Miles Apart

In the August 27 Golfweek, columnist Jim Achenbach and publisher James Nugent square off in a debate over distance titled "Miles Apart."

This is the second appearance in recent weeks by publisher Nugent. Writing commentaries is not a traditional role for the Publisher of a trade publication. (Apparently, there’s some silly old notion about the separation of editorial and advertising. That’s like, sooooo 20th Century!)

Anyhow, I’d just like to take this opportunity to welcome Jim Achenbach to the technophobic, biased, liberal, elitist, purist, eh, whatever group. You know, that growing legion of observers who dares to put the integrity of the game over their self interests. And we'll even grant you a special exemption on the rangefinder obsession, Jim. Nice to have you seeing the light, albeit reluctantly:

I don’t want to see golf balls shortened (with lower ball speed) or drivers throttled back (with less velocity off the face), but it seems clear to me that one of these two scenarios will occur. The only other choice is this: Accept longer drives, embrace lower scores, stop complaining. Except that nobody is embracing lower scores. This is why courses keep getting longer and longer. Another consequence of golf’s little problem: Conditions keep getting tougher and tougher.

Here’s the best part and what all too many are (finally) starting to realize.

Perhaps I’ve absorbed the jargon of too many conflicts, but there is collateral damage in this distance war. I know several longtime Augusta National members who say privately they don’t really enjoy playing the golf course anymore.

Now, when I was at Augusta in 2003, it was rather apparent that the member tees were not being moved. Only the back tees. The gap between the two sets was striking. If you were a decent player at all, you’d have to play the back tees. For most of the members, the forward tees were basically the same. So what is making the course less fun for the majority of members playing up? Ah yes, the narrowness. The trees, the second cut, etc…

Anyhow, Nugent proves why publishers should stick to schmoozing advertisers and leaving the writing to his pros. Because a writer could have opposed Achenbach's views without resorting to the pathetic scoring argument to defend an onslaught of changes in the game. Nugent:

Let’s move on to the U.S. Open at Donald Ross’ Pinehurst No. 2. Ross, had he been there, would have nodded approvingly as not a single player finished below par.

Yes, Donald Ross was obsessed with protecting par. Right. So let's see the scoring hasn’t changed, so all is well. That's a new one. Unfortunately, Nugent looks past some rather important issues in making his argument:

Pinehurst #2 was open off the tee, but it was no bombers’ paradise.

21-25 yards is open off the tee? And no bombers' paradise? How come the bombers bombed away without fear of hitting fairway or rough or pine needles? Perhaps because the setup was so silly that they had no choice? Or because they can carry incredible distances?

While it's wonderful that Golfweek is at least debating the issue, they should just leave the writing to their talented writers.