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Opinion & Analysis

WATCH: Gary Player hilariously criticizes players using green-reading books



Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player held a dual press conference at The Masters and addressed a number of issues. It’s all a must-watch, and you can watch the full video here, but skip to 23:54 for the real entertainment. Asked about 9-hole golf courses and how golf takes too long, Player took that moment to rip on pro golfers for using green-reading books. It’s a bit get-off-my-lawn-esque, but it’s hilarious and he makes some great points.

“I’m flabbergasted,” Player said. “I’m not gonna criticize it, but I find it hard to understand when you have in a tournament, I see these guys bringing out a book when they get on the green to look where to putt. Really I find this very hard to understand. I and Jack have played many golf courses and exhibitions that we never played the golf course before we broke the course record. I go to a golf course, you can put me on any golf course in the world, I can read the putt as well as if I played it ten times. I’m a professional golfer, this is something I’ve got to be able to do.”

A fair point from a 9-time major champion.

“When I go to a golf tournament and you see guys having three practice rounds, then they play two rounds, that’s five rounds on a golf course,” Player continued. “Now they’re playing in the tournament and they look at the book where to putt. But I’m not gonna criticize it.”

No. No he’s not going to criticize it at all. Hah!

Jack, how do you feel about green-reading books?

“I think you’re absolutely dead right,” Nicklaus agreed. “I think it’s absolutely absurd. You’ve gotta swing coach, a mental coach, a chef, a pilot. You got everything. And now you’ve gotta book to tell you how to do it. And it’s also done by somebody who can’t break 90.”

Jack, the 18-time major champion, also used this opportunity to get a bit sentimental about the game.

“To me the game of golf is learning how to play the game and be responsible for everything you do. That’s the fun of it. It’s fun to learn how to putt greens, it’s fun to learn how to play clubs.”

Ultimately, however, Jack admitted he’d probably do the same thing.

“That said, if it were all given to me back when I started in 1962 on the tour, I probably would have done exactly the same thing.”

What do you think about green-reading books?

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Andrew Tursky is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX. He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.



  1. Mat

    Apr 8, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    You can’t have a compass on the course, but you can have a green reading book? Ya, they’re handy. It’s good to have. But as a consideration for speed of play, they’re hideous. I would much rather give caddies nothing but a laser, and prohibit the use of lasers when the ball is on the green. I’m all for the science-data stuff, but part of having a game is to make pros be pros. Yardage books are fine on Wednesday.

  2. Rich Douglas

    Apr 7, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Shall we ban yardage books? Distance markers? Laser rangefinders?

    Is judging break and judging distance all that different?

    I’m in favor of them, as long as they don’t slow play. But….they will. The same chops who used to plumb-bob putts–and have no idea what to do with what they MIGHT have been seeing–will stare at a line indicated by the book and not be able to translate that into results, either because they can’t use the information or they have lousy putting skills.

    But the real culprit here is slow play, and this will feed it. How many times in a round do you see people who’s turn it is not be ready? They find out they’re away–usually by being told–and THEN they go into their pre-shot routines. And what routines they are! Two or three practice swings–none of which will resemble the actual hack at the ball–coupled with checking the wind, interminable waggling, and a slice into the woods. (That they won’t watch, so finding their ball will be a chore.) Now we’re giving these guys something to read on the greens? Oh, the humanity!

  3. Bob Parson Jr.

    Apr 7, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    This is even more egregious when I see 20 handicappers using yardage books for everything, bah!

  4. Tom Duckworth

    Apr 7, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    I can see using the books for practice rounds but taking them away for the tournament.
    I have never used one but if I was playing in a club championship and I didn’t have one and others players did that would be unfair. So everyone should be given a book or nobody should have them reading greens is part of the skill in golf it separates OK players from very good players. It has nothing to do with longing for the old days it is part of the game a skill you work on and get better at just like driving or learning how to hit a fade or draw.

  5. Bob Parson Jr.

    Apr 7, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Rightly so! I’m tired of 7 hour rounds for professionals.

  6. Justin

    Apr 7, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    They should be for practice rounds ONLY, just as electronic distance devices. And when it comes to amateurs I can tell you I walked off the course DQ my self just last week because playing in a men’s club weekly 18 two of the guys in my group had a new greens book and were taking all day to putt and after 10 holes of that I gave up. I do not know about the rest of you but when it comes to men’s clubs and the importance of putting to a 25 handicapper and the 5 handicapper that thinks he should be on tour 5+ hour rounds are the pitts….

  7. acew/7iron

    Apr 7, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Could not agree more with Player & Jack

    How the open use of cheat books ever got by the rules of golf police I will never know except to say holing putts creates TV drama while missing them puts viewers in surf mode. My only guess is that to help the player make that 4,6,8,10,? footer they allow the use of a road map to the hole.

    I see so many avg Joes miss short putts due to a miss-read and I think…If only the would have had the contour map like Dustin & Jordan they could have at least missed on the high side.

  8. CrashTestDummy

    Apr 6, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    I agree with them. There shouldn’t be green reading books. It should be up to the player to read the greens during play and/or do the homework on the practice rounds to make notations on how the green breaks. Green reading is a skill that should be necessary in competition.

  9. Tyler Durden

    Apr 6, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Im sure gary would like to go back to flying on 1950’s commercial airliners or have to take an ocean liner to cross the atlantic.

    • ogo

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:47 pm

      He’s just being open and transparent.. like Trump …. :-O

  10. A. Commoner

    Apr 6, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Simply stated: the use of green reading books stinks.

  11. G. Mangum

    Apr 6, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    Here’s my considered opinion on green-reading books:

    • ogo

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      That sez it all. Geff knows what he is talking about. However the tour pros want to look good because they are mainly shilling equipment and golf junk to the gullible masses. And that’s why the fairways are shaved and not watered in the landing areas.. so the ball rolls 50+ yards further.

  12. rymail00

    Apr 6, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Am I the only one shocked to see Jack playing the new and current TM ball during the Par 3 Contest, and not a Titleist Professional 90 or Balata? Being so against how far the ball goes today I figured he would lead the way in the “Ball Rollback” by taking the lead by showing golf is still fun for even older guys who don’t hit anywhere like they used too….seems almost hypocritical to play possibly one of the longest balls out today even on a par 3 course.

    But what I do know…?

  13. Simms

    Apr 6, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    And Gary how about the laugh about $500 plus drivers being fit so amateurs can play better when Pros cannot hit a fairway with custom versions of the same driver…

    • ogo

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:48 pm

      The ams just want to feeel what the pros feeeel… and they love owning colorful toys..

  14. Patricknorm

    Apr 6, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    The other day I watched the 1975 final round of the Masters on YouTube. Jack Nicklaus ended up winning ahead of Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf. What stood out more than anything , and I remembered this quite clearly, was how long and deliberate Nicklaus was over every shot. But his freezing over every putt was epic. I realize that Nicklaus too many is the greatest golfer, but if he played today people would be critical of his putting routine. Ironically giving Nicklaus a green reading book may have sped his putting routine. Who knows though.

  15. wyomick

    Apr 6, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    They’re right. And amateurs mimick the pros. It’s taking all the feel out of the game. Learn to feel with your feet, use your putter for a plumb bob to get the general lay of the land if you must, pick a spot in front of your ball, and HIT THE DAMN BALL TOWARD THE HOLE.

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Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf



Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal



In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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TG2: What’s the most annoying breach of golf etiquette?



What’s the one breach of golf etiquette that gets under your skin more than anything else? Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what drives them crazy. Also, Knudson talks about his first round with new irons and a new shaft in his driver.

Follow @tg2wrx on Instagram to enter the Bettinardi inovai 5.0 center-shaft putter giveaway.

Listen to the full podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole