Rrrrroll Back??

Alright! Right up until this moment I’ve been very quiet about the hot topic that has come up lately. No it isn’t Tiger’s comeback at the Hero World Challenge but he is involved in this article. Then again so are legends of golf Mr. Jack Nicklaus and Mr. Gary Player. Of course I am talking about the latest talk of rolling back the golf ball.The reason is simple and I totally understand their concern. The fact is that Tour players are making certain golf courses obsolete. Most notably, some of the courses in the rota for the Open Championship. Imagine a world where there is no Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrew’s. When you think about it… it isn’t far-fetched at all.

The talk of rolling the golf ball back is not a new idea. Mr. Nicklaus has stated this in the past so his suggestion about a uniform golf ball is nothing new. I remember going back to 2015 during the week of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay the timeless legend Mr. Player stated that golf courses were “getting too long” and that the “mismanagement of the golf ball” is leading to the demise of golf courses. Even more recently, Mr. Player stated that it was “sad” to see the Old Course being defeated by today’s golf ball. He actually expressed concerns in 2005. Tiger Woods joined the “campaign” on dialing the golf ball back very recently as well. Of course, there were those who follow the game that said he wants the golf ball rolled back because he is no longer the longest guy out there. But there he was clearly stating that “We” need to do something. So if this is a concern than why has nothing been done?

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While evolution and progress can be a great thing in some cases it isn’t. In a world of checks and balances something has to give. I have a hard time seeing the likes of the major brands in the industry saying yes to having a uniform golf ball. After all, in the case of Titleist their marketing model has nothing to do with their golf clubs or their mid-range golf balls. It’s all about the Pro V1 golf ball. Play what the best in the world play! Of course, the Pro V1 will almost certainly continue to live for the masses.  But getting back to giving a new meaning to “the one ball rule” how would that process occur? Bids by the likes of Acushnet, Srixon Golf,  Bridgestone Golf, Wilson Golf etc with the winner being selected and to the victor go the spoils? Seems hardly fair right? If all company’s had to adhere to the same criteria that would theoretically work. But then I get this eerie premonition.

Just like when rolling and shaving softball bats was a thing when I was still playing softball. To make composite softball bats more lively guys at all levels of softball would shave the inner walls of the bat and roll the bats to make them “pop” reducing their break-in period which made the bats hot!!!. The result… pitchers dreaded lobbing up every pitch because of the balls exit speed coming back up the middle. Trust me.. it was deadly!   The governing bodies at Provincial Championships had x-ray machines to check for any suspected bats breaching the rule. Remember my premonition? Imagine the eventual winner of a tournament won a tournament that we’ll call ‘The Masters”. The winner was  hitting the “rolled back” golf ball long. Meanwhile, up in The Butler Cabin  by the fireplace sits an x-ray machine. Right before the Green Jacket presentation they examine the golf ball… or all of the golf balls in the golf bag of the winner. Somehow, there was one ball that magically slipped through quality and control at Plant#3 and there’s an illegal golf ball. Disqualification.

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Photo Credit: scottishgolfhistory.com

 

The reality of the game and rolling the golf ball back only is a concern for such a low percentage of golfers around the world. For everyone else (mere mortals) this debate doesn’t or shouldn’t really effect them. With all due respect to Mr. Nicklaus, Mr. Player and Mr. Woods the problem really stems back to my entire baseball bat scenario. Sure the golf ball is long. Maybe it doesn’t spin as much. But those baseball bats started to launch the ball out of the ball park 375 feet  at will. One league I played in had houses built right behind the sports complex. Segments of 50′ mesh nets were strung up in a vain attempt to protect the houses against incoming “mortar shells”. It sort of worked but yet windows were still getting smashed. The league brought in a flight restricted ball and sure the instances of baseballs being hit off of the roofs of neighboring houses decreased but not by much. So what was the correlation and why was it still a problem… other than poor city planning? The bats and athlete’s themselves.

I personally think that the issue with golf and this entire “rolling back crusade” is with the golf clubs themselves. Let’s face it… when you’re an arthritic 70-year-old man you shouldn’t really hitting the ball further than when you were 50. But you are! If there’s an issue with too much length look at the new equipment that’s being constructed from space-aged materials. If it’s anything it’s the equipment causing the issues.  Not just drivers and irons but the turf equipment too. Bear with me for a second regarding the latter. But again, this only pertains to a small percentage of golfers. Have scores dropped significantly among amateurs over the last 5 years with all of the advances in technology? The answer is no! Look at the technology in place for these guys playing on television on Sunday afternoon’s. Sure it’s out there for amateur’s as well  but the technology goes far outside of having the right shafts installed into your set. Who saw Rocky IV? Remember the technology that “Ivan Drago” had? Technology that actually makes the athlete with much advanced workout programs. Golfers at the collegiate and professional levels like their NHL, NFL, and MLB counterparts are quite simply bigger, faster and stronger. So… is the answer having 8,500 yard long golf courses? My thought is no! How the heck does that help and what is a solution?

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The course of the future now. (Photo Credit: Daily Mail)

I never thought that I would say this but maybe.. just maybe the USGA has had it “sort of” right all along with their set-ups. Maybe the superintendents at said courses would take an issue to this but maybe growing out the rough, making fairways narrower and the greens firmer and faster is the answer. Moreover, water the living “bejeezus” out of the fairways. Drench them… and forget about these guys getting 50+ yards of roll. My Lord… most of the fairways that these guys play on roll faster on a “Stimp” than the greens at most Semi-Private golf courses. The machinery that superintendents have at their disposal has come a long way since the era of “Caddyshack’. I’ve said for too long that golf has become hard to watch. Seeing these guys posting combined -24 scores for a tournament is hurting the game and making the game boring to watch. Many people go to car races for the “wrecks” and that’s why I love the carnage at the U.S. Open. High scores and punishment for wayward shots. Many of these courses also feature fairways as wide as the eyes can see… or they should be considering their width. Look at Erin Hills… wow! Heck, even Glen Abbey site of the RBC Canadian Open has massive fairways where the bombers can bomb away at will. If they miss… no big deal because there is no rough. If you want to roll anything back… roll back the course conditioning.

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2004 U.S. Open Shinnecock Hills (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Maybe my solution is too simplified. You aren’t going to be able to roll back the athlete (force them to be obese) and you might be able to do something about rolling back the ball and/or equipment. But the one thing that golf needs to do is preserve the game and preserve the likes of Tillinghast, Thompson, Nicklaus, Palmer, Robert Trent Jones and Ross. Make these guys “golf the ball” around the course. Screw “bomb and gouge” and make these guys hit golf shots. Make them work the ball and penalize a miss.

Until The Next Tee!!

Mastering Augusta – Day One

Hasn’t it been an interesting start to the season’s first Major of the year? I mean who could have possibly predicted that what has transpired so far was in fact going to happen?

If there was a Masters Tournament that had a serious plot twist before the action begun in 2017 than I have no idea what it was. Like every year the Par 3 Contest was played (sort of). Unfortunately, Mother Nature had found it within herself to interfere forcing a cancellation after 55 minutes of play due to an unstable weather system. Marking that for the first time in 56 years it was not contested. But there is a silver lining to that massive cloud. At least none of the player’s will be a victim of “the curse”. Nobody has ever gone on to win The Masters after winning the Par 3 Contest. Oh… speaking of massive clouds to darken an event.

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Par 3 Tournament… cancelled. (Photo Credit: Golf Channel)

I have never been to Augusta National but I have long wondered if it smelled like I imagine it to through the television screen. I remember watching the telecast from a hospital bed in 2004 in Hamilton, Ontario while recovering from an infection that led doctors to believe I had Meningitis. But while laying there in the bed there were all of the sprawling colors that is Augusta National in front of my eyes. I can’t imagine any weather or dark clouds ever making this event dreary. Unless of course you happen to be playing a Masters pool with a bunch of people and you just watched your favorite… the favorite to win fall down some stairs. As the reports of a fall involving World #1 Dustin Johnson surfaced on social media outlets The Masters took the biggest plot twist that I have seen. While at his rental home in Augusta, Johnson took a fall that injured his lower back. According to his agent the fall was significant and it’s reported that he landed hard on his elbow and side. Treatment was started right away with Dustin having hopes of still playing but after warming up prior to the first round Thursday Johnson was forced to withdraw. He was quoted as saying that the backswing was fine but coming down and through impact he felt his lower back “catch”. DJ has been playing the best golf he has played in his career and will have plenty of chances to win a “Green Jacket”. just that it won’t be this year. DJ… don’t rush it and give it time to heal you aren’t as young as you used to be (32).

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The Round 1 leader. Charley Hoffman (Photo Credit: PGA.com)

The beautiful part about life is that when one door closes another door opens. With DJ’s withdrawal a door the size of an airplane hangar opened for the field. High winds plagued the first round and some players like Adam Scott stated that it was “borderline unplayable”. I know for the rest of us golfing “Minions” there isn’t a huge paycheck and a Green Jacket waiting for us with a victory. But… can I please see a show of hands from everyone who would complain about playing Augusta National in 30 mph winds? Thanks. I know a 3 to 4 club wind is an inconvenience and it can suck when it comes to putting. But seriously, on the Great Lakes that in gentle zephyr. More so I imagine in Texas or the Mid-West (Prairies). My point being that it’s the same course for everyone in the morning wave and that’s on the course at the time. Just luck of the draw right? But as some like Scott struggled (I’ll leave Jordan Spieth’s 9 on 12 alone). Nice cards were turned in after Round 1 by Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, and William McGirt. But did Charley Hoffman ever have himself a round. A -7 for a 65?! Master class right there folks. It’s unknown how that first round will hold up come Sunday but what a start. Hoffman is currently on the course and E thru 1. The weather looks pretty nice today (less wind) and looks to be even better come the weekend. So will the field catch him or will he come back to the field? Time will tell.

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An emotional tribute (Photo Credit: Golfweek)

In closing, I just wanted to state that it was tough watching the Honorary Starters kick off the tournament yesterday. Of course Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Player were there to strike the opening tee shots. But it was surreal to watch the Opening Ceremony as Chairman of Augusta National Billy Payne escorted Mrs. Arnold Palmer to the first tee while carrying one of Mr. Palmer’s Green Jackets then folded it ever so delicately and placed it on the chair there. Mr. Payne’s address to the patrons was emotional and heartfelt and accurate. If I may quote Mr. Payne “The almost unbearable sadness we all feel at the passing of Arnold Palmer is surpassed only by the love and affection for him, which will forever reside in our hearts.”

Until The Next Tee!