non-titanium driver and balata golf ball, was that what Mackenzie and Jones envisioned when laying out that hole?

Geoff is better suited to answer this question than most. I'm just exhausted with the constant whining about the setups. The best golfer was identified and the course rewarded excellent golf shots with birdie opportunities. What else do you guys want?
08.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterShady Golf
Shady - I do realize that faster club head speed leads to shots going further offline. My point is that the ball and the equipment has significantly reduced the impact of a mishit by bombers. Instead of the rough, they should be in the trees.

I want to make them "earn" a 300yd drive with skill - not equipment.
08.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterUncle Fester
In the early 1900's designers did not layout courses for which clubs were to be hit into greens. Most golfers only had 6 or 8 clubs to use. Holes were laid out based more on look and feel. Remember par was non existant. Bobby Jones was one of the first to actually think about what type of club he wanted to hit into a green while working with McKenzie on Augusta. As the game became more popular there was no limit on the number of clubs one could carry. Jones sometimes had 25. Lawson Little had over 30. Hard to believe courses designed in this era considered what club one would use for an approach shot. I think that came much later as the clubs got better and the ball became standardized.
08.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike Stevens
Much of what Uncle Fester suggests, while sounding like logical points, are really just suppositions unsupported by any data. Where is the proof that reduced sidespin results in fewer wildly offline shots? As Shady suggests, longer distance automatically increases dispersion, so I'm not sure that the distance and sidespin changes don't offset each other. They might, they might not. There is no way to know without data, and we don't really have comprehensive data.

I think we get way too hung up with numbers. A five iron in a typical modern set is not like a 5 iron in a set from 1920....which in turn is very different from a 5 iron from 1950....and 1970.

Drivers are very different....wedges are, too. But I think if we could disregard the numbers stamped on the clubs and just observe the shots, golf is played quite similar today to how it always has. Yes, the distances have changed dramatically, but the proportions aren't so different. The length of holes, and the proportion of the distances covered by tee shots and approach shots, etc., is probably pretty constant over the years. Putting hasn't changed dramatically, apart from increased speeds. But how many putts, the relative importance of putting (and finesse wedge shots, chips, etc.) has, again, stayed pretty constant.

I think it's a very tenuous argument to suggest things would be better if we took measures to decrease distances or increase the dispersion of shots. While it sounds compelling to suggest that "skill is not rewarded," I don't think we are on even remotely solid ground suggesting that we know this for a fact. It will be a complete and utter mess if they try to make radical changes in equipment. If we roll back the ball, overall, I think it will be worse for the game, not better. Maybe some advantages will be conferred to elite level competition - more options in course set up, the possibility of using some shorter golf courses as championship sites - but in general, to reduce the flight of the ball would do more to hurt the game than help it, I think.
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMilton Berle

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