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USGA Distance Study: PGA Tour, PGA of America, Titleist respond

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The USGA and R&A’s annual Distance Report hit the golf mediaverse Monday. Now, responses from other industry powers are following in the report’s wake.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan wrote a letter to PGA Tour players offering his thoughts on the USGA’s findings

“Having carefully reviewed the data, we do not believe the trends indicate a significant or abnormal increase in distance since 2003 or from 2016 to 2017,” the commissioner stated.

Monahan pointed to fluctuations between seasons, increases in clubhead speed and bigger, stronger players.

“While this may seem significant when taken in isolation, it has not been uncommon over the past 15 years to see significant gains or losses. Since 2003, there have been three instances where a significant gain was recorded between years, and five instances where the average decreased. … There is a strong correlation between clubhead speed and the total distance gains seen since 2003. We believe this increase in clubhead speed is mostly attributable to a combination of factors, such as increased player athleticism and fitness, physical build of the player, enhancements in equipment fitting and the proliferation of launch-monitoring capabilities. It is interesting to note that since 2003, the average age of a Tour member has gone down and the average height has gone up.”

Titleist, industry leader in the golf ball space, also issued a response.David Maher, CEO and president of Titleist’s parent company, Acushnet, said:

“In any given year there are variables that impact distance, and any movement as in 2017 is not suddenly indicative of a harmful trend. We continue to believe equipment innovation has benefitted golfers at all levels, and our analysis of the 2017 Distance Report affirms that the USGA and R&A have effective regulations in place to ensure the game’s health and sustainability.”

Titleist points out that removing new venues from the equation, distance gains were only 0.5 yards at the 33 events held at the same courses in 2015-2016 and 2017-2018. In fact, Titleist points out, at 15 of the 33 PGA Tour events contested at the same venue the past two season, distance decreased. The company also highlights the outlier of the more than 20-yard increase at U.S. Open venues (Oakmont in 2016, Erin Hills in 2017).

“A closer look into the numbers in the report underscores the complexity of making any meaningful year-to-year comparison. There were several contributing variables in 2017, including course selection and setup, agronomical conditions and weather, which need to be considered when assessing the data.”

Read Titleist’s full response and research here. 

Per Golf Digest PGA of America CEO, Pete Bevacqua also expressed skepticism.

“Having just received the full report last evening, it is difficult for us at the PGA of America to provide meaningful comments on its content at this time. However, given the recent industry discussions and media reports regarding a potential roll back of the golf ball for all players and/or a segment of elite players, our Board of Directors has discussed this topic at length. Based on the information we have seen, we are highly skeptical that rolling back the golf ball in whole or part will be in the best interests of the sport and our collective efforts to grow the game.’

Bevacqua indicated the PGA of America will poll its nearly 29,000 PGA Pros this week to get their feedback before issuing a full response.

We’ll continue to monitor substantial responses as the debate continues.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. G March

    Mar 8, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    Doesn’t Merion prove a point that you don’t have to limit technology to challenge the pro’s? Look at the finishing scores of the 2013 USOpen. Justin Rose won it with a +1. Course design will keep the bombers under control. If they can bomb it down the middle then all the better. But if they miss the fairway then they should not be able to advance it the way they can. Short rough is not enough of a penalty. Merion was considered a short track and the couch coaches all said they were going the shredd the “short” course. Well it didn’t work out that way did it?
    All the best.
    G

  2. Robert Parsons

    Mar 8, 2018 at 1:27 am

    Put restrictions on the players. Nobody under 35 years old. Must be under 5’10”. Players can not take full backswing. And tees must not stick out of the ground more than 1 inch.

  3. Charlie

    Mar 7, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Why not use Iron Byron to test the balls and the equipment at the same courses (3 should suffice) at the same time (not hard since tournaments generally happen at the same time each year). If the balls and clubs make no difference; why do so many people waste their money upgrading so often? Of course, the tour players are better, stronger and have their clubs custom made for their swings. If the ability of the great players is accentuated to the point that the average golfer can’t feel a relationship between the tour players and themselves, that could be the end of a viable golf industry. I am a member of the USGA but am starting to believe that the relationship to the game is more liked that of the NRA; that is they represent the manufacturers more than the average golfer.

  4. HDTVMAN

    Mar 7, 2018 at 11:20 am

    The USGA reminds me of the NCAA…both need to be replaced! Listening to Hank Haney yesterday on his Sirius/XM show, the USGA is so far out of touch with the game of golf it’s not funny! Don’t they test the balls, clubs, and measure the length of putters??? Oh well, gotta get my feathery, hickory sticks, and this brand new sandy wedge this guy Sarazen is using…got a tee time at 1pm.

  5. Tom54

    Mar 7, 2018 at 11:18 am

    If the golf ball and the clubs are already maxed out to their legal limits then there has to be other factors for the ball to be traveling too long. Players are bigger and stronger than ever. Every course for the events are tried to be firm and fast. That obviously means more roll out on tee balls. Until these great players are shooting 59s every week no need for changes. Every golfer alive realizes there are way too many variables that go into a score in golf. Hitting the ball further is just one factor. If ball is restricted the bombers will still be longer than the rest. That’s their skill, no matter what.

  6. Jeffrey Fish

    Mar 7, 2018 at 11:10 am

    The USGA is trying to craft a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

  7. Chris M.

    Mar 7, 2018 at 9:54 am

    It appears that the USGA is searching for a way
    to remain relevant. They have run Erin Hills up the flag pole and have noted the 20 yard increase in driving distance. Yet, it was the USGA and not any new ball that contributed to distance jump. Some players had complained about the difficulty of Erin Hills during the practice rounds. Suddenly, the. USGA orders that acres and acres of high fescue be mowed to create the widest fairways in all of creation. Then they have the audacity to complain about how far everyone is driving the ball. Disgusting!

  8. 1putt

    Mar 6, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    I am looking in the attic for my black & white tv.. this is the result of great junior programs, extensive high school programs, and a collegiate schedule that provides year round as well as world wide experience.

  9. Robert Najarian

    Mar 6, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    How much are the club manufactures paying for these ignorant replies. The last 40 years they’ve ruined the game of golf. Why don’t we go back to persimmon Woods a lot of balls then tell me what the difference is the game I love has become a joke. Even a sport like baseball that allows its players to use drugs outlawed the aluminum bats why doesn’t golf do the same

    • Dr Insight

      Mar 7, 2018 at 6:23 am

      It’s the fault of technology; the world was of course a much better place before the invention of the wheel let alone the jet engine. Coping with change is something that few of us can actually embrace.

  10. Richard Ramon

    Mar 6, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Golf is like any other sport. Players today are bigger stronger and faster. Get over it little men of the USGA, it’s not the ball.

  11. A T Meeks

    Mar 6, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Meant USGA not PGA.
    Sorry

  12. A T Meeks

    Mar 6, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    Pga reminds me of Hollywood. Out of touch with the real world. They think way too much of themselves.
    LEAVE US ALONE

  13. DD

    Mar 6, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    i dont see where the problem is. There are plenty of tournament courses long enough tough enough. The golden bear doesnt have to build every course to host a tournament especially as hundreds of courses are closed each year. im a 2 cap and a long ball hitter. i rarely play tips and never see anyone else playing tips ever. much less clamoring for longer courses. half the courses i play even the nicer ones dont even have tee markers longer than 6500 out even if they are mowing the 6800….what problem are the trying to fix. Rolling back the ball only for tour player will hurt the pga. no one wants pros playing a different ball. no one will be wowed by their distance anymore. no one will be able to compare their drives to the pros(as i like to) no one will be able to compare their ability to the pros. all of that will be over. They will be completely separating the professional league from the consumer. good luck with that.

    • Richard Ramon

      Mar 6, 2018 at 4:15 pm

      Indeed. Why does the LPGA not attract fans like the PGA? Because good players don’t see shots on the LPGA that they couldn’t hit at one point in their life or another. Dustin Johnson having a yap in for eagle on a 421 yard par 4 is incomprehensible. The USGA has outlived their time. I can’t stand the USGA any more. They Ruin the US Open every year with their egos.

  14. Stump

    Mar 6, 2018 at 10:11 am

    The USGA wants to roll the ball back…now they are using stats that support that position. As Mark Twain said: there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

    • DB

      Mar 6, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Exactly. And if they are including outliers that show 20+ yard increases (due to agronomy – I saw those fairways at the US Open and The Open) then the statistics are pretty much flawed.

  15. Dr Troy

    Mar 6, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Thank you….At least weve got someone with common sense. And I dont mean Mike Davis….

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Morning 9: Spiething again? | Daly requests cart for The Open | Ben Hogan doc coming

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

May 24, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Finau leads, Spieth 1 back at Colonial
AP report…”If Jordan Spieth is going to end a victory drought that’s approaching two years, he picked a good place to give himself a chance.”
  • “Spieth opened with a 5-under 65 at the Charles Schwab Challenge on Thursday in his second Texas homecoming in three weeks — coming off his best finish of the season at the PGA Championship — and trailed Tony Finau by one shot. Roger Sloan joined Spieth in the tie for second.”
  • “Back when he was collecting trophies regularly three years ago, Spieth won on the cozy course made famous by Ben Hogan, and that was between a pair of second-place finishes in Fort Worth. So when it comes to feeling good about his game, Spieth’s in the right place, just a few miles from his hometown of Dallas.”
2. Meanwhile, at Oak Hill
AP report…”Scott Parel took advantage of ideal scoring conditions Thursday morning to shoot a 4-under 66 and take the first-round lead in the weather-delayed Senior PGA Championship.”
  • “The gusting afternoon wind, which buffeted flags and shook hospitality tents across Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course, hadn’t yet fully arrived when Parel closed with birdies on the par-4 17th and 18th. Retief Goosen, Marco Dawson and Ken Tanigawa were a stroke back.”
  • “The round was completed just before 9 p.m., about a half-hour after the sun set, and 14 hours after the first group teed off. The long day was the result of late-morning thunderstorms that caused a delay of 2 hours, 15 minutes.”
3. Bronte!
And another AP report…“Bronte Law chipped in for eagle on the par-5 third hole and shot a 6-under 65 on Thursday for a share of the lead in the Pure Silk Championship with Anna Nordqvist and Jennifer Song.”
  • “Law added a birdie on the par-4 seventh – her 16th hole in a bogey-free round at windy Kingsmill Resort.”
  • ”Started finding myself with a good score. Nothing more to it,” Law said. ”On days like this when it’s windy just got to keep grinding all day, take the chances when they come.”
4. Finau’s grip switch paying dividends…
Tony Finau is in the grips of the claw…
PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister with Finau’s remarks…
  • “It’s something that I’ve kind of been thinking,” said Finau, who entered this week ranked T-100 in Strokes Gained: Putting this season. “It’s an itch I wanted to scratch … To me, it was just perfect time. … If I feel like something is better, I’m not afraid to change, no matter the results.”
  • “In truth, the move to the claw may not be as dramatic as it seemed. Finau said he often has practiced with the claw in order to make sure his left hand is in the proper position.”
  • “I’m left-hand dominant when I roll the stick,” he explained. “I used to putt cross-handed for about five years. Been putting conventionally now for a couple years.
  • “But I just wanted to switch it up. I haven’t been putting great … Standing over the ball, the most important thing is, do you feel like you’re going to make the putt or not? Outside of everything else, do you believe you can make the putt?
5. Strong start for (Edoardo) Molinari…
After 1 in Denmark…
  • “Edoardo Molinari will take a share of the lead into day two of the Made in Denmark presented by FREJA after high winds made scoring tricky in round one at Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort.”
  • “The three time European Tour winner had got to seven under but, as the winds increased, he gave up two late bogeys to sign for a 66 and a share of the lead at five under alongside Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares and English trio Tom Murray, Matthew Southgate and Paul Waring.”
  • “Defending champion Matt Wallace – fresh off finishing third at the US PGA Championship – was in the group at four under, with 46 players within three shots of the lead.”

Full European Tour report.

 

6. Ben Hogan doc
Geoff Shackelford discusses the upcoming Golf Channel documentary about the Hawk…
  • “Producer Israel DeHerrera kindly let me screen parts of Hogan knowing my affinity for all things Ben Hogan and research into the Hawk’s Los Angeles years. All I can say: it’s the film you hoped would be delivered on Hogan’s incredible life and times.”
  • And a bit of the press release…
  • “Hogan (trailer), a two-part biopic on 64-time PGA TOUR winner Ben Hogan chronicles one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history, reflecting on the Texan’s indelible impact on professional golf in spite of a near-fatal automobile accident that put the prime years of his career in serious jeopardy. Coming from humble beginnings, the film examines Hogan’s incredible journey to becoming one of the greatest golfers of all-time, serving as the inspiration for the 1951 motion picture “Follow the Sun”. Being presented with limited commercial interruption by Charles Schwab, Hogan’s two parts – Monday night’s “Perseverance” and Tuesday night’s “Perfection” – will be narrated by Emmy Award-winning actor Kyle Chandler, and be produced for GOLF Films by 13-time Emmy Award winner Israel DeHerrera.”
7. Monahan talks gambling again
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge…
  • “Speaking at the Sports Business Awards Wednesday night, Monahan implied the Tour is working on new gambling developments that will be announced by the end of the year.
  • We’ve spent a lot of time over the last two and a half years clearly understanding all of our options and getting ourselves in a position where we can participate,” Monahan said. “Participate with the right partners, and participate in a way that we think resonates with fans. Without getting in front of it, I think you can expect to hear developments from us in the second half of this year.”
  • “The Tour has been testing an upgraded version of its data system called ShotLink Plus, according to Sport Techie, and Monahan has already announced a deal with IMG Arena to distribute data directly to betting operators.”
8. Daly requests cart for Open
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”After driving his way around Bethpage Black last week, John Daly has submitted another request to use a cart when The Open heads to Royal Portrush this summer.”
  • “Daly petitioned the PGA of America under the Americans with Disabilities Act for the use of a cart at last week’s PGA Championship, citing his ailing right knee. While a similar request for the U.S. Senior Open was denied last summer by the USGA, he was approved by the PGA and used a cart en route to rounds of 75-76 and a missed cut on Long Island.”
  • “We have received a request from John Daly to use a buggy at The Open, and it is currently under consideration,” said an R&A spokesperson.
9. Heckuva putting performance
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers points out that…“Starting on Colonial’s back nine, Spieth was four under through eight holes before a double bogey on No. 18. But while big numbers have been derailing the 25-year-old Texan all season, he rallied to make four more birdies (against one bogey) on the back nine, including one on his final hole after knocking an approach shot to six feet on the par-4 ninth.
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Tony Finau goes to the claw grip; fires a 64 to take the early lead at Colonial CC

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Tony Finau tied his lowest round of the year on Thursday at the Charles Schwab Challenge, and the impressive opening was fueled by a move to the claw grip on the greens.

Finau’s 64 has put him on top of the leaderboard after day one at Colonial Country Club, and after his opening round, Finau explained to reporters the reason behind the change-up on the greens this week, stating

“I just wanted to switch it up. I haven’t been putting great I feel like, and standing over the ball the most important thing is do you feel like you’re going to make the putt or not. Outside of everything else, do you believe you can make the putt? So for me, I needed to switch something.”

The switch proved very effective on Thursday, as Finau gained over three strokes on the greens on a day where the American managed to hit just three fairways in total.

Finau previously used the cross-hand technique on the greens earlier in his career for a period of five years, but this is the first time the 29-year-old has made the change to the claw grip in tournament action despite using the technique at times on the practice green.

Sitting T100 for strokes gained: putting this season, Finau told the media on Thursday that the time was right for a change this week at Colonial CC, saying

“But I just wanted to switch it up. I haven’t been putting great. I needed to switch something. Decided to try the claw today and it worked out. If I feel like something is better, I’m not afraid to change no matter the results. I’ve been playing OK. I feel like it was just time. Like I said, I think it was just time to scratch that itch and see how it goes.”

Finau begins his second round of the Charles Schwab Challenge today at 12.44 PM ET alongside Brian Harmon and Patton Kizzire.

 

 

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Morning 9: What clubs would a mid-handicap hit at a major? | NCAA Women’s champs | Marty Jertson speaks

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

May 23, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. What clubs would a mid-handicap hit at a major?
Cool stuff from Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson…
  • “A USGA study once suggested that average golfers only hit the green from the rough 13 percent of the time. But that was data collected at a resort course, not major championship rough. It’s probably safe to say that the average chopper would never hit the green from the rough at any distance that required a full swing. Indeed, Cobra Connect’s data from Arccos shows that an Average Joe hits the green only a third of the time with only his 8- and 9-iron and his wedges, clubs he’d only be using on Bethpage Black’s two par 5s. Maybe.”
  • “In fact, according to the numbers, he would only hit the green on about one in four chances with his 6- and 7-irons, one in six chances with his 5-iron, one in eight chances with his 4-iron and just one in 10 chances with a 3-hybrid. And about that 3-wood? According to the numbers, the average golfer’s GIR percentage with that club, as they say, has no grade point average.”
  • “All of those missed greens (and the attendant tragic golf despair and perhaps some measure of physical injury) then would be compounded further by plenty of around-the-green misadventures and misplays. Arccos data suggests the average 15-handicap gets up and down less than one in five times. Furthering this ugliness would be all those 3-putts, which Arccos data suggests might happen on at least four holes a round, particularly at major championship speeds.”
An example of the calculations…
1st hole, par 4, 430 yards
Koepka: Driver, half-lob wedge
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood
2nd hole, par 4, 389 yards
Koepka: 4-iron, gap wedge
Average Joe: Driver, 6-iron
2. NCAA Women’s champs
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard with the report…“For the seventh time in program history, Duke is the 2019 NCAA Div. I Women’s Golf National Champion after defeating Wake Forest 3-2 in an all-ACC final match at Blessings Golf Club.”
  • “I couldn’t feel more proud than I do right now,” said Duke head coach Dan Brooks. “We’ve had a tough team all year long and they were tough this week.”
  • “It was Duke’s anchor, Ana Belac, who put the first point on the board in the national championship match. The Blue Devil junior defeated Wake Forest freshman Vanessa Knecht 5&3 to give Duke the early lead.”
3. A confident Spieth following PGA
Golfweek’s Steve Dimeglio…”His history bodes well as Spieth seeks his 12th PGA Tour title. And his solid performance in last week’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black restored some much sought after confidence and has him energized at Colonial.”
  • “This is the best I’ve felt in quite a while. I’m very happy,” Spieth said after he tied for third in the PGA Championship, six shots behind victor Brooks Koepka.
  • “…But on a course that favored bangers like Koepka and fellow Bash Brother Dustin Johnson, who finished second, Spieth rode four days of strong putting and worthy iron play to get into contention on the weekend.”
  • “I knew that it was unlikely on this golf course that I was going to have a chance to win, and that’s a humbling feeling for me,” Spieth said. “But I knew that if I played the course the right way, had the right mentality, kept putting the way I’ve been putting, that I would be in it and having a chance to make some noise.
4. Oak Hill weather
AP Report…“It didn’t take long for Jay Haas to be reminded of how gusting winds can wreak havoc on players attempting to navigate the narrow fairways of Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course.”
  • ‘”Got here on Sunday night and played nine holes Monday, and it was blowing, what, 25, 30 (miles per hour),” Haas said with a laugh Wednesday, a day before the Senior PGA Championship opens.’
  • “In some ways, the 65-year-old’s experience was no different than his previous visit to the Rochester suburbs 11 years ago. That’s when Haas overcame frigid conditions, heavy wind gusts and a one-stroke final-round deficit to finish with a 7-over 287 and win his second Senior PGA title.”
5. Johnny’s back
Our Gianni Magliocco...”Johnny Miller is back sharing his opinions on the game on Callaway’s new podcast: Real Golf Talk, which aired its first episode today (listen here on Soundcloud).”
  • “The longtime NBC golf announcer retired from broadcasting earlier this year, but Miller now features alongside avid golfer and television host Chris Harrison on the podcast, which will air six episodes in 2019 and eight in future seasons.”
6. Marty speaks!
Good stuff from PGATour.com’s Andrew Tursky talking with Ping’s (now legendary?) Marty Jertson…
  • Tursky: “Can you describe how tough the conditions were on the weekend, and put those weekend rounds into perspective? Like, what would say a 5-handicap shoot out there?”
  • Jertson: “Oh man. My caddie and I were talking about that a lot… ‘What would a scratch golfer shoot? What would a 5-handicap shoot out there?’ Let me put it this way: We had a hard time finding the golf balls in the rough with an army of spotters. So if you played by the real rules of golf where you had 3 minutes to look for your golf ball and you put a 5-handicapper out there, no joke I think they would shoot – if they followed the textbook rules – they would shoot 120 or more, because they would be losing so many golf balls in the rough and you only have 3 minutes to find it. Yeah, it was brutal. The ultimate test of precision and accuracy in terms of… you had to hit it both long and straight. You couldn’t do one or the other. You had to have both. That’s why I think some of the commentators and whatnot really like that style of golf.”
7. GolfWRX chats with Ryan Palmer
JN: Do you have a home field advantage here at Colonial?
RP: To a point, I guess. Obviously, I have played this golf course in every type of wind. I mean, I know certain holes play shorter than they are. So, a little bit of an advantage because I don’t put much stress into the golf course itself. I just know it. And of course, James, my caddie, knows it. And that is nice. But I do put more pressure on myself because I want to play well here
  • JN: What are your thoughts on not having a full bag club sponsorship?
  • RP: It is just a matter of playing with what I like. When I first got on tour, you would sign a full deal and it was pretty good. Now you are signing for balls and all 14 clubs. I love the Taylor Made driver but they cut out the driver only deals. They went just full line. Fortunately, with the help of Mike Chisholm and Chisholm Sports, I have some great corporate partners. United Rentals, a great deal with Unisys, RBC. I am able to have these corporate sponsors allow me to play what I want. I made some comments like ‘two hundred grand is not worth an equipment contract on tour because of what you can make that week.’
  • So, I got ribbed a little bit for making that comment but honestly it is not worth it in today’s game. We play for so much money now each and every week that by the time you get a $200,000 deal, you’re paying taxes and management, at the end of the day its worth a top 20-finish. And then you have to play those clubs all year long, whether you like them or not. So now I can play whatever putter or iron or driver I want. I am only under contract with ball, shoes and gloves. Footjoy and Titleist. I test and I tinker now and then but I always go back to what I have performed with in the past. I stand over a tee shot and I think, I know I hit this driver this way at this tournament at this particular moment. Why would I change?
8. Why it was great: Bridgestone’s J33R driver
For your viewing pleasure, a new video series from GolfWRX in general and equipment expert Ryan Barath in particular.
  • This video series breaks down why certain clubs maintain such a cult following, and what made them so popular to begin with.
  • The first club in this series is the Bridgestone J33R – a driver from 2005 that was both hard to find and extremely sought after. Ryan Barath breaks down some of the design attributes that still makes this a great club today.
9. Golf jokes!
Mark Townsend at National Club Golfer rounds up some of the worst…
Best golf jokes: Caddiesmack
  • A golfer walks off the 18th green, hands his putter to his caddie and says, “Kid, you’ve got to be the worst caddie in the world.”
  • The caddie replies: “Sir, that would be too much of a coincidence.”
  • Verdict: Not bad and a punchline that most of us weren’t expecting. Quick and to the point though how you’re going to bring this one to the table is anyone’s guess.
Best golf jokes: Clucking mad
  • A golfer sliced a ball into a field of chickens, striking one of the hens and killing it instantly. He was understandably upset, and sought out the farmer. “I’m sorry,” he said, “my terrible tee shot hit one of your hens and killed it. Can I replace the hen?”
  • “I don’t know about that,” replied the farmer, mulling it over. “How many eggs a day do you lay?”
  • Verdict: Better and unlike many of its golfing jokey contemporaries the punchline can’t be said to yourself about a third of the way in. Quite quirky for a golf joke and, told in the right manner, might be worth using.
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