The USGA's 2011 Herbert Warren Wind Book Award winner
The object of golf architecture is to give an intelligent purpose to the striking of a golf ball. To be worthwhile, this purpose must excite and hold interest. If it fails in this, the character of the architecture is at fault.
Thanks to reader Chris for this Maurice Chittenden story in the Sunday Times.
Scientists have invented a computerised club to help golfers hit the ball straighter and further.
The club uses a microchip and electric fibres in its titanium head to calculate where the ball is being hit. In the milliseconds the club and ball are in contact, the microchip redistributes the forces in the head to put as much power and accuracy behind the shot as possible.
It may offer the perfect answer for the bad golfer who wants to reduce his handicap.
But whether it is a fair way to play golf is another matter. The invention seems certain to drive a wedge between Head, the sports equipment manufacturer, and the R&A, the sport’s ruling body based at the Royal and Ancient golf club, St Andrews.
The new driver could cost as much as £1,000, more than a whole set of standard clubs.
Johan Eliasch, the multi-millionaire chairman and chief executive of Head and a scratch golfer himself, said last week at his office in London’s Mayfair: “We have been through the rules of golf and we believe it is legal.
“Even though it started as an April Fool’s joke people bought into it and now it is for real. It will revolutionise golf and take the sport’s technology to a new level. We have tested it with robots and the new club will drive a ball 10-15% further and the shot will be 25% straighter.”
His company uses what are known as piezoelectric fibres, which are made of lead zirconate titanate. They were developed by the US defence department and are used in satellites and Stealth bombers.
Thinly layered in the head of the golf club, they react to the mechanical energy of the ball being struck, converting it into an electrical current that is fed to the microchip.
The microchip produces its own electrical response, which is sent back into the fibres to produce a corrective force behind the ball. All this happens while the ball and the club are still in contact.
Head is also reportedly working on a brain microchip implant that electronically zaps any feelings of regret that the golfer might sense after spending $2000 dollars and still not hitting it any straighter.
On a serious note, Tony Jacklin was asked about the club. As usual, the technophobic media led him astray...
“It’s mindboggling what is going on in developing new clubs. The professionals have already made some incredible headway in the distances they are hitting the ball.“But while golf gets hooked into this technology, traditional golf courses, especially in Britain, are becoming obsolete for professionals because there is no room to lengthen them.”
Thanks again to reader MacDuff for this list, which does include points for the Mercedes and WGC Match Play, but no extra points for the limited field events (as is reportedly being considered). The Top 70:
1 Sabbatini 10891.66 7
2 Toms 10509.37 6
3 Mickelson 8934.37 6
4 C.Campbell 8850 7
5 Glover 8529.16 6
6 Singh 8371.87 6
7 Gf. Ogilvy 8350 5
8 Donald 8109.37 5
9 Petersson 7308.33 7
10 Mayfair 7191.66 7
11 Chopra 7149.5 7
12 Furyk 7133.33 5
13 Lehman 6962.5 5
14 Appleby 6858.33 5
15 Parnevik 6817.5 7
16 Pernice 6800 5
17 Oberholser 6737.5 5
18 Verplank 6712.5 5
19 Barlow 6601 7
20 T.Woods 6471.87 3
21 Palmer 6166.66 6
22 Rollins 6137.5 6
23 Villegas 5925 5
24 D.Wilson 5925 6
25 T.Clark 5892.5 6
26 Weir 5834.37 4
27 Love III 5762.5 5
28 Van Pelt 5490 6
29 JB Holmes 5433.33 4
30 Franco 5412.5 5
31 Jerry Kelly 5325 4
32 Imada 5212.5 6
33 N.Green 5137.5 4
34 Calc 5125 6
35 Cink 5021.33 5
36 J.Ogilvie 5020 5
37 DiMarco 4984.37 4
38 Leonard 4895.83 5
39 Bjornstad 4830 5
40 Bertsch 4725 5
41 Z.Johnson 4687.5 4
42 Senden 4625 4
43 Gay 4625 6
44 Matteson 4600 6
45 Langer 4429.16 4
46 Olazabal 4412.5 3
47 Olin Browne 4387.5 5
48 A.Scott 4375 3
49 Jobe 4355 4
50 J.Smith 4350 4
51 Rose 4341.66 4
52 Atwal 4312.5 4
53 Bub Watson 4250 4
54 Choi 4237.5 4
55 Watney 4225 5
56 Baird 4200 5
57 Couples 4125 5
58 Warren 4083.33 4
59 Harrington 4050 3
60 Cook 4000 4
60 Ames 4000 4
62 Veazey 3962.5 4
62 Kenny Perry 3962.5 4
64 Hoffman 3852.5 4
65 Vn Taylor 3825 4
66 Branshaw 3812.5 3
67 Estes 3775 3
68 Fischer 3775 6
69 M.Wilson 3765 3
70 J.Byrd 3750 3
The PGA Tour driving distance average finished up 1.5 yards to 288.956. Oh heck, let's call it 289!
But here's the post-Honda Classic eye-opener: there were 288 drives of 350 yards or longer for the week, bringing the season total to 828 at 350 or more (they're nearly halfway home to 2005's total of 2,059 and haven't played a major yet!).
Despite the onslaught of big tee shots, only 1 over-400 yard drive was added, bringing the total to 16 (19 in all of 2005).
As for the percentage of drives over 300 stat, the PGA Tour average remains 27% of drives finishing over 300 yards.
A PGATour.com notes column pointed out that of the 828 drives over 350, only 1 was by Tiger Woods.
John Hawkins reports in Golf World that CBS is keeping Gary McCord from working the Masters, not Hootie Johnson. And McCord is grateful.
The link also includes Stu Schneider's TV column and the other fun Bunker stuff.
And miracle of all miracles, I actually got to read this issue. It arrived Thursday. Two days after the Feb. 10 issue with coverboy J.B. Holmes!
My Golfdom interview with PETA's Stephanie Boyles has been posted. I'm pleased to say that she's gotten many calls and I have not received one "you-animal-rights-fanatic-communist-anti-golf-activist" piece of hate mail. Yet.
Actually, even the supers out there who love killing Canada geese would have a hard time finding fault with Boyles' practical solutions to wildlife and golf.
Tom Spousta wrote last week about the recent increase in LPGA driving distance. The recurring theme: players are working out to take advantage of the equipment.
In other words, today's players are focused on adapting their bodies to equipment, instead of the equipment to their bodies.
"It's the same thing we're seeing on the PGA Tour. Players are stronger and longer. They've matched up the technology to their golf swings," says Dottie Pepper, a TV analyst and on-course reporter for NBC and The Golf Channel.
"There's no doubt in my mind swing speeds are increasing," says David Leadbetter, who coaches Wie and several others on both tours. "Certainly with the equipment nowadays they can go at the ball a lot harder without fear of going that much off line."And...
"The girls are getting strong enough to see the feedback from the new technology," Pepper says. "They're finding the optimum swing speed for these balls to do what they were designed to do. It's cool stuff."
Again, this is not news.
But the theme here goes to the questions many have about steroids possibly entering golf.
After the effects of working out have leveled off, might a player be tempted to turn to performance enhancing drugs to increase clubhead speed to take advantage of equipment that disproportionately rewards high-end clubhead speeds, and in a game where course setups reward power?
Paul Azinger was interviewed after Saturday's third round:
JIMMY ROBERTS: Well you see it from the booth, but what about being out here on the ground? I know it's not like you went away completely but to be out here on the ground and see these guys hitting 400-yard drives, playing the game like this, how different is it for you?
PAUL AZINGER: I think on average I'm probably not that much different than I was when I was playing my best, personally. But you see...I think technology, in a lot of ways, minimizes the talent of the guys who are bombing it, because they are really, really good. But somehow the press wants to make them out to be just guys that can bomb it. And I think it minimizes their talent. Which is one of the drawbacks of the technology issue. But it's just a reality, you know, whoever needed to control that let it get away and it's unfortunate. But I don't know how you dial back the clock, Jimmy. We're stuck with it.
Alan Campbell in the Sunday Herald may have to pay for a Tour media guide after this little WGC inspired column:
...what is despicable is the conduct of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Not content with ruling the roost over a circuit which is the Premiership to Europe’s Coca-Cola Championship, this myopic golf controller has annexed the so-called world golf championships for the greater good of Uncle Sam. Next year all three WGC events will be staged in the United States, just as they will in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Finchem’s defence? “They’re staged at a level which can pay significant prize money,” said the PGA Tour commissioner. “That costs money.”And...
Pausing only to let this staggering sliver of logic sink in, Finchem continued: “The American marketplace is best suited to generate those kind of resources. I think that’s why, historically, three of the four Major championships are in the United States.”
Finchem is talking bunkum, as the American marketplace wasn’t involved in the evolving of the Majors. He compounds his error by inviting the question: given that the United States already has the cream of world golf’s championships, why does it need to selfishly syphon off the next tier?
The unwillingness of the Phil Mickelsons and Davis Loves to rack up transatlantic air miles is, along with the financial muscle of US corporations and the dictates of the American television networks, the reason why the world golf championships have become almost as big a misnomer as the World Series in baseball.
John Daly and Woods are just about the only two high profile Americans prepared to leave the country for anything other than the Open Championship. While both are paid handsomely in appearance money, they see the bigger picture. “There should be at least one [WGC] every year somewhere other than America,” said Woods. “Obviously the market is huge here, but it is a world game and any opportunity to get the best players to other parts of the world is a great way to grow golf.”
The PGA Tour have cemented the WGC events into their revamped schedules, which start from next year. It stinks, but then money usually does.
John Huggan says "the business of golf that is booming in China rather than the game itself."
But what's really going on behind the Great Wall? Does the much-vaunted golf boom in China really exist? Or is the egalitarian game so beloved of we Scots doomed to be a mere plaything for a rich elite made up mostly of foreign-born temporary residents and tourists?
In the short to mid term at least, it would appear that the depressing answer is the latter. During a two-week, first-time visit to China, this correspondent saw little evidence that the average citizen has any idea that golf even exists, never mind feels any pressing inclination to give the game a try.
Greg Stoda in the Palm Beach Post:
Let's say there's a sport in which the proliferation of power reaches such an extreme that it becomes an overriding element of the game.
Let's say, too, the governing body of the sport has no rule banning the use of performance-enhancing drugs... no stipulation making illegal the use of any supplement assisting an athlete in gaining physical strength or reducing recovery time needed after competition or practice.
Why, under such circumstance, couldn't the PGA Tour someday have the sort of problem Barry Bonds currently presents Major League Baseball?
Why couldn't professional golf have a Perry Ponds in a not-as-cartoonish version of the Bonds body-type?
The notion shouldn't be considered folly. Not anymore, it shouldn't.
Not with sluggers so dominant in professional golf these days.
Another wild week in golf, kicked off by news that Torrey Pines has been put up as collateral.
At Doral, Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks talked about flogging and why perhaps it works, though they also left out a few reasons too. Tiger's won with some eye-opening flog numbers, prompting reader Greg to note that the "Johnny Miller ford 'flogging' was barfworthy."
Carolyn Bivens spoke to Golf World's Ryan Herrington and as usual, sounded ridiculous talking about "brand consistency" and other nonsense. Reader NRH summed the Bivens era best: The early returns show: "Resignation of a by the book, but well-liked 18 year veteran tournament official.The Wie and Annika-Creamer rulings controversies. Picking a fight with the AP in the name of 'protecting the brand.' The joke of the women's world rankings debut. Excitement over being included in the Oscars goodie bag...Wow, does this mean I care about the LPGA? Hey, at least their club selection is more in line with the average Joe."
We also saw the future of the LPGA attending Oscar parties, prompting reader Pete to comment: "LPGA = Divas hitting Drivers. Why don't we see Tiger and the fellas at the Oscars? Oh yeah, that's right. Because they're athletes not dress-up dolls."
MacDuff weighed in with his analysis of a possible FedEx Cup points list through Doral, and it definitely rewards those who play frequently (and great play).
On the subject of FedEx, it was noted here that you will notice the name "PGA Tour" disappearing and FedEx Cup replacing it next year. Big K said, "I just hope the 'FedEx Reliability Zone' does not become an integral part of golf broadcasts. I was pretty sick of that graphic by the end of the Doral tournament. I can't wait for the Cialis 'Knock it Stiff' shot of the day..."
George Peper continued to atone for editorial sins, and we readers are the beneficiaries. Well I'm enjoying his columns, anyway. Reader R.A.C. noted that "isn't there more than a twinge of irony in providing the 10 over-rated, in the same breath as confessing his sins???" And about that overrated list of Peper's, reader Hank noted that "As far as TCC being overrated because its a "composite" course used only for majors. Well, that's not true. It is played many times during the year with all tee times full."
Speaking of awards, the GWAA handed out its usual awards. You can read my third place finisher, and Golfweek has posted Brad Klein's 1st place winner here.
Speaking of Klein and awards, the Golfweek rankings were posted this week, with Cypress Point finally overtaking Pine Valley as No. 1 (not that I think it's unworthy of the top spot, but Pine Valley's recent elimination of sandy waste areas in favor of turf is alarming).
The big story of the week was written by Jim Achenbach (but first revealed by Lorne Rubenstein in December). The Ohio Golf Association is going to try a reduced flight ball in a special invitational event this summer.
Reader Dan D'Arrigo wrote, "I think the OGA is taking a proactive approach to protecting the integrity of the game. In my thirty years of playing golf I have seen the game change dramatically and I am convinced that some of the changes have not been for the best long term interest of the game."
And Brett commented, "Ohio has figured it out. Why pay millions upon millions of dollars to stretch out existing golf courses, to then find your drive has ended up in the same fairway location as it did 8 years ago, and you still have the same club into that green as before? Instead of spending boo-kooos of dollars, their going to go back to a golf ball that makes total sense from a dollar and "sense" point of view. Way to go, BIG O!"
It turns out that Lorne Rubenstein revealed the Ohio Golf Association's competition ball idea in a December 31, 2005 column. A few of the more interesting passages:
The Ohio Golf Association has been discussing during the past four years the inordinate advantages that a golfer who can swing the driver at, say, 120 miles (193 kilometres) an hour, gains over somebody who can't get higher than 110 mph, and on down the line. (The majority of golfers, by the way, don't swing much more than 90 mph.) The benchmark until hot golf balls came along in the past few years was an increase in distance of three yards for every mile an hour of swing speed.
The golfer who swung at 112 mph, for instance, might drive the ball 270 yards, and somebody who reached 120 would hit it 294. But the latter golfer is up to about 310 to 315 yards now, according to tour professionals who notice these things.
The cutoff point where the incremental distance is beyond three yards for a mile an hour is about 114 to 115 mph. Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and other golfers who swing at the higher speeds gain a tremendous advantage, beyond the traditional benchmark.
[Alan] Fadel wouldn't indicate the manufacturer, whose name won't appear on the ball. The point, he said, “is that we want the ball to react equitably for different swing speeds, not exponentially, but equitably. We're not drawing the ball back, but we think it's necessary to bring equity back in.”
Fadel was speaking publicly about the subject for the first time yesterday. He'll be doing more during the new year.
“The USGA is very interested in what we're doing,” he said. “But they can't really do something like this [at the U.S. Open or Amateur, for instance]. They have assets and are exposed, and they're involved in so many areas of the game. We don't have legal liabilities, so it makes sense for us to do this.”
Fadel explained that the material used for the ball and, perhaps, its dimple pattern, will help generate the equitable differences in distance.
Jim Achenbach writes his latest online column a bit like Nuke LaLouche pitches (all over the place). But you have to love that he is writing about the issues, trying trying to generate discussion and attempting to consider all sides of the equation.
He first suggests that a competition ball would be the best way to go:
The answer is for the USGA to create a "condition of competition" that allows tournament officials to impose the use of a shorter ball. This ball would be used in PGA Tour events and any other tournament, professional or amateur, that elects to go with this detuned ball.
Sure, this notion is controversial. Regardless, it provides a workable answer to the distance dilemma.
Golf fans in the big world out there don't give a toot whether J.B. Holmes uses the exact same ball as you and I, but everyday golfers drool over the possibility of hitting some of the same irons into par 4s as Holmes does.
The one-ball rule was established as a condition of competition, and the same could be done with the velocity of the golf ball.
And he seems to be joining the growing chorus that feels the difficulty of relating to the pro game may be stifling the growth of everyday golf.
If we are serious rather than hypocritical, we will do whatever is reasonable to foster the growth of the game. I believe that equalizing the playing field between tour pros and the rest of us would make the game more compelling.
Because golf is so difficult, we must be conscious of the regulations that are imposed on golfers and their equipment. If I were the czar of golf, I would change the maximum number of clubs from 14 to 15. This would help revitalize the industry and would allow golfers to take advantage of new clubs such as hybrids.
Don't expect a 15-club limit any time soon, but the point remains: We should be encouraging the expansion of all segments of the game, including golf equipment manufacturers.
Really? Or maybe some pushed for such a rapid product turnover cycle that manufacturers have used up their best stuff? Or dare I say, maybe they've created weary consumers who might feel like they are being taken advantage of?
My fear is that additional golf equipment regulations will stifle creativity within the golf industry. Too many rules could result in an environment in which golf clubs and balls are sold largely through smoke and mirrors rather than performance.
Lord knows that line has never been crossed!
If design creativity is limited, golf companies are smart enough to compensate with creative marketing. This can lead to greater confusion among golfers and less emphasis on the true sophistication of golf equipment.
I remember mentioning to a very well known equipment maker that he must really enjoy the creative side of designing clubs. His reply? "Nope, it's all about marketing."
If golf is not healthy and does not grow, there is a trickle-down effect that touches many aspects of the game. We would be wise to consider the many golf jobs created among golf manufacturers, golf professionals, golf shops, golf course maintenance staffs, clubhouse employees and all golf-related businesses.
True, and just think how many more tips a member could hand out if he did not buy that 15th club!
Or...eh, forget it. Here's where things seem to unravel:
Golf is an outdoor sporting phenomenon that is played by all ages. It should not be diminished, thwarted or truncated. It should remain vital, dynamic and spirited.
All things considered, this is why USGA officials are so worried. We (and they) are standing at Ground Zero. We must choose the path to the future.
The final exam for Golf 101 has just one multiple-choice question:
(A) Do we really want golf to grow and prosper? Or . . .
(B) Do we want it to reflect and resemble the game it was 50 years ago?
Think hard, because in all likelihood there is no "all of the above" answer.
The conclusion seems to be: the game as it is now is much better off than 50 years ago, BUT...we need to fix the mess we are in now.
Todd Hamilton, on Mirasol's Sunrise Course:
"The more you play it the worse this course gets," Hamilton said."I didn't know any better the first year. Now I know what kind of course it is."
Many potential ramifications loom from the Ohio Golf Association's decision to try out a shorter-flying ball this August.
Readers of The Future of Golf know that a similar scenario was suggested. One in which such a grass roots uprising could be the equivalent Softspikes.
Such a scenario may occur here, and you have to like the prospects of the ball company that ends up being the choice of the the Ohio Golf Association's competition ball.
And don't shed any tears for the companies whose balls are not selected. They've had several years to prepare such a ball for this scenario.
They passed up the chance in the apparent hope this would go away.
And as for the USGA's likely chilly reception to this idea? Again, they've had plenty of time to act and have done nothing.
PS - Anyone care to nominate which ball Ohio might have found on the conforming ball list? I'd sure like to buy some and try them out, and I bet a bunch of other people would as well.
John Hawkins's latest blog entry says we should wait until after the Masters to analyze the latest lengthening.
Okay...but in the meantime, can we continue to complain about the rough and tacky pines?
SI Golf Plus published their 5th annual players poll (subscription req. for link to work).
Some of the more interesting questions and answers:
Who is the second-best player?
Vijay Singh ...... 68%
Ernie Els ...... 12%
Phil Mickelson ...... 8%
ALSO RECEIVING VOTES: Joe Durant, Sergio García, Retief Goosen, myself, Annika Sorenstam
Annika and Joe Durant? So much for the players liking that question!
Did the U.S. make a mistake by invading Iraq?
Yes ...... 12%
No ...... 88%
That thinking may help explain the 56% on this question:
Is having early-round coverage on the Golf Channel instead of ESPN good or bad?
Good ...... 56%
Bad ...... 44%
LOOSE LIPS: "[The Golf Channel] is going to have to get better."
Do you know any pro golfers who have used steroids?
Yes ...... 1%
No ...... 99%
Should the Tour have a written policy expressly forbidding performance-enhancing drugs?
Yes ...... 73%
No ...... 27%
Overwhelming player support, so why doesn't the Commissioner agree? And finally...
Do you favor a rolled-back ball for tournament play?
Yes ...... 28%
No ...... 72%
In 2003, 60% said yes.