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Opinion & Analysis

Why do golf’s ruling bodies keep making the game more difficult?

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Golf is one of the most difficult games on the planet. So why is it that golf’s ruling bodies, the USGA and R&A, continue to establish new rules that make the game more difficult?

The argument is often made that we need to protect the integrity of the game. If that is the case, we need to all immediately go back to using all wooden clubs and feathery golf balls. And let’s go back to letting sheep maintain our golf courses, too.

Innovation is good for the game. Lower scores are more entertaining at the professional level, and much more fun for the amateur golfer. They bring more fans, more revenue, more players and a generally healthier industry.

Let’s look at the last three major decisions with respect to the rules of golf:

  • Limiting the spring-like effect (COR) of drivers

Limiting the coefficient of restitution (COR) in a driver limits the distance that golfers will hit a golf ball. Longer drives bring crowds to PGA Tour events. Bubba Watson is one of the hottest players on the PGA Tour and John Daly is still popular for this very reason.  Amateur players benefit from hitting shorter clubs into every hole with a hotter driver.

  • Dulling grooves in wedges and irons

Controlling a groove’s volume and sharpness limits the amount of backspin that can be generated, particularly out of lies in the rough. This will lessen the ability of golfers to hold greens, and depending on conditions it can lead to higher scores — players will have to either pitch or chip instead of putt.

Again, lower scores lead to a more entertaining product and less enjoyment at the amateur level. If you look at scoring at the highest level, one could argue that this ruling really hasn’t affected touring pros – if it has, the changes are minimal. Amateur golfers were the one who lost in this scenario, especially the ones who like to play by the same rules as the pros and were forced to buy new wedges.

  • Anchoring of the putter

Anchoring the putter will allow some players to get more enjoyment out of the game, and for some it will allow them to play at a higher level. Some use the technique to escape the yips, while others use anchoring for health reasons. Regardless of why a player decides to use an anchoring technique, it will immediately make the game more difficult for some by not allowing all to give the technique a try.

The bottom line is that the governing bodies should not be focusing on making the game more difficult for the less than 1 percent of the golfing population that make a living playing the game. They should allow innovation to make the game more fun for us all.  Making the game more fun for most of us will also allow for a more entertaining product with lower scores. If you want to protect par in your championships, don’t make the game more difficult by changing the rules and stifling innovation. Make the rough higher, the fairways narrower and greens smaller in your course setups. Yes, I’m talking to you Mike Davis.

Click here for more discussion in the “Golf Talk” forum. 

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. butch

    Dec 1, 2012 at 8:41 am

    For whatever it is worth I don’t think any of these “improvements” made the game any easier for the average golfer. The average golfer can’t compress the spring on a high COR driver, doesn’t hit the ball cleanly enough in the rough to benefit from square grooves and in my group of golfers I have not seen anyone improve their putting stats from using a long putter. So the real game that is being “protected” is the professional game and very high level (future pros) amateur golf game.

    But having said that the point is well taken that we don’t want to go back to wooden clubs and feather balls. I don’t even want to go back to wooden headed, steel shafted driver. So advancing technology has kept some of us in the game by giving us a chance to play well.

  2. mpierce

    Nov 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Poorly thought out article…written to stir the kettle. Why not just keeping letting manufacturers make the equipment hit it farther, make the ball go longer and keep obsoleting more and more great courses? The game can always benefit from developers building more courses on bigger parcels of land that go bankrupt or existing courses can always find more land. Oversized drivers, long distance balls and anchoring the putter should have been banned on day one. They stopped Sam Snead from putting side saddle and deemed the stroke illegal. 13 clubs you swing and one you don’t. I think it is time for the governing bodies to govern by simplifying and purifying the rules. The threat of litigation from manufacturers and players has reduced ability to act decisively for the good of the game!

  3. stu

    Nov 30, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Its a game of skill, talent, control of spin, flight, distance…………..get a grip.
    Anchoring is not part of the game, its not a swing, not like the game was intended to be played.
    The only part of your body to touch the club should be your hands, two points. Not your chin and two hands, not your belly and two hands which are three points. The r and a and the pgatour should have also banned Kuchars grip also.
    Play a different sport if you cant stick to the rules

    • Scott

      Nov 30, 2012 at 11:35 pm

      Putters have been anchored for over 100 years. Stu, you have some anger issues you need worked out.

      • stu

        Dec 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

        you are right Scott, I do have anger issues, only with those who dont care about the values of the game. Think about the title “why do they keep making the game harder”…going by the way that idiot thinks we should play every hole with driver then lob wedge. Technology has made golf as easy as its ever been, but rather than work on their game or get some lessons, these bozos think they can just buy the latest driver and it will solve everything.
        We have a generation that have not hit and cannot hit 2,3, 4 or 5 irons because they would rather hit a hybrid!!!
        same with the long putters!!
        Those Bodies are just preserving the game.

        • Scott

          Dec 3, 2012 at 1:33 am

          I look forward to seeing you play some day with your hickory shafts and gutta-percha balls. Oh, and shoot your 130 score. However, I agree that people need to spend more money on lessons than equipment and they should focus on a quicker pace of play, while they are at it. See, these are two issues that should be addressed before worrying about long putters (or hybrids). Almost every sport has specialized equipment for different situations e.g. catcher’s mitt in baseball, or a kicker in football, goalie equipment in hockey, (not really a sport but NASCAR tunes each car differently for each track – and the cars are hardly “stock”). If they allow “claw” grips why not anchoring? As soon as I see players clear their hips and have a full shoulder turn on the putting green, I will agree with those who like the ban of the long putter. The proposed ban is very inconsistent and a horrible ruling. Look for the USGA and R&A to see the error of their ways and overturn the ruling during the 90 day review period.

          • stu

            Dec 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm

            Scott , the only reason I may shoot 130, is because the length of courses we have today as a direct result of the technology. I’ll play the old gear , on an old course length , no probs. There will be no 130.!
            I play a European handicap system, single figure golfer, and all through practice and effort.
            Same mizuno mp-33 irons for the last 8/9 years.
            2 iron and all, no hybrids.
            My rant was not for the sake of nothing. The article is poorly thought out. I stand by my point that it has never been easier to play the game because of the equipment.
            As for the specialized equipment, I have no probs with any of them, as long as its with a swing and in keeping with the game. Two hands only on the club no matter what the length and as long as the stance and stroke are within the rules. And you are right the rule is a little vague, (I would rather they banned Kuchars stroke too), but it is a step in the right direction, for the good of the sport. The main bone of contention for me is that they were irresponsible to have left it this long. I feel for the likes of Tom Kite and Bernhard Langer who have been using it for prob 20 yrs.
            Next step is the ball, change how far the ball travels and watch the shot makers rise to the top. Its been fun and thanks for taking the time to comment. If you ever come to Ireland, bring the hickory and persimmon and we’ll play a few……

  4. stu

    Nov 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Stop whining,
    Why cant we change balls from distance balls for your drive and to a soft ball for wedges and putts.
    Why cant we have 20+ clubs in the bag.
    Why cant we tee it up in the fairway too or have placing all year round.
    Why cant we have mulligans and gimmies in a comp.
    Stop whining, we have titanium drivers, balls that dont spin off the driver but dont roll away on approach shots, hybrids, lighter shafts, adjustable clubs, basically every imaginable technology to make the game easy and you complain about making the game hard?

  5. Eric

    Nov 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Forget integrity of the game.

    Let’s focus on what makes this game fun- it’s the challenge.

    If you want easy, go tee off the ladies tee.

    If you want a rewarding round of golf, find the appropriate tee for your driving distance, and then play.

    Do the best you can with the equipment you have. If you want to shoot lower, find someone better than you, and let him hit the shot for you. It’s called a scramble – then you can have “fun”. If you want true enjoyment, then simply play well.

  6. alexander park

    Nov 29, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    amen

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Opinion & Analysis

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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Opinion & Analysis

12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valero Texas Open

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With one of the weakest fields of the year, TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open this week. Only one player from the top-20 in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up here. That man is Sergio Garcia, who co-designed this course with Greg Norman.

Just like last week at the RBC Heritage, the wind can wreak havoc at TPC San Antonio. The course features an exposed layout, making the level of wind is often unpredictable. Expect it to be a factor yet again this year. Unlike last week, the longer hitters do have an advantage on this course, which measuring more than 7,400 yards with little rough off the tee.

Last year, Kevin Chappell held off a charging Brooks Koepka to post 12-under par and win his first title on the PGA Tour.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Sergio Garcia 14/1
  • Matt Kuchar 18/1
  • Charley Hoffman 18/1
  • Luke List 25/1
  • Ryan Moore 28/1
  • Kevin Chappell 28/1
  • Adam Scott 30/1

From the top of the market, it’s hard not to love Luke List (25/1, DK Price $10,000) this week. The big-hitting American is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, but he is knocking on the door relentlessly. In his last eight events, List has finished no worse than T-26.

He was so close once again last week, and he should take plenty of confidence from that performance onto a course that theoretically should suit him much better. On this long track, List will have a significant advantage as one of the longest hitters on Tour. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 1st in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List is also flushing his irons. He was second in the field last week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and over his previous 24 rounds he sits 3rd in the same category.

It’s not only his long game that is highly proficient right now, either. List’s short game has been stellar over this impressive stretch, too. He ranks 8th for Strokes Gained-Around the Green and 28th for Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds.

The one department holding the big man back is his putting, where he ranks 145th for the season. The rest of his game is so sharp at the moment that he’s in the enviable position of not needing that hot a week with the flat-stick to win. He only needs an average week on the greens to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour event. There’s nothing to suggest List isn’t going to play well once more this week, and at 25/1 he seems undervalued.

Returning to a track that he adores, Brendan Steele (33/1, DK Price $8,900) is always a danger at this event. As well as winning the title here in 2011, Steele has finished in the top-20 three times since then. Whatever it is about TPC San Antonio, it’s a course that brings out the best in Steele’s game.

It’s been an excellent season for the West Coast native, too. He won his opening event of the season at the Safeway Open and has since finished in the top-30 six times. One of the main reasons for his strong run of form has been his work with the driver. Steele is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee over his last 24 rounds, and he has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained statistic in this category once since this event last year.

Recently, Steele’s game is showing trends that he may once more be close to hitting the form that saw him win at the back end of last year. In his previous 24 rounds, the Californian is ranked 10th in Ball Striking and 7th in Strokes Gained-Total. Always a threat at this event, Steele is coming into this week with all parts of his game in sync. He should be a live threat once more in San Antonio.

Another man who has played well all year is Xander Schauffele (35/1, DK Price $8,800). The Californian has made seven of eight cuts this year, and he has finished in the top-25 in four of those occasions. Excellent off the tee, TPC San Antonio should suit the 24-year-old this week, too. Schaufelle ranks 7th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 17th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.

With wind likely to play a factor this week, pure ball striking will be necessary. That shouldn’t be an issue for Xander, who sits 7th in Strokes Gained-Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds. There is nothing off about Schauffele’s game right now. He ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting over his previous 12 rounds and 5th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green over the same period. It’s only a matter of time before the two-time PGA Tour winner puts himself in the thick of contention again, and there’s no reason why it can’t be this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Luke List 25/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Brendan Steele 33/1, DK Price $8,900
  • Xander Schauffele 35/1, DK Price $8,800
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