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This position paper is one of Arnold Palmer’s most important contributions to the future of golf

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There are no shortage of excellent remembrances of Arnold Palmer on this the first anniversary of his passing. Viewing Palmer’s life and legacy through the lens of equipment, there’s enough to fill a multi-volume work.

However, an episode in 2000 and 2001, Palmer’s endorsement of the non-conforming Callaway ERC II for recreational play (and the ensuing furor), is too often swept under the rug. The King’s acknowledgment of realities the USGA and others resist remains as important today as it was 17 years ago.

In discussing whether the ERC II, with its taboo COR numbers, should be played by non-competitive golfers, Palmer pointed out the elephant in the USGA Handicap room

“For many, many years’ golfers have been establishing handicaps based upon scores achieved in recreational rounds of golf where the Rules of Golf have not been strictly followed.”

He also looks declining participation in the face. And although Palmer stopped short of calling for bifurcation, this blistering passage from a position paper he wrote for the Golf Channel remains spot on and is worth quoting at length.

“It has been said that I have played more rounds of golf with mid to high handicap golfers than any golf professional in history. I suspect this is true. Over the years I have played in thousands of pro-ams, competed in the Bay Hill Shoot Out with amateurs of all skill levels two or three times a week for many years, and have played in countless outings with my corporate sponsors, such as Pennzoil, Cooper Tire, and Verizon, and their customers.

“From this exposure to so many golfers of all skill levels over such a long period of time, it is to me an incontestable fact that there are two quite different games of golf being played in the United States and, for that matter, throughout the world. In this regard it is important to note that research shows only 14% of U.S. golfers shoot 85 or below, 44% shoot between 85 and 100, and 42% shoot over 100!

“Among most amateur golfers, particularly those who shoot 90 or above, it is common practice to avoid stringent enforcement of the rules in the interest of making the game more enjoyable to play. Mulligans, ‘hit `til you’re happy’, ‘gimme’ putts, preferred lies, and ignoring the stroke-and-distance rule are common everyday practices at municipal courses and, indeed, at most country clubs everywhere.

“I view the use of the ERC II in recreational play as no different than any of these other infractions of the rules that are routinely accepted in recreational play. Indeed, it seems to me that it is less objectionable inasmuch as it simply gives a player a chance to drive the ball farther and doesn’t necessarily guarantee a lower score on the hole. The player still must get the ball to the green and into the hole. On the other hand, mulligans and gimmes are, by their very nature, stroke savers.

“It is useful and important to remind ourselves of the genesis of the concern that the golf ball is traveling too far. Professional golfers were reaching such prodigious lengths that there was a growing concern that many historically great tournament golf courses could become obsolete. This is a legitimate concern, but its relevance to the use of a non-conforming driver by any golfer is remote at best. First of all, if there is any problem with extra distance off the tee, it relates to professional golfers only. Secondly, the lengths which these professional players are hitting the ball is not confined to the driver, but applies to all other clubs in the bags as well.

“And, finally, there are other reasons for this increased length beyond technological improvements in clubs. Principal among these are the technology of the golf ball and the superb physical condition of today’s professional golfers and today’s courses. The bottom line on this is that there are very, very few, if any, amateur players who pose any serious threat to the obsolescence of any golf course anywhere.”

The USGA, on the other hand, argues that any round where a player is keeping score is “competitive.” It follows, then, that they expect the Rules of Golf are followed to the letter of the law in all posted scores. This is insane. Palmer’s position was one of sense in the face of ivory tower lunacy. It remains so.

Palmer never faltered from his initial endorsement of the ERC II for recreational use. In wrapping up the position paper, Palmer wrote.

“ I approve of the ERC II for recreational/leisure play. I do not do this for money or for any reason other than my lifelong interest and love of the game. At a time when the game is not growing, when there are more former golfers than active golfers, it seems clear to me that everyone who loves the game and wants to see it grow must support reasonable efforts to make the game more enjoyable, more fun.”

Again, Palmer was right on the mark then. He based his opinion on a both a bounty of first-hand experience and respect for the game. Non-conforming drivers didn’t catch on, but the soundness of his argument means the King continues to speak to us as we debate imposed limits, the distance of the golf ball, participation, the Rules of Golf, etc, after his passing.

The full text is well worth a read as you remember Mr. Palmer today. And if you’d like a refresher on the ERC II issue, this CNN Money article from 2001 outlines things nicely.

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19th Hole

The 6 best #GolfWRX photos on Instagram today (4.23.19)

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In this segment, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best #GolfWRX tagged photos on Instagram. In case you aren’t already, there’s a whole load of action going on at our page, so follow us: @golfwrx

Let’s get to it then, here are six of the best #GolfWRX photos from the past 24 hours.

A custom TeI3 Newport from Embrace Putters.

Airstrike headcovers from Bettinardi Golf are hitting the Hive this Thursday.

While these flat-sticks from Bettinardi look very impressive.

It wasn’t just the Egg Cover that the guys over at Swag were busy creating for this Easter.

How about this creation from National Custom Works, exciting or scary?

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The perfect amount of exciting & scary.

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Love the coloring of these putter covers from MLA Golf that will be released this summer.

Get hashtagging your golf posts #GolfWRX for your chance to feature in our best of Instagram posts in the future!

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19th Hole

Former caddie Steve Williams raves about Tiger Woods’ victory at the 2019 Masters

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Tiger Woods’ ex-caddie, Steve Williams, has spoken in glowing terms concerning the 43-year-old’s latest victory at the Masters, a win which Williams believes will “re-energize” the sport.

The New Zealander, who was speaking to ESPN’S Bob Harig, admitted that though he doesn’t watch the sport regularly on TV anymore, he made an exception last weekend, and feels how his former boss’ victory at Augusta National will do wonders for the game.

“Now that Tiger has come right back there again, winning a major championship, possibly putting Jack’s (Nicklaus) record in play again … it just re-energizes the game . . .  It’s absolutely awesome.

He’s the only guy who can energize the game like that. All those kids who were watching had to think it was fantastic. And so what he’s done is a remarkable achievement. It’s so positive.”

Though Williams and Woods’ high profile split in 2011 was less than amicable, Williams credited the 15-time major champion’s “amazing achievement” in coming back from the point where he was on the verge of retiring to claim his fifth green jacket down to “pure guts and hard work.”

“Given the fact that two years ago he stated that he was unlikely to play competitive golf again, or was seriously doubting it – he wouldn’t just say that in jest, There would have been a lot of truth to it. For him to actually come back full cycle to win a major championship… it’s just an incredible story.

 It’s an amazing achievement of pure guts and hard work for him and just a true indication of what he is made of. It proves again what an amazing athlete he is. It’s just an amazing achievement.”

Williams also believes that the passing of golfing legend Arnold Palmer in 2016 had a significant impact on Woods, and while writing for the Australian site The Players Voice, the New Zealander stated

“I’m thinking that when Arnold passed away there was a realisation in Tiger that golf had lost a guy who was the most popular player ever. It was about a year after Arnold died that Tiger started his comeback after his back surgery and I think he may have decided that with his second chance he wanted to be remembered the way Arnold was remembered. I do think the passing of Arnie had a change in that respect.”

Steve Williams caddied for Woods between 1999 and 2011 and was on the 43-year-old’s bag for 13 of his 15 major championship victories.

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19th Hole

Couple to name son after Tiger Woods after husband wins a bet with his wife

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Tiger Woods’ victory at last week’s Masters had a significant impact in the sporting world, and its meaning will forever be remembered in the household of a Dallas couple who are set to name their child after the 15-time major champion.

Trey Little, a lifelong golf fan, drew up a contract the week of the tournament (as you do), which stated that “If Tiger Woods wins the Masters this week, I (father) get to have the option of naming our son (coming September 2019) Tiger Little.” which his wife, Denise, signed.

Speaking to the NY Post, Little talked about the reaction of his wife and himself when they realized that Woods was about to win the event last Sunday.

“On hole 18, we realized, ‘Wow, he’s really going to pull this thing off. This whole thing started almost as a joke, then it turned into something really real, really quick.”

The name may not be the easiest to live up to, but with the child’s middle name to be Julian, Trey has all the bases covered, joking “He could always go by T.J.”

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