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Opinion & Analysis

No fans, no caddies: How will PGA Tour pros do on their own?

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How many of you have ever wondered just how many strokes the gallery and the caddie save a tour pro? Well, we may get an answer to that soon. The PGA Tour has already announced that the first four (at least) events will be played without a gallery, and they are also considering whether or not to allow the players to use a caddie!

Let’s take the disease factor out of this discussion; the human suffering we are all feeling is not what I’m discussing here. I’m more than a little curious to see just how many shots per round, or per four-day event the gallery and the caddie help the score of a player. We can be sure of this: they never hurt. The combination of the crowd and the advice of a caddie clearly serve to help a player. The question is: how much? Perhaps it’s considerable, maybe it’s marginal; but it will be fun to watch to see.

We have all hit errant tee shots or approach shots that end up hitting, say, hardpan or a cart path and gone out of bounds, into someone’s yard, into a pond, or that could not be found at all. When a tour pro hits the occasional foul ball, the five-deep crowd lining the fairway or the green will stop that shot from getting into a deeper hole. So will hospitality tents, TV towers and anything else constructed for the event. The late, great Arnold Palmer was one of the first to recognize this: when in doubt, over-club…somebody is bound to stop the shot.

How often do we see a lost ball on tour? Just think about playing in your weekend four-ball, and you are pretty much out there on your own. You certainly do not have a huge chunk of golfdom or a marshall on every hole running over to look for your slice or hook. At best, you may get a player in the group on the adjacent hole to offer some guidance, but even that is rare.

How about the physical toll on the professionals of toting their own bag? I know they are young and in great shape but it has to have some effect. At 70-plus years, I am well past my physical prime, but I walk and carry as often as I can, and it is a serious five-mile hike that the players likely have not done for many years.

What about club selection, green reading, wind direction, etc.? And remember, the loopers on tour are not just bag toters. They are the creme de la creme of caddies. They may even play the role of swing coach and psychological adviser. Can you imagine a tour pro raking is/her own bunker? Personal rake? No rakes at all? Playing out footprints in the bunkers?

How many have ever had a six-footer and just could not decide on the break or the speed, and therefore missed it? How many have over-clubbed and lost the ball or had an impossible downhill chip off a bare lie (happened to me in Pinehurst twice just today)?

Of course in all fairness, we must admit this: Professional players deserve these advantages. They have all played their way to the top. It is the purest form of competition in that sense. It matters not who one knows, or how fortunate in life one may be, what circumstances he/she were born into…the only thing that matters is the score!

Consider that perhaps 50 million people in the world play golf and less than 500 are making a good living at it! Do that math. No, I’m not questioning the advantages, I’m just wondering how the big guys will fare playing the same game as the rest of us?

What do you think, GolfWRXers?

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. John Shaw

    Apr 11, 2021 at 4:12 pm

    I think it would be a truer, estimation of the golfer’s, own skill and prowess at the game; without intervention or, help from a caddie. Though, I think they should be afforded an electric conveyance.

  2. John

    May 6, 2020 at 11:35 am

    I get a chuckle at the modern day sports fan, head buried in the phone..

    Kinda sad..

  3. Edward C

    May 5, 2020 at 12:47 am

    They always say “these guys are good”, maybe we can just find out how good. It will be interesting.

  4. Aztec

    May 4, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    Without caddies, will the players be allowed to use rangefinders for yardage? I think this is probably more important than the other considerations.

  5. WhoaNe11ie

    May 4, 2020 at 10:24 am

    I wonder who ClicGear will sign up for endorsements?
    #enjoythewalk #trolleyfordollars #morelogos

  6. ChipNRun

    May 3, 2020 at 10:43 pm

    How much do fans help?

    Reminds me of our course marshal meeting with the head pro before the 2014 Walker Cup matches at St. Louis CC. (Amateur women: USA vs. British/Irish)

    I asked if any holes were especially challenging for tracking offline shots.

    The pro smiled and said if it was a men’s tournament, there were four landing areas that needed extra watching. For a women’s tournament, however, don’t worry.

    “If the women miss a shot, it’s probably in the first cut of rough. If the men miss a shot, it goes into never-neverland.”

    If Mickelson or McIlroy has a wild tee shot, we’ll see how well they do with the 2-minute search limit.

  7. Martin Barrier

    May 3, 2020 at 7:15 pm

    The top players will continue to score well maybe even better and players toward the bottom that well be a different store

  8. MadMax

    May 3, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    Why stop there? They don’t play the same courses we play, every less than perfect area in the fairway is a “ground under repair”. Let’s see how they do in these conditions:
    1) Greens: Every green is a different speed, some are wet others dry.
    2) Tee boxes: Uneven, some with grass 2 inches long some with none, unfilled divots all over
    3) Bunkers: Some with 1/2 inch of what can be considered sand, other with dirt and pebbles, some wet.
    4) Fairways: Some cut some not, some soaked some dry, unfilled divots, all rough different depth
    5) NO ground under repair

  9. Fergie

    May 3, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    I think not having a caddy is a bit extreme. Social distancing is still possible when you’re passing a club, and caddies could use anti-viral spray when wiping a club. What about spectator-less MLB games? Eliminate the catcher because he’s close to the batter? That would be interesting.

    • Dr. Fauci

      May 5, 2020 at 12:43 pm

      Would be a bit rough on the home plate ump, don’t you think?

    • Dennis Clark

      May 6, 2020 at 3:33 pm

      Let’s take the Corona factor out of this for a minute…how about we play one of these “on their own” events every year? I’ve like this idea for a long time even pre-COVID. I wrote to PGA Tour about it a while back.

  10. csc

    May 3, 2020 at 6:12 pm

    I agree that the guys that are near the top of the leaderboard in these tournaments will be playing well that particular week and these circumstances may not be effecting them much at all. However, there will be several players that are not having a good week near the lower end of the scoreboard and those players may very well be effected by these differences. Especially if one of them is having a bad driving week-lost ball penalties will start adding up fast.

  11. Dan

    May 3, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    The only factor is being very slightly more tired. Caddies barely help score at all.
    Also, I’ve gone for 20 rounds in a row with out losing a ball other then in a water hazard. These guys are not exactly 20 cappers out there guys.

    • John Agel

      May 3, 2020 at 11:05 pm

      Caddies make a monumental difference and how you play. One way in which this is clearly obvious is that if a player and Caddie are on the verge of divorce, the caddy suddenly becomes an object of great attention as the top players start to jockey around picking up that top caddy. Don’t kid yourself they take care of everything before the shot. Then they lay it all out for the player suggest a shot-which club draw or fade, high low, even picking something to aim at. Player will make a choice knowing that his caddy was on the course at sunup to walk the course, to see how it will play on a given day, where the pins are, you fade when to, because your caddy is look at the hole and the ground surrounding it what is the high part what is the low part, where is the danger, how to play the mounds in and around the green. The player takes all of this as givens he knows the guy has been doing job will then decide, he may with the caddy agree just execute the shot. Talk about it if the player has a different idea for playing the shot you may go with what the guy suggested or what he wants to hit. But the caddy has laid it all out for his man to just chooses idea for the cavities
      another really huge part is keeping his man’s head in the game and energized and help him little competitor arrogance. That’s all. Just Carrie the clubs, keep them and golf balls clean. Rake The Bunker you just completely made a mess of then exchange your putter for a
      rake…

  12. Stanley

    May 3, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    I can guarantee that the players in top 10 will not see any difference in their scores. When they are on, nothing can stop them from going low.

  13. chris agel

    May 3, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    Again, remind me why they cant bifurcate the rules of golf for Tour players. Anyone with any sense knows they play by different “rules” and do not play the same game we play. It would be fun to see them play on their own out there.

  14. Acemandrake

    May 3, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    My guess is that players that need/want the money will always show up. With or with out a caddy.

    They will play well. I’d think that the field scoring average may be a couple of strokes higher than usual.

    The wealthier players may take a more casual approach and play less often. Especially the older ones.

    NOTE: Brandt Snedeker has said he walks & carries his clubs to get in shape after a layoff.

  15. EJ

    May 3, 2020 at 10:58 am

    I think you’re missing the point as it’s easy to shoot that number on a home course. Turn up at a tournament and with practice rounds and you’re playing 6 days in a row. You see all the guys out there carrying their own bags 6 days in a row and shooting 20 under par? Some will for sure, but a lot of those guys won’t be able to.

    • Taylor

      May 3, 2020 at 11:35 am

      I totally get it but there’s not going to be a huge upshot in scoring. You’re still going to have five six guys that have a chance to win (they’re playing well enough and more importantly putting well enough to win) they’ll still 10 under or better. My point is you’re not going to see Rory, Dustin, Brooks, Jim Herman, Joel Dahmen or whoever struggle to break par. Look at scoring from nationwide events (granted they have loopers) but there’s hardly fans and some aren’t televised (which means no tv and hardly any grandstands) guys going 20 under. My overall point is guys will still play extremely well, some players will struggle without a caddie some might not.

  16. Taylor

    May 3, 2020 at 10:51 am

    FYI Tiger and Rickie hold the course record of 62 at Medalist. Luke Donald holds (held?) the course record of 64 at Bear’s Club, and 65 at Jupiter Hills. Granted those were in carts, but there was no caddie, no fans, no tv, no grandstands. I think tour players will be just fine

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Opinion & Analysis

Book review: The Golf Lover’s Guide To England

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There is this notion in the British isles, completely foreign to America, that states that visitors shall have access to all but a smallish passel of private clubs. In abject contrast, the finest clubs of the USA do their level best to keep their gates closed to both the riff and the raff, neither of which is nearly as detrimental to their continuity as some fearful members might believe. In this era of the database, would it be that hard to allow a visitor access once in her/his/their lifetime to Cypress Point, or Friar’s Head, or Prairie Dunes? Into the database their GHIN number would go, and if said individual were fortunate enough to win the lottery for a coveted golden ticket, err, tee time, that would be it for all time. I digress, however, as that rant is not the purpose of this book review.

The Golf Lover’s Guide To England, written and compiled by Michael Whitehead, lists 33 elite golf clubs across that country, divided into four regions, which are further divided into nine districts. Each of these clubs would be identified as unlikely in the USA, but is certainly accessible in England. The short story is: this nearly-pocket-sized compendium should accompany any traveler of golfing purpose, as it is invaluable for understanding the ins and outs of making contact, locating courses, and learning of their nature and history. The long story goes quite a bit deeper.

Michael Whitehead has the forethought to organize his works (Scotland was his first TGLGT volume) in meticulous fashion. The volume opens with a colorful map of the targeted country, complete with numbered flags to identify each of the courses reviewed within. The entire book explodes with wondrous colors, both in page background and course photography, and heightens the sensory experience of its study.

A delightful touch is the location of the Acknowledgements section in the front of the book. Typically relegated to one of the final pages that we skip past, before closing the cover, this is not the case here. Whitehead recognizes the invaluable assistance of his supporting cast, and situates them front and center. Good for you, Mr. Whitehead.

A brief history of the game in England is followed by the first of the four (North, Midlands & East Anglia, South East, South West) regions. The most populous of these is the South East, and we will use it to break down the districts. Five courses occupy an unnamed, scattered district. Five more are situated in the Surrey/Berkshire sandbelt, and four of those sites offer 36 holes on property. A final three fit into the Kent Coast district, and one of them has 27 holes within its confines. Thus it goes throughout the other three regions, albeit at a less-frenetic pace.

Moving along, each of the 33 seminal courses is granted six pages for description and assessment. Whitehead assigns color-coded price guides to each course, ranging from the up-to-49-British-Pounds entry point to the over-200-British-Pounds stratum. He also offers seasonal stratification, identifying the High (expensive) season, the Shoulder (mid-range) seasons, and the Low (economic) season. To facilitate contact with the club, Whitehead does his level best to provide online, email, and telephone booking options for each of the clubs. He adds in area courses of interest, in case the reader/traveler is confined to a specific locale. What more could one need, in advance of the golf trip of a lifetime?

For starters, one might wish to know a bit more about the course. Mr. Whitehead goes into the distances of teeing grounds, the need (or not) for a handicap certificate, the availability of caddies and rentals (push cart, electric push cart, clubs and motorized carts), the dress code, and (if any) tee time restrictions. In other words, any botched planning falls squarely on the shoulders of the golfer. Michael Whitehead has led the horse to the trough, filled it with water, and essentially dunked the equine mouth in the aqueous substance.

I’ve a friend who hates to know anything about a course he has yet to play. Attempt to mention any facet of the course and his response is a loud and grating LA-LA-LA-LA-LA, ad infinitum or until you cease your attempt at enlightenment. For the rest of us sane travelers, a bit of back story about the property, the architect, and the laying out of the course adds to the anticipation. As an architecture aficionado, I base the majority of my trips around the works of the golden-age architects, here in the USA. If afforded the opportunity to travel to England, I would seek out the works of Harry Colt, Alister MacKenzie, Herbert Fowler, and their contemporaries. Thankfully, all of this information is listed in Whitehead’s thorough volume.

The old carpenter’s motto of measure twice and cut once can certainly be applied when considering a purchase of this volume. Abandon its opportunity and you risk a return trip to the lumber yard, at considerable expense. Take advantage of what it has to offer, and your trip’s chances at success are doubled at the very least.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: What’s your target score?

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Without a target score, you are just wandering in the field like a feather in the wind. The North Star for your mindset starts with a target score!

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What makes a golf course ‘tough?’

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I found this past weekend’s golf to be some of the most entertaining and thought-provoking of the season. While the men of the PGA Tour found a challenging and tough Muirfield Village, the women of the LPGA were getting a taste of a true championship-caliber layout at Olympic Club, the sight of many historic U.S. Opens.

In both cases, the best players in the world found themselves up against courses that fought back against their extraordinary skills and talents. Though neither course appeared to present fairways that were ridiculously narrow, nor greens that were ultra-fast and diabolical, scoring was nowhere near the norms we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the professional tours.

So, that begs the question – what is it exactly that makes a course tough for these elite players? And is that any different from those things that make a course tough for the rest of us?

From my observation, the big difference for both the ladies and the men was the simple fact that Muirfield Village and Olympic shared the same traits – deep rough alongside each fairway, deep bunkers, and heavy rough around the greens. In other words — unlike most of the venues these pros face each week, those two tracks put up severe penalties for their not-so-good shots — and their awful ones.

Setting aside the unfortunate turn of events for John Rahm – who appeared to be playing a different game for the first three days – only 18 of the best male players in the game managed to finish under par at Muirfield Village. That course offered up measurable penalties for missed fairways and greens, as it was nearly impossible to earn a GIR from the rough, and those magical short games were compromised a lot – Colin Morikawa even whiffed a short chip shot because the gnarly lie forced him to try to get “cute” with his first attempt. If you didn’t see it, he laid a sand wedge wide open and slid it completely under the ball — it didn’t move at all!

On the ladies’ side, these elite players were also challenged at the highest level, with errant drives often totally preventing a shot that had a chance of holding the green — or even reaching it. And the greenside rough and deep bunkers of Olympic Club somewhat neutralized their highly refined greenside scoring skills.

So, the take-away from both tournaments is the same, the way I see it.

If a course is set up to more severely penalize the poor drives and approaches — of which there are many by these players — and to make their magical short game skills more human-like, you will see these elite players struggle more like the rest of us.

So, I suggest all of you think about your last few rounds and see what makes your course(s) play tough. Does it penalize your not-so-good drives by making a GIR almost impossible, or is it too challenging around the greens for your scoring skills? Maybe the greens are so fast and diabolical that you don’t get as much out of your putting as you think you should? Or something else entirely?

My bet is that a thoughtful reflection on your last few rounds will guide you to what you should be working on as you come into the peak of the 2021 golf season.

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