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Opinion & Analysis

Our obsession with par is killing the game

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Remember that time you played great and burst into the 19th hole and slammed that scorecard down, bragging to your friends: “I FINALLY broke 8-over par!” No? Me either. Because that’s not how we play golf; we care about total score.

Match play? My 5 beats your 6. The par on that hole is immaterial. The $2 Nassau bet? My front, back, and totals versus yours. Whether the course is a par-70 or par-71, still immaterial. None of what you or I do on a course is related to “par.” We live and die by total score. So why is golf so obsessed with par these days? The par obsession has got the Golf Brass all out of shape, because the long-ball means par is under fire (or the du-jour thing: “shot values” need to be saved).

Par, as is told, comes from the idea of measuring. That’s our giant homo sapien brain doing what it does best: cataloging, organizing, resource counting. The history of golf says it came from estimating/measuring how many strokes it would take to win a tournament, Old Tom winning at 2 “under par” at Prestwick. From here, it evolved into how many shots a “scratch” player would be expected to take on a certain hole, based on its distance. Measuring, counting; our brains liked that.

But that doesn’t mean we play differently, does it? We all just want to shoot LOW. Mark Broadie is doing wonderful things with the strokes-gained metrics he’s measuring. One item stands out from an earlier article of his: this idea that the easiest hole is usually a par 5 with the field averaging 4-point something. Excuse me, but any hole averaging close to 5 shots is ALWAYS harder than the hole that averages 2-point something. Period. You don’t get paid for pars, you only get paid for the lowest total score. Only when you shoehorn the word “par” into the conversation does stroke average equate to holes being seen differently (hard/easy).

We can blame Augusta National a bit here. The Masters switched its TV coverage to report scores to under/over par and the golf world has fallen in line. Was math too scary? I mean, we still track it, still report it as a total. But what gets the headline, often, is this over/under total. It’s created some problems. Now a membership feels shame if its track gets torched “under par” by the Tour (we better make it longer!). The USGA is all kinds of bent out shape about in its championships: Gotta protect par! (kill the ball!).

It would not be a bad thing to rewind the clock a bit. Go back to reporting total score the way most of us think, write and brag anyway. Don’t worry; you can still print your scorecards with “par” on it. We can still report which shot they’re playing at the moment. We can still show the leaderboard, keeping the player’s position on it intact. We might just have to do some math (try to breathe).

Then the USGA and Augusta can go back to breathing normally, too. Their target score could still be 284 or whatever. It would become immaterial how they get there. A “par-5” being changed to a “par-4”? No big deal, we’re still protecting our 284. Maybe, just maybe, you kill the “par-5” entirely for Tour play. They could create/manipulate the course to defend that total without the shame of reporting a whatever-under-par that sounds so scary to them. We could just crown the guy who shot 275 and move on. We can still get that info if we decide we care about it. “Wow! 20 under par. Who wants tacos?”

Meanwhile, stay tuned for my new instructional series: “Breaking 28/18/8-over par!”

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A married father of 3 daughters (who cheer competitively, pray for me), Chris routinely takes his life in his hands by asking his wife to play golf all over Indiana. Deftly chiseling his handicap down from 18 to 8 in just 20 short years, his dedication to being a first-class golf nerd comes full circle as he documents the far reaches of his brain in printed word. He spends most days fiendishly plotting to replace Matt Ginella. If you're playing in the Indy area and a man wearing pink golf pants and chomping on a cigar is describing a golf bet so complicated only he can win it, tell my wife I'll be home in an hour.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. nyguy

    Jul 31, 2018 at 8:36 am

    dumbest argument ever… It’s like saying, scoring runs in baseball is ruining the game, or the pitchers pitch too fast, it’s ruining the game..

    PAR is the challenge in golf. If you don’t like par, then go to the driving range…jeesh

    • Gerald Teigrob

      Aug 1, 2018 at 2:04 pm

      Seriously? So you find that you are too religious about par that you can’t enjoy golf? Par is often the score I tend to throw my game over and to determine where my game is at. I can be playing bogey and double-bogey golf and that is immaterial. Oh I didn’t shoot par. But I drove the ball down the middle 250 yards or so. I had a number of bogeys and double-bogeys. I kind of like par being whatever I shoot! Par is only important in tournaments. But even then. who needs to be so focused on getting a damn par that they forget to enjoy the game! Enough pros have anger management issues over missing par. Let’s make it fun so we can grow the game instead of being so rigid and fixated on par! I am hoping to shoot in the 80s for 18 holes soon enough but life is too short to be so focused on rigidity in golf! Just ask the family of Jarrod Lyle how much more important enjoying life is while he prepares to have his final good byes!

  2. Wiger Toods

    Jul 31, 2018 at 6:11 am

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    I don’t want it moderated. I’d like to say it how I feel…

    • Wiger Toods

      Jul 31, 2018 at 6:12 am

      Apparently, you didn’t like the other thing I said…? Apparently being critical isn’t working?

      • Christopher Brooks

        Jul 31, 2018 at 11:33 am

        Apparently you think I’m the moderator; I am not.

        • Wiger Toods

          Jul 31, 2018 at 3:39 pm

          I had no such thought, but just like the article, you are way off base again.

      • commoner

        Jul 31, 2018 at 6:23 pm

        You need to understand if a ‘shadow’ feels your comments are objectionable he must bury them in the interest of saving mankind.

  3. TP

    Jul 31, 2018 at 2:28 am

    I want to break Par, on every hole, is why I play this game. What’s wrong with a birdie on every hole. Nobody has done it, and I love the challenge. Otherwise there is no point in playing this game. You picked the wrong game. And doomed your kids as you taught them that not going for a goal is OK. I feel sorry for them.

  4. commoner

    Jul 30, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    To call this blather is way too complimentary. The author’s primary concern should be an alias or pen name.

  5. Joe

    Jul 30, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    I don’t get it…

    • Gerald Teigrob

      Aug 1, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      What don’t you get? Would you rather be a scoring machine with anger issues if you don’t shoot par or better, or would you rather accept your game as improving while not feeling the need or pressure to shoot par or better on every hole? We are trying to grow the game! How can we grow this great game if we continue to keep to standards that only the top players can achieve…and the rest of us can aspire to?

  6. Ron

    Jul 30, 2018 at 11:57 am

    What a waste of 5 minutes reading this.

  7. Thomas A

    Jul 30, 2018 at 11:04 am

    The only thing I agree with is that we need to play more match play. I think at least here in the USA we are obsessed with handicap, and people won’t play matches because they can’t record their stroke play (or feel that they can’t). And if you didn’t record your GHIN, then did you really play golf? PGA Tour should have at least 4 match play tournaments, not counting the WGC.

  8. chris

    Jul 30, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Short answer. No it isn’t killing it. If you are a true golfer its hard to believe you really feel like this. It sounds more like you are looking for an attention grabbing headline to get your clicks up.

  9. Tim J

    Jul 30, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Nothing is killing the game. The game is fine. Par, total score, who cares.

    This is like discussing what material hockey nets should be made out of. It really doesn’t matter man.

  10. BDeC

    Jul 30, 2018 at 1:51 am

    I see no real golfers comment here. You must all suck

  11. Dave Pustizzi

    Jul 29, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Par is the game the miscommunication comes when you forget that is you against the course and not you against the leader board

  12. Brandon

    Jul 29, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    A man does not ask his wife if he can play golf, a man tells his wife he is playing golf. If she has a problem with it, she isn’t a keeper anyway.

  13. Graeme

    Jul 29, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    Jimenez wins the Senior open and still nothing. Even golf.com were before you guys! What’s up?

  14. Lovejoy

    Jul 29, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    Another meaningless piece of fluff.

  15. Hawkeye77

    Jul 29, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    It’s like the author just discovered this yesterday? Killing the game? LOL, that’s silly and I missed the examples and evidence of that. Golfers have always been aware of par, some fuss over it, some don’t. Not sure what I just read, but it was pretty superficial.

  16. iutodd

    Jul 29, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Watching golf and playing golf are two different things. I’m obsessed with par because my goal last summer was to break 80. So making par on as many holes as possible is pretty darn important. I shot 79 finally and it felt great. Individuals set their own goals and think about them however they need to think about them.

    But I can still watch the Canadian Open and enjoy it whether they report that the lead is 199 or -17.

    And how would we track the leaderboard in the middle of the round exactly? Golf is a TV sport and a second screen sport – if a golfer is at 42 strokes through 11 holes…where is he at on the leaderboard compared to a golfer who is at 13 strokes through 4 holes? And having golfers start on 1 and 10….I can do math but…like…would we just list names with no score next to them? At the completion of the round things get easy – but certainly DURING the round it’s a lot easier to track things by using + or – numbers. I just don’t know how that would work exactly – how would the announcers compare players throughout the coverage?

    • Christian

      Jul 30, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      average strokes per hole?

      • Scott

        Jul 30, 2018 at 1:32 pm

        Average stokes per hole? LOL . That would be like watching a stock ticker.

  17. Travis

    Jul 29, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Interesting article, but our game is based on a score and over/under par is part of that. You can ignore it or downplay the significance but it’s still the core of the game…

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Opinion & Analysis

How important is playing time in college if a player wants to turn pro?

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One of the great debates among junior golfers, parents and swing coaches is what is the most crucial factor in making the college decision. My experience tells me that many students would answer this question with a variation of coaching, facilities and of course academics (especially if their parents are present).

I would agree that all three are important, but I wanted to explore the data behind what I think is an often overlooked but critical part of the process; playing time. For this article, I examined players under 25 who made the PGA tour and played college golf to see what percent of events they participated in during their college career. In total I identified 27 players and through a combination of the internet, as well as conversations with their college coaches, here are the numbers which represent my best guess of their playing time in college:

Player Percent of Events

  • Justin Thomas 100%
  • Rickie Folwer 100%
  • Xander Schauffele 100%
  • Bryson DeChambeau 100%
  • Jon Rahm 100%
  • Patrick Reed 91%
  • Jordan Speith 100%
  • Beau Hossler 100%
  • Billy Horschel 100%
  • Aaron Wise 100%
  • Daniel Berger 100%
  • Thomas Pieters 95%
  • Ryan Moore 100%
  • Kevin Tway 98%
  • Scott Langley 95%
  • Russell Hendley 100%
  • Kevin Chappell 96%
  • Harris English 96%
  • JB Holmes 100%
  • Abraham Ancer 97%
  • Kramer Hicock 65%
  • Adam Svensson 100%
  • Sam Burns 100%
  • Cameron Champ 71%
  • Wydham Clark 71%
  • Hank Lebioda 100%
  • Sebastian Munoz 66%

Average: 94%

Please note that further research into the numbers demonstrate that players like Pieters, Munoz, Clark, Reed, Hicock, Langely, Reed and Champ all played virtually all events for their last two years.

This data clearly demonstrates that players likely to make a quick transition (less than 3 years) from college to the PGA tour are likely to play basically all the events in college. Not only are these players getting starts in college, but they are also learning how to win; the list includes 7 individual NCAA champions (Adam Svensson, Aaron Wise, Ryan Moore and Thomas Pieters, Scott Langley, Kevin Chappell, and Bryson DeChambeau), as well 5 NCAA team champion members (Justin Thomas, Jordan Speith, Beau Hossler, Patrick Reed, Abraham Ancer and Wydham Clack) and 2 US Amateur Champs (Bryson DeChambeau and Ryan Moore).

As you dig further into the data, you will see something unique; while there are several elite junior golfers on the list, like Speith and Thomas who played in PGA tour events as teenagers, the list also has several players who were not necessarily highly recruited. For example, Abraham Ancer played a year of junior college before spending three years at the University of Oklahoma. Likewise, Aaron Wise, Kramer Hickok and JB Holmes may have been extremely talented and skillful, but they were not necessarily top prospects coming out of high school.

Does this mean that playing time must be a consideration? No, there are for sure players who have matriculated to the PGA Tour who have either not played much in college. However, it is likely that they will make the PGA tour closer to 30 years of age. Although the difference between making the tour at 25 and 30 is only 5 years, I must speculate that the margin for failure grows exponentially as players age, making the difference mathematically extremely significant.

For junior golfers looking at the college decision, I hope this data will help them understand the key role of playing time will have in their development if they want to chase their dream of playing on the PGA Tour. As always, I invite comments about your own experience and the data in this article!

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Republic Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member pdaero, who takes us to Republic Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas. The course is situated just ten minutes from downtown San Antonio, and pdaero gives us some excellent insight into what you can expect should you make the trip here.

“My favorite golf course to play, it is always in really good shape. These pictures are from wintertime, which the greenness is still impressive. The course has a ton of fun holes and unique designs, and only houses visible on 4 tee and between 14 green and 15 tee.

The course rating is strong, with a 74.2 rating on a par 71 (7007 yards from the tips), and even from the second tee you get 1.3 strokes.”

According to Republic Golf Club’s website, the rate for 18 holes during the week ranges from $29 to $49, while the weekend rate ranges from $35 to $69.

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Opinion & Analysis

An interview with State Apparel’s founder Jason Yip

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For the past five years, Jason Yip has been building an apparel company that redefines the purpose of golf wear. With a strong background in innovation from his days in Silicone Valley, Yip wanted to reinvent golf apparel to be a functional tool for the golfer.

The other day, I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Jason Yip about State Apparel and a little about himself. It is not every day that you get to speak with someone who can exude passion through the phone. On this day, though, I could hear the passion Jason has for golf, California, and for State Apparel.

Yip said State Apparel has two major foundations

  1. Functional innovation
  2. Social responsibility

Jason loved talking about watching Tiger Woods. However, he watched for something I believe few ever have. How was Tiger wiping the dew and the grass off his clubs, hands, and ball? The answer that Jason observed was that Tiger and others are utilizing their clothing as wiping surfaces. The core of State Apparel is the functionally located wiping elements on your article of clothing. The staple of the brand is their Competition Pants which have wiping elements located on the cuffs, side pockets, and rear pockets.

State Apparel recognizes the need to be socially responsible as a company. This seems to be from Jason’s earlier days of playing golf behind a truck stop in Central Valley, California.

How is the State Apparel socially responsible? Yip identified three ways.

  • Production is done in San Francisco.
  • Most of their apparel utilizes sustainable fabric.
  • Proud supporter of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance.

Jason’s desire is to provide not only apparel that is golf specific but also the experience that we have on the golf course. A little over a year ago the State Apparel Store and Urban Clubhouse opened on Filmore Street in San Francisco, California.

“I wanted to provide the golfing experience closer to the home of many golfers in the area,” Yip told me.

Among the State Apparel clothing at the store, there is an indoor hitting by with launch monitor. And they have even hosted speaking events with local professionals and architects at the clubhouse.

At the end of our conversation I asked Jason, what would he say to someone who knows nothing about State Apparel, especially those of us not in California?

His answer

“State Apparel is a unique authentic brand that is designed specifically for golfers by a golfer. Look at the product because it is something you have never seen and absolutely communicate on what you see or what you have questions about.”

 

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