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The 'Long' Ball
By joe jones on 1/2/13
The oobgolf Guest Columnist of the Year, Joe Jones, already submitted his first piece of the new year — and we're only two days into 2013. It appears Joe is ready to defend his award this year. Enjoy!

Now that ruling bodies have made their decision on anchoring, the next problem they will address is controlling the distance the current ball travels. This year may provide them with additional data that will enable them to come to a decision whether they will do anything at all.

The argument has been made that the ability to hit the ball great distances has all but eliminated some of the great classic courses from the majors rota. Well, this year for the first time in many years all four of the courses hosting the majors can be classified as classics. The interpretation on what qualifies a classic course for a major is very subjective but is not determined by yardage alone but on many other requirements such as parking availability, ease of public transportation, hotel availability and most of all a membership that agrees to the disruption of normal operations. Many of the courses require up to a years shutdown depending on course re-design, seasonal preparation etc.

Augusta National has been modified over the years and has stood up to the attack of the bombers. The fact that The Masters is played there every year and that both average and long hitters have won. Par has been protected as much as possible for a course that is pretty much wide open. The greens are a great equalizing factor. Augusta plays to 7,413 yards this year unless they change it again.

Merion, the site of this year's U.S. Open, is playing at 6,900 yards and The Open Championship at Muirfield at 6,728 yards, which qualifies both as short courses. Both have stood up to the best players in the world in the past. So many factors effect scoring on these courses. Weather is a huge factor at Muirfield. Jack Nicklaus has called it the best course in the British Isles when the weather is good but a beast when the wind blows.

The USGA always set up the Open courses with narrow fairways, deep rough, and lightning fast greens. Don't expect it to be any different this year at Merion. Courses that are set up this way takes the driver out of the hands of some of the bombers. That may protect par somewhat.

Oak Hill plays to 7,134 yards which is not long by current design standards but is can be a brute to play. Of the four major venues this year it may identify who and more importantly who is not a great player. Every player will have to formulate a game plan that he must stick to. Positioning on this course is essential. You may see hybrids and long irons off the tee. A driver may be used on only four or five holes. The winners on this course are usually control freaks who can play within themselves for four days. Very difficult for players that are used to letting it fly.

The organizers of these events all try to protect par at all cost. We have seen mistakes in the past such as illogical pin positions, greens that run about 15 on the stimpmeter and penal raking in traps that make great players look like rank amateurs. It gets so bad sometimes that all they need is a windmill hole or a clown statue in the fairway to complete the comedy.

If the bombers on the PGA Tour can shoot a ridiculously low number on these courses maybe the Poobah's of golf will finally do something about the distance problem. If they don't we will continue building longer and longer monstrosities which drives the average golfer away from the game and makes it cost prohibitive for any potential developer to invest in golf.

One way to eliminate the problem would be to eliminate par. Everyone plays and post a score. At the end of four days the lowest score wins. Who cares whether it is twenty five or five under par. The best players will win. Ask anyone who won last years majors and I bet most golfers would be able to name them. I doubt that anyone remembers what the winning score was.

This was written by Joseph Jones, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

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Image via Flickr, One Tree Hill Studios


[ comments ]
bkuehn1952 says:
Nice column, Joe.

Frankly, my interest in the distance problem on the PGA Tour is similar to my concern about the tax rate on people making more than $1,000,000. Both are very much about the 1% and have very little immediate impact on my golf game and life.

Golf is hard enough for us 99 percenters without rolling back the distances we hit. The "classic" courses around the world certainly won't become obsolete for the golf game of the 99 percent group any time soon.

The USGA/R&A need to spend more time on the game of golf the 99 percent of us play and less time wringling their hands over Bubba Watson's driving distance.
1/2/13
 
ppinkert says:
While the idea of the elimination of par is an interesting idea, and one that I could live with in my game, if not as an official part of golf, I 2nd bkuehn1952's stance. I'm no boomer, and never will be. For me keeping it in the fairway is key and that means living with not trying to drive the green on any hole that's not a Par 3.
1/2/13
 
GBogey says:
I've only been playing a few years, but I've heard multiple commentators say that the introduction of the ProV was the thing that changed golf. I guess I would ask for those who have been playing longer, did they see a substantial change in the weekend player's game with the new balls or is this a professional phenomena?
1/2/13
 
GBogey says:
If protecting par on the tour is a goal, then two things would help:
1. Toughen the courses with rough and narrow fairways. Riviera played 7220 par 71 last year. The winner was -7, even with a 500 yd par 5, and the course was not set up for a major. It can be done if the tour chooses to do so.
2. On the tour a hole should be more than 570 yds to be a par 5. USGA guidelines say par 5's should be +470 yds. Tour players, even the shorter hitters, hit the ball 40-50 yds further than the average golfer. It's a joke when when they call a some of these holes par 5 for tour players.
1/2/13
 
legitimatebeef says:
I don't think you can't just act like par doesn't matter. Not saying it's the be-all of golf but it is a meaningful number. It provides a standard. To me a good major tournament happens when a handful at most of players finishes under par. A sort of indicator that the set-up was good. Whereas when nobody breaks par, it was probably too hard. But I don't really understand the criticism of the USGA. Personally I think they put on a fine tournament. Sometimes the course is going to get away from them and become perhaps a little too tough. It doesn't bother me, probably because even as a recreational golfer I get ridiculously hard pin positions and turf conditions all the time.
1/2/13
 
Wes11point5 says:
Gotta disagree with the premise here. The original yardage of Augusta was around 6800 yards when it was originally designed. They had to move the yardages back to battle the changes in golf technology. As are as US Open courses standing up to the pros, look at how those courses are set up. If you put those guys on the same course with 2" rough, scoring even par over 72 holes would not even make the cut. The real problem is not with the length of the courses on the PGA Tour. The real problem is when courses played by hackers like me. A lot of dumb people instinctively go to the back tees even when they suck. That makes for long days on the course for everyone.
1/2/13
 
Wes11point5 says:
Also, the score relative to par was first done by Frank Chirkanian (sp?) of CBS sports.
1/2/13
 
joe jones says:
When I played at Troon, Scotland one of our better players asked his elderly caddy what par was on a given hole. The caddie responded that it depends. He was asked what it depended upon and he answered "the wind". "If the wind is in your face it,s a par five, if it is behind you it's a par four". He was then asked what it said on the scorecard to which the caddy looked the player in the face and said, "as bad as you are striking the ball it dinna make a bloody difference". If doesn't show what par means, nothing does.
1/2/13
 
bsta93 says:
I don't see why people want long hitters to be continually penalized. They don't create extra obstacles for players that are good iron strikers, chippers, or putters. Should the PGA start making people in the top 1/4 of putting stats move their ball back 10' on every putt to even the field?
1/2/13
 
mmontisano says:
if they roll back the ball and driver, i'll still love playing golf. so whatever...
1/2/13
 
Tim Horan says:
I don't see why they don't just adjust the standard scratch score. Par is irrelevent. If the course plays harder than par then the SSS is higher than par and if it plays easier it will be lower than par. Setting a SSS for the tournament would solve all of this. All they would be doing is assessing what a top pro using current equipment is likely to hit round any course. To make it on tour you need to be +4 handicap at worst and +6 and below to be really successful making the SSS on a par 72 course between 66 and 68. Changing rules for pros and amateurs would make me give up golf altogether as I would have no means of measuring myself against a pro.
1/3/13
 
Duffer 83 says:
They shouldn't have to change the golf ball or the course to make it any harder. Everyone is playing the same course and has the option to play the same ball. If they change the ball the guys that hit it 40 yards further will still hit it 40 yards further. There is no point to changing the rules to take the fun out of it for the rest of us. I don't care if someone shoots even or 20 under to win a major. I like a lot of people out there will play the same rules as the pros just out of stubborness to measure what I do against the best in the world. I use a belly putter and that's coming out of the bag soon now that the rules have changed. They shouldn't try change anything else for a while after taking anchoring away.
1/3/13
 
mustang6560 says:
"I don't care if someone shoots even or 20 under to win a major."

The problem, Duffer83, is the ruling bodies care. Par is sacred to Mike Davis and Peter Dawson, and neither want to be embarrassed by Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy or anyone destroying par on one of their courses.
1/3/13
 
joe jones says:
mustang6560....My point exactly. I don't want to effect the large percent of average golfers, just the PGA pro's that are making courses extinct because of the long ball. Building 7500-8000 yard monsters is becoming economically unrealistic. Land development cost,water fees, increased maintenance and increased taxes along with the economical downturn have just about stopped golf course development. Read my article The Business Side Of Golf to get a better picture. Jack Nicklaus has said for years that they should control the distance by making a different ball for the pro's. If that means bifurcation so be it.
1/3/13
 
Dusty23 says:
Harbour Town, Riveria, Pebble Beach, Westchester CC in NY, even half of the US Open sites in their normal day to day setups can challenge these guys because they require you to think your way around. Tighten the fairways, grow the rough, make the bunkers an actual hazard to avoid, make them think before they pull driver.
1/3/13
 
mmontisano says:
if they really want to continue using these classic courses like Merion and Cypress Point for majors, make it a local rule that they have to use a specific ball that flies 20% less that the current ball for that tournament only. problem solved.
1/3/13
 
golfingbumunderpar64 says:
I think that judging how good a player is by playing a longer course is BS. Narrow the fairways, make super big greens and test putting. Long players aren't always good and short hitters aren't always bad.
1/3/13
 
Tim Horan says:
I think making fairways narrow growing the rough and making the greens smaller would make for better TV coverage. I don't want to see more putting on TV than they show now. Yawn! @ Joe Jones - I don't care if the majors are won on PAR or 25 under what I want from my golf is to be able to measure my peformance against the pros. What I don't want is bifurication whereby my game is further de-valued. They could always introduce a positive handicapping system where by winning competitions actually has the consequence of taking strokes from handicap. I often play with a young lad with a +3 handicap and with my handicap it works... we can compete equally. How would the fun days Pro/ Am events be played if a ball ruling for pros was to come into effect?
1/4/13
 
mmontisano says:
i don't understand when people say they want to compare their game with the pros. when you play basketball with your friends or kids, do you compare your game to Kobe? of course not. so why is it different with golf?
1/4/13
 
onedollarwed says:
Tennis uses different balls: Rally Balls, etc. Do they adjust for clay, grass?
1/4/13
 
joe jones says:
Tim Horan. Your comments have merit obviously. My main points were not intended to effect the individual golfer at any level but a way to protect the validity of some of the great classic courses that can no longer be used for major tournament play. I certainly have no say on what the PGA,USGA and Royal and Ancient bodies do when selecting courses but I am not the first to suggest that the ball be controlled . Player, Palmer, Nicklaus, Snead and Byron Nelson have given their opinion that the ball flies too far. The Royal and Ancient is spending approx $1.2 million this year to institute minor changes for St. Andrews. If that venerable course has to spend that much just to keep up with the times there is a real problem in the golf world.
1/4/13
 
DougE says:
About .001 percent of all golfers can hit the ball off the tee over 350 yards AND CONTROL IT, so why does this discussion even exist? If it bothers the USGA so much, then in the few tournaments where par will be too easily broken, they should consider adding a "temporary hazard" at a designated yardage on holes where having extra distance would otherwise be too much of an advantage. Yes, it sounds stupid, but so does different equipment/balls for the pros. And when the tournament is over, everything goes back to normal. The fairways are widened, roughs are cut to a manageable length, the greens are grown back to a reasonable stimp speed, you know, all those other things they already do to make it harder for the pros. How is adding a temp hazard at 350-400 yards any different? This suggestion is half in jest, but seriously, it could accomplish the same thing, restricted flight balls does.
1/6/13
 
Tim Horan says:
What does it matter if a course is 6600 or 8000yds or the scores for a four round tournament 25 under or just a couple under. The golfers skill level is still tested measured against the other competitors and when Joe public gets a go on the course he can then marvel at how good the tour pros really are and strive to achieve his best without qualification, dilution or despair!I don't wish to qualify my best round with well of course I was playing with a hackers ball!
1/7/13
 
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