Week In Review, April 16-22: Distance Myths

WeekInReview2.jpgWe kicked the week off with John Huggan's excellent update on Musselburgh, prompting reader tread softly to write, "Musselburgh Golf Course must be saved from floodlighting - for it's history alone..and what's wrong with a little sentimentality in an increasingly cynical world? and when was floodlighting anything but a harsh intrusion on nature's own 24-hour illumination set-up!?"

Regarding the ongoing Augusta National debate, I pointed out the difference between Hootie Johnson's view of long hitters and the views of most traditionalists (who don't blame the players for simply taking advantage of equipment).  Sean Murphy chimed in, "Come on Hootie, Manufacture a True Golf Ball, and restore the sport to what it once was, 'GOLF'!" While Carl wrote, "Hootie, please restore, Jones's and Mackenzie's true test of golf. Manufacture your own ball, and lets remind the people sitting at home what golf use to be, and how it should be played."

We monitored the Augusta National course changes reaction. Jaime Diaz weighed in with a lukewarm analysis, as did Peter Kostis.  Both are interesting reads worth checking out if you missed them the first time.

Gary Van Sickle analyzed the changes from the patrons point of view, prompting reader Glyn to say, "He has a point. There is so much roped off area it creates congestion and bad viewing. And also awkward flow getting from hole to hole at times." MacDuff, who attended this year, wrote that the "introduction of more seating areas has narrowed viewing on the whole. 14 green now only visible from the rear for standing patrons, small seating area to the left only way to get a good view of buried elephant. On 17 green no one could now see from right side i.e. Jack's 1986 putt from the famous film-clip."

Greg Norman was back in the news, still awaiting to see the PGA Tour's books, as he would seemingly be allowed to do as a member. Reader R. Thompson asks, "If Finchem was never a professional golfer, why would Norman have to ask for all of the financial information when that information is suppose to be made membership knowledge, especially with the organization being a non-profit."

The Tour is also not making any friends in Washington where Leonard Shapiro reported that the D.C. stop has been given a May ultimatum to find a sponsor.  Pat wrote, "Finchem's strategy of lieing to Booze Allen about a TPC Avenal re-do and then lieing to members of Congressional in an effort to stiff arm his agenda into place has rubbed people here in D.C. the wrong way."

And M. Kavanaugh agreed and wondered: "I'm afraid that other title sponsors will follow in Booze Allen's footsteps, pulling those dollars and investing them in a manner which grants the corporate name more recognition.

The Phil two driver debate continued, and I remain somewhere in the middle of both sides on this. Some wonderful reader comments on this, with most making strong points in support of the idea that this is just a traditional part of the game, and not an example that technology has gotten out of hand.

Dan G wrote, "What about Ray Floyd adding a 5 wood when he torched Augusta the year he won? It's not like the idea of adding clubs based on the course you're playing just came about yesterday." Reader Simmz said, "Sarazen created the sandwedge; Travis utilized "technology" with the center-shafted Schenectady putter...While I personally embrace tradition, it is difficult to argue that any of these club adjustments and innovations are wrong when the governing bodies deem them legal >>> circling back to Geoff's original beef with the governing bodies - they have lost control of the game!"

Glyn asked, "What's the difference between 2 drivers or 4 wedges? A club is a club. If he wants to carry 2 drivers he has to take a club from somewhere else. The extra driver isn't the issue, the issue is that he can give up another club somewhere else because of how the game is played at the pro level."

While John V says, "If the club that he hits 25 yards shorter than his driver had a "2" on the bottom, none of this would have been news." And RM says "Phil is a pure shotmaker, and a crative genius. I would put his skills against any player from any era using any equipment. Golf is about making choices. He is obviously making good ones. I don't see the issue at all."

While St. Pete replied, "The issue RM is that professionals could take out 4 or 5 clubs today and not really miss any of them because of how far the ball goes today."

Tom Fazio seemed pleased with his changes to Augusta National and Winged Foot, and as always, pays no attention to what the master architects wrote or the potential ramifications. Reader af wondered if anyone is "concerned that land costs money,takes more money to maintain and potentially could reduce the number of people that can or even want to play the game.not to mention , maybe reducing the number of players based on size or strength of the person. we are losing the "greatest game ever played" and very few seem concerned."

Hux chimed in too with some killer MacKenzie quotes like this one: "It is often suggested that we have already got to the limit of flight of a golf ball. I do not believe it, as there is no limit to science.” And Hux wrote: "Seeing Mr. Fazio has gone to the 'scripture', does he believe what's good for the goose is also good for the gander?"

On the USGA position paper which I haven't had a chance to read yet, there were plenty of interesting reader comments. Smolmania: "if you try to tell me that JB, Bubba, Tiger and Phil don't have a disproportionate advantage over the Corey Pavins of the world, you've got your head in the clouds."

Pete the Luddite replied, "I absolutely loved reading this article and I'm glad you found and posted it for us. It shows all of us what we can do to lengthen our game if we want. Optimizing launch conditions will get you further off the tee than swinging out of your shoes at the ball. Dammit, my father was right all along while I was growing up.  Swing smooth and hit the ball correctly. THAT IS THE MISSING/HIDDEN POINT OF THE ARTICLE: you will go further by hitting the ball best, not harder. Realistically, we aren't going to be able to warp up our swing speeds substantially, but we CAN swing better at the ball and launch it better."

The USGA, after years of silence on the distance debate (and the overall message: distance is a myth...great call there!). They issued their Distance Myths at the Masters and we are finally able to look at them.

Regarding the myths by Dick Rugge, reader J.P. writes, "Can Dick explain to the posters here how the distance exploded in 2003? Why the ball blaster isn't in use anymore to test Cor? And why Iron Byron was calibrated at 120 instead of 109? How long was the blaster and 109 used by iron Byron?"

Ryan Ballengee took them on in a story that prompted reader P. Bigley to write, "I looked at the differences between 2002 and 2003, wow! It appears the USGA choose money over principle. Sad."