I must admit that I was surprised and humbled when told I’ve been named Czar over all of golf. I asked about the process and was told that upon investigation the computer drives failed but the appointment stands. I was afraid it would eat into my gin rummy time, but given the lack of focus involving participation I have decided to accept.
I do not plan to dismantle any of the current organizations and those of you who openly questioned my election process will be forgiven over the next several decades. There will also be a new event starting at the regional level, “The (Mandatory) Czar Homage Invitational,” featuring a huge field and colossal entry fee: details forthcoming except for distribution of the entry fee.
As promised before being elected, I will devote my time and energies to setting up a format where golf courses can combat the “too slow, no fun” malaise that is effecting the game. I will also drop any pretense of formality and go forward in a conversational tone. As Czar, my legacy will be seeing participation increase to a comfortable level. This does not mean I’m ignoring cost, good management and associated issues. It means my first goal is to improve the game as a value proposition.
Some facilities have attempted a leadership position by moving players up to shorter tees under the “Tee It Forward” influence. With a few exceptions, the effort is C-worthy and emblematic of the lack of thought which resulted in the original problem.
A short course with bland, uninteresting holes is only slightly better than one with spectacular holes that are too long for 90 percent of players. There’s no question that moving up benefits the majority of players, but I want the assembled minds in the industry to take that objective and do so with the combined goal of a shorter and still challenging layout.
As Czar, I don’t really have to do this, but to show my humanitarian side, let me start by apologizing to women golfers. I will write about men’s lengths and layouts because it’s easier for me and I’m lazy. I can provide specifics for women and if anyone is serious in that area I suggest they contact Carol Mann of the LPGA’s Hall of Fame. She did the best job of altering a course to be “woman friendly” that I have encountered (email address available upon request).
I realize golf courses are not easily adjusted. What follows is a statistic-based analysis of what it should be. I say “statistic-based” because the guidelines emanate from data on more than 1 million handicaps. If you really want to improve, you will look at the concepts and change what you can.
First we establish the back tees. Every course, public or private, has some number of long-hitting, good players and they deserve the challenge. The difference is that these tees will be identified as being for a small percentage of the players and the “real courses” are shorter but very challenging.
Since there is a historical association with the color of tees and who is supposed to play there, my first suggestion is new tee names and colors. The name “Czar Tees” is available with rental terms to be negotiated.
Wind and terrain are major factors and must be considered. It’s not how long a hole measures, it’s how it plays. Obviously, unless you live in West Texas or Oklahoma, the wind won’t be predictable (it never stops, and yes, I have lived in both places).
Look at the great links courses of Europe where they design holes around prevailing winds. Trust me, they have great layouts. So as I lay out ground rules, understand that theoretically each hole has been factored for the conditions. The other premise is that the average golfer gets to hit something in the neighborhood of an 8 iron into par-4 holes.
For the record, 8 iron is the average club tour players hit into par-4’s on the Tour. This is a key factor. It really isn’t about where the tees are or how long the hole measures; it’s about where you play from into the green so you can hit the ball into the air and have it land and stop on the green.
The unthinking rush to front tees has produced a lot of 450-to-480 yard par-5 holes. The majority are dumb holes, still three shots for most everyone, but you can hit almost anything off the tee, anything for a second shot and still have a relatively short third shot. The great unwashed can whip something around 210 yards with a decent tee shot and have 180-to-190 yards for a second shot.
Assuming that a player can hit a 7 or 8 iron about 140 yards, we should have par 5 holes of 530 yards or more, not 475 yards. A downhill par-5 with a fast fairway should play longer than 530 yards, while an uphill par-5 or one that plays into the wind should player shorter. Let me repeat that I’m talking distances for the majority. Challenges for long-hitting, good players are handled very well by today’s architects.
I’ve seen a lot of par 3’s that play something like 180 yards over a 30-foot deep water hazard replete with man-eating creatures. Let’s move those up to about 150 yards. If it’s a fairly open fairway where golfers can roll the ball onto the green, 190 yards is not out of the picture. If the green is protected by 18-foot deep traps where you can break an ankle getting in and out, let’s shallow them out.
The bottom line is that par-3 holes should range from 120 yards with small, protected greens to 190 yards with a helpful fairway.
Par 4 holes now become more obvious from our experiences with the par-3’s and par-5’s. Drivable par 4’s are a great addition to some tour courses. Good for them, but they’re not applicable for us. Longer par 4’s (up to 400 yards) should feature straighter, faster fairways that encourage a ball to roll onto the green. Shorter par-4’s can obviously be more nefarious with curves and rough, and my personal reaction is that these types of holes are where great architecture can truly emerge.
I have a personal favorite par-4 that measures 340 yards and plays uphill. I swear it plays closer to 400 yards and the very memory of hitting a decent drive and needing a hybrid to have a chance just bugs me. But I CAN play it, unlike many others at 430-yard holes. Those leave me thinking about fishing more.
For those of you obsessed with numbers, I can provide a playable course between 6000-and-6600 yards under normal conditions. Remember, the back tees will still be in the 7000-yard range. For the golf architects bemoaning the low level of current business, I suggest that applying their skills to this concept creates more business opportunities. Let them be known for designing fun, playable courses and altering current ones accordingly.
Who pays for all these makeovers? That will be covered in the next and final issue.
The 19th Hole Episode 170: Grassroots golf and Darius Rucker
Host Michael Williams talks about the benefits of grassroots golf programs in growing the game. Also features a reboot of his exclusive interview with Hootie and the Blowfish.
The Wedge Guy: Have a ‘Plan B’
One of the things that I think is very interesting and fun about this game is that there are a number of ways to play every hole you encounter. And sometimes a hole offers “better” ways to play it than you might think. Let me explain with a couple of experiences from my own golf life.
ONE. In my thirties and forties, I played at a club outside of San Antonio – Fair Oaks Ranch. The 18th hole was a tough par 4 with a very small landing area and a gaping bunker at about 175 out. The skinny fairway left of that bunker wasn’t more than 15 yards wide, and there was a little mott of trees on the green side of the bunker that you would have to carry with your mid-iron bunker approach. Tough, to say the least.
That hole drove most of us nuts, and double bogeys were more common than birdies, for sure. Par was always a great score and bogey wasn’t “bad” at all.
So, one day it hit me that if I hit 4-wood off the tee, I would have an elevated fairway look at the green from about 200-210, giving me another soft 4-wood or 3-iron to the green, and the fairway was about 40 yards wide back there. Being a good long club player, I began to play the hole that way. Doubles disappeared entirely, pars became the norm and I even made the occasional birdie. Hmm.
TWO. At my recent club, the ninth hole just didn’t fit my eye or my game. I play a fade off the tee most of the time and turning over a draw was just not reliable for me at the time. That ninth is a dogleg left, with a bunker on the right side of the fairway that runs from about 160-125 from the green, right where the prime driving area is. What makes this hole so tough for me is that the prevailing wind is left to right, and trees just 60-100 yards off the tee keep me from starting the ball out left and letting it ride the breeze. This is another one where birdies are rare for me there, and bogies and doubles way too frequent. So, it dawned on me one day, finally, that I could hit 4-wood right at that bunker and not get to it, leaving me a 5- or 6-iron into the green, rather than the short iron the rare proper drive would leave me. So, that became my new strategy on that hole. I’m a good mid-iron player, so I’m fine with that, and that damn fairway bunker never caught me again.
THREE. My new club puts a premium on accurate wedge play. Most of the shorter holes have the smallest greens I’ve ever seen, so distance control with your wedge approaches is critical. And I find that reasonably full-swing wedges are easier to control distance than those awkward 60- to 80-yard partial swings. So, I’ve learned to put a premium on club selection off the tee on those holes to leave my approach shots in the 85-115 range, so that I can “dial in” my approach shotmaking.
My point in all this is that sometimes a hole gets under your skin or just doesn’t set up well for your game. When that happens, design yourself a Plan ‘B,’ and change the way you play it, at least for a while. Quite often you will find a solution to a problem and your scores and attitude will improve.
Club Junkie: Mizuno T-22 wedge and Cuater Moneymaker shoes review!
Mizuno’s new T-22 wedges are forged from the same 1025 carbon steel with boron as the irons, giving them an extremely soft feel. Very versatile, the sole grinds allow for hitting any shot your heart desires.
The Cuater Moneymaker shoes might be some of the most comfortable I have worn in years. Tons of cushioning, exceptional traction all over the course, and they are even waterproof!
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Driver: Ping G425 LST (9 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Raw White 65 TX 3-wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (15 degrees)...
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