Steve Elling writes about the USGA's new "rough" policy that will debut at Winged Foot this June.
Under the new plan, the length of the grass will increase in inverse proportion to the misfire. Sort of like serving detention, the punishment for bursts of wildness will indeed fit the crime.
Moreover, the rough heights will be adjusted depending upon the length of the hole, which means missing a fairway by a few yards on a 495-yard par-4 won't be as bad as hitting it sideways on a shorter two-shot hole.
And an early candidate for line of the year followed by the details:
Heck, the USGA will be cultivating more gradients of grass than all the hippies in Humboldt County, using everything from tweezers to a scythe to trim the various stages of rough:
1. The fairway cut will be trimmed to the usual firm-and-fast length of a quarter-inch or thereabouts. It will look like indoor-outdoor carpet by comparison to what's framing it.
2. The light, 6-foot-wide swath of transitional rough between the fairway and the heavy stuff will measure about 1 1/3 inches in height, the usual standard.
3. Here's the real change. The grass for the next 10-12 feet will be cut to a height of 3-4 inches. Players hitting a ball into this area have a fair shot at reaching the green.
4. This is the heavy stuff, the type of rough where a guy can't see his socks, much less his shoes. It will measure six inches in depth and cover the remainder of the area to the gallery rope.
Fairness is at the grassroots of the decision. Those who barely miss the fairway won't be penalized as harshly as those who miss by a mile. Meanwhile, it lessens the chances that players who hit the wildest shots will land in sparse areas, as was formerly the case at times.
Big improvement, right? This should end the madness of players missing a fairway by 4 yards and having no shot.
But, as Elling writes, there are "a couple of important caveats."
There will be no intermediate rough, only the long 6-inch type, on short holes such as the par-5 fifth (515 yards) and the par-4 sixth (321 yards) and 11th (396 yards). So it could be argued that the biggest hitters will nonetheless enjoy an advantage, since they'll face the graded rough on the longest holes. They can belt away with a driver as long as the misses are moderate.
Ah, yes. Flogging may actually be rewarded with the tiered concept. But that's not Mike Davis's fault, that's the fault of past committees who ignored the equipment issue.
So we will see the tiered concept on most the holes, except on the ones where birdie is more likely to be made.
If the USGA owned Fenway Park, would they automate the Green Monster to move up when the bombers come to the plate?
It would be like Notre Dame Stadium harvesting rough to slow down Reggie Bush? (Wait, that happened, bad example.)
Mike Davis's concept of tiered rough is introducing more equity into a setup situation that has long been awkward, if not downright goofy. But then, it's as if somene higher-up is suggesting a way to eliminate red numbers on holes where they are most likely to occur, therefore completely contradicting the concept of more equity introduced with the tiered rough.
Here's the funny part and where the USGA shows that it has not fully grasped why flogging occurs. If the rough is the same throughout on these three shortish holes--a nasty 6 inches let's say--and the fairway is a silly 21-yards wide (sad, but true), then why not take your chances and drive as far down the hole as possible?
If you are going to wedge out, you might as well do it as close to the green as you can? How many players have said this...Tiger, Phil, J.B., etc...
I'll post some photos later and you can be the judge whether a lay-up or launched tee shot would be the wiser option. I know you can't wait.