Dawson Speaks! 2008 Edition

Dawson52695878.jpgUnlike Mike Aitken's insight-light Scotsman piece, John Huggan manages to squeeze some nuggets out of the R&A's Peter Dawson.

Naturally, the R&A head man is best on the subject of rangefinders:

“It’s very difficult to come up with a logical reason why, if a caddie can give you a yardage, or a book can give you a yardage, or a sprinkler head can give you a yardage, anyone needs that same number produced electronically. It could happen, of course, that players will end up doing all of the above. But my personal fear is that this is the first step towards the vision that every golfer should have a machine that can tell them wind speed, wind direction, the yardage and which club to use. The other end of that scale is that you pay golf the old way, with none of that sort of help.

Here's the best part:

“So where should the line be drawn? You could argue that the line should say ‘no such devices,’ but here it is has been drawn at ‘one such device.’ There are some arguments that it will speed up play, but I find it hard to believe that a device that zones in on the flagstick can do that when you have to wait for the flag to be replaced in order to use it.”

How can you argue with that? That's right, the USGA will.

On groove rule change timing:

"Right now, we remain in discussion with the USGA and would expect an announcement fairly soon.

This is very encouraging:

“Our motivation has never been to make rough more meaningful; we want to make driving accuracy more meaningful. It should matter that you hit the fairway, at least to a reasonable extent. That there should be no correlation between driving accuracy and success cannot be right. Which doesn’t mean that we want to see every fairway lined with rough. I’m not sticking up for rough. “There is also a bit of an issue with little shots from rough around the greens. Again, the combination of modern balls and modern grooves seems to produce too much of ‘bite’ on the ball when it lands. Especially when you combine that with the loft on the clubs. With a lot of loft on the club, you can hit the ball harder than you used to, even on a very short shot.

“Something is going to happen with the grooves and there may even be more action. At the Orlando show I saw a wedge that had over 70-degrees of loft. That has to be a concern.”

I don't get why loft should ever be regulated? If someone can use a spatula like that, let 'em!

This was a nice product of my interview with Pete Dye for Links:

On course architect Pete Dye’s recent comment on the USGA (“They’ve escalated the cost of maintenance. They’ve slowed down play. And they’ve completely lost control of the equipment. Outside of that, they’ve done a pretty good job.”)

“No comment. You’re not sucking me into that! You’re not going to get me to comment on Pete Dye’s designs. If he wants to comment on us, he can carry on.”

Well that's not much fun Peter.

And because it's a Peter Dawson interview, that means most of the great stuff is wiped out by absurd statements. On distance advances:

“We have the problem surrounded. Driving distances have stablised. In the last five years there haven’t been any technological innovations that have increased how far the ball goes. So the heat is coming out of the subject to a degree. But we remain committed to action should any further increases occur.

“Which is not to say that we are happy about where we are. But the game is certainly not in crisis over this issue. I’m not sure the argument that the game at the top level is less interesting to watch is any function of hitting distance. And I include in my counter argument this theory that the ball does not move sideways as much as it used to.

The game is not in crisis. Okay let's see here.

Thousands of courses are facing safety issues and are spending money to lengthen, the world's number one player says if it's up to him, they'd play balata and persimmon, ratings stink, pace of play has never been slower with bottlenecks caused by more reachable par-5s and par-4s, the R&A and USGA are considering an unprecedented rollback in equipment is being considered to help offset the problem, players are now going to be tested for drugs because distance has become so vital to success, and finally several great layouts are in danger of no longer being viable major sites, destroying one golf's unique connection to its origins.

But most of all, the technology boom has not grown the game. Some could argue that the side effects of the techology race are driving participation down.

When does it become defined as a crisis?

“If we have our robot hit shots with old balls and new balls and set the dial to hook or slice, then the results are identical. Except with the driver. The modern driver head is what prevents the ball from bending. It has nothing to do with the golf ball. The irons still bend the ball just as much.
“As Walter Driver of the USGA said to me recently, ‘everyone is entitled to their own opinions about distance and technology, but they are not entitled to their own facts.’

Oh good one Walter! Aren't you the one who said distance advances were 75% athleticism? How did you come up with that, uh, fact?

“The driver is very different. The way the head deforms at impact takes out sidespin. You can hit straight pulls or pushes. But slicing and hooking is more difficult.

“So there is no doubt that getting a good drive away with a modern driver is easier than it was with an older driver. That’s a fact. But is it too easy? I think there is merit to the argument that it is easier to get round in 66 than it used to be, but it is not easier to win a golf tournament. There are so many other factors involved in winning. In fact, you can easily argue that finishing first has never been harder."

Yeah, because of Tiger!