Golf: Can Anyone Answer This?

Slow play continues to be discussed at the professional level as well as at the amateur levels. I previously wrote a short post about this which included a poll asking how long it should take for 4 average players to play 18 holes. The poll so far clearly indicates that it should take 4 hours. I won’t debate the time, but rather let the poll decide. It is obviously to the benefit of the golf courses to have people play faster so that they can get more golfers on the course in a day and thus more revenue.

On the professional side, I continue to ponder why nothing is ever done about slow play despite all the discussion. After some thought on this I came up with a question that I cannot answer and would like to solicit help from anyone that can. The question is: If professionals played faster during televised tournaments, say by 25%, how much revenue would that tournament loose? Considering TV time, advertising revenue, merchandise sales, refreshment revenue, charitable contributions, ticket sales, etc., it could add up to a substantial amount.

When you look at it this way, maybe there is no incentive to speed up play.

The Long Putter is in the News Again!

Updated on 07/16/2012.

Yesterday, Tom Kite did something that no other golfer has ever done. He shot a 28 for 9 holes. He did it in the first round of the U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Country Club in Lake Orion, Michigan. Like many, many golfers on the Senior Tour, Tom uses a long putter. Once again, the use of the long putter has come under fire.

One of the most outspoken people against the long putter is NBC’s lead analyst, Johnny Miller. Miller said in a phone interview that “They need to stop the guys from anchoring the top of the putter.” He goes on to say that “a fixed fulcrum is just too much of an advantage.”

This is the same Johnny Miller who in 1987 was the first player to win a PGA tour using a long putter. But Miller said he only braced the shaft of the putter against his arm and did not anchor it to his body.”

Now, just who is he trying to kid. I do believe that the arm is part of the body and if he really believed in what he said, he would not have used the long putter in the first place. A PGA player will do anything to gain an advantage and if Johnny Miller were active on the PGA tour today you can bet he would be using a long putter if it helped his putting.

What I cannot understand for the life of me is who exactly has the advantage when using the long putter? If it is legal for everyone then no one golfer has an advantage over another. If there really is an advantage to using a long putter(I don’t believe statistics prove that there is), it is because certain professional golfers refuse to use them. Therefore, they claim that those that do have the advantage. How insecure!!!

I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the Royal and Ancient and the USGA making up rules on equipment and it’s use based on someone or another having an advantage over someone else. If a piece of equipment is legal then obviously no one that uses that piece of equipment has any advantage over anyone else. Also, if that piece of equipment is legal then there should be no controversy over how it is used. Remember when they outlawed the way Sam Snead was using his putter. Although his putter was perfectly legal, he could not use it like a croqet mallet. Remember the square groove controversy. How ridiculous!

The bottom line here is that none of these equipment issues have anything to do with the integrity of the game. What it does do is showcase the pettiness of some professional golfers and the ruling bodies.

Update: After leading the U.S. Senior Open on the first day by shooting a 65 Tom Kite ended up tied for 12th place when the tournament was over. On the way he missed putt after putt with the same long putter that supposedly and magically put him in the lead on the first day. I don’t suppose this will quiet down the controversy about using the long putter, but I would hope the good and the bad are considered equally.

Golf: Pace of Play

Lately there has been a lot of discussion at the professional level about slow play. Kevin Na’s inability to pull the trigger at the Players Championship and Morgan Pressel’s demise at the Sybase Match Play are two examples. Unfortunately, these things always filter down to us average golfers. Courses increasingly demand that we play faster despite the fact that most of us don’t use a caddy familiar with the course, have the benefit of a rules official and often times play on courses that have difficult set-ups. All of us should do what we can to keep the pace of play reasonable, but what is reasonable?

The Demeanor of Tiger Woods

Last week Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow after another weak showing. A few days before the Wells Fargo I was watching a golf tournament on the Golf Channel. It was the 2001 Players Championship that Tiger Woods won. After watching that tournament and the Wells Fargo, I thought that something seems to be different about Tiger between then and now. That is, something other than his playing ability. He has been through a lot with family issues and changes of coaches all of which, I am sure, has had a profound effect on him. I could not put my finger on it at first, but after I thought about it for a while I determined that it was his demeanor that was different.

The 2001 Players Championship was his 26th win. After struggling early in the week he came back with extraordinary shot making and putting skills to win. At that time his demeanor was the same as it was in every tournament. He was focused, determined, confident, composed, and unapproachable by the gallery during play (no eye contact or hand slapping between holes). I didn’t see him get too upset during that tournament like he has recently. Basically, his character was in tune with what he had to do to win.

Fast forward to the Wells Fargo and we see a completely different Tiger Woods. He smiled often and actually connected with the gallery including slapping hands as he walked to the next tee. He seemed much more relaxed and it actually looked like he was having fun out there. On the other hand, he missed several shots that would have been no trouble at all for him in the past. One example was the high fade iron shot, several of which got him into trouble. His touch around and on the greens also were not up to what we are used to seeing from him. I noticed several times as he was getting ready to take a shot that he would try to relieve the tension by taking a deep breath. This is uncharacteristic for him and it showed a lack of confidence.

Lately, Tiger has complained about “old patterns” reappearing when things are not going right. In other words he is blaming his old teachers and coaches for his current troubles on the course. The fact is, he won a lot of tournaments and a lot of money with those old patterns. Maybe his new coach, Sean Foley, has tried to change too much rather than to work on improving Tiger’s natural abilities.

I have never been much of a fan of Tiger Woods just because I never thought he was likable or treated those around him (on or off the course) with much respect. On the other hand, his record as a golfer speaks for itself. He will go down in history as one of the greatest that ever played the game. Just maybe he is starting to understand that the greatness of the game far out surpasses anyone that plays it. At least now, it looks like from the outside that he is having fun and is beginning to respect those around him. As far as getting his skill level up to the point where he can win and be dominant again, only time will tell.

My New Leupold GX-4i (product review)

I have used my new Leupold GX-4i now for 5 rounds of golf and thought it was time to write a review. First a little history on the company. Leupold & Stevens, Inc. has been around since 1907. It was originally started by a German immigrant named Fred Leupold. The company was virtually a one-man shop in Portland, Oregon that repaired optics on surveying equipment. During the Second World War Leupold teamed up with the U.S. Army to work on a rifle scope and the U.S. Navy to develop optics to use aboard Navy ships. During that time Leupold’s engineers learned how to waterproof and create durable optics that eventually found their way into sport optics. Leupold & Stevens is still an innovative family owned American company that produces high performance optics and accessories. Their products are renowned for ruggedness and superior optical quality.

The Leupold Gx-4i has two front face plates that are interchangeable. One enables all the features for general use and the other disables most of the features except distance so that it is legal to use in many tournaments. To use the unit to its fullest capacity and power certain functions need to be set-up. These are easily done with a mode button on the side of the unit. They include course elevation, current temperature, units (yards or meters), club selector set-up, and reticle style (there are 3 to choose from). Basically, the only things that need to be changed for each round is the temperature and elevation. Everything else is set once and forget it.

Once set-up it is just a matter of point and shoot. The power button on top of the unit is also the scan button. When the power button is held down the unit will scan and return distances every 1/2 second. This makes it easy to distinguish between the pin and anything behind it. The unit compensates for inclination and displays actual distance and adjusted distance based on such. It will then recommend a club providing you have input your club distances during set-up. Other features include a fog mode and the ability to lock-in on prisms that are attached to the top of the flag stick. I have only played one course so far with prisms and they were easily picked-up by the unit.

I have compared distance results with people who have GPS units. There have been times when there was a 10 to 15 yard difference. GPS units usually give front, center and back of the green distances. If the green is large and the pin is somewhere in between those distances, the GPS readings won’t be as accurate as a laser device. I believe the Leupold has already saved me a few shots because of its accuracy. My one criticism is that it does not compensate for hand movement. It is always hard to hold an optical device steady when what you are looking at is magnified (this unit magnifies by 6x). There are cameras out there now that do that and it seems to me that laser range finders could incorporate the same feature (I could not find a range finder on the market that did). Overall, I am satisfied with the unit and would recommend it to anyone that wants a waterproof and reliable unit that is loaded with features.