Is The PGA Tour Relevant?
I haven't gone out on a limb with a controversial topic in some time, so I thought I would toss this one out for all of you to discuss for a few days. I've watched professional golf since way back in the 1960s, when the tournament telecasts were only a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday. That has evolved to where we can watch PGA Tour players ply their craft nearly non-stop in some place or another.
But I keep seeing signs that the PGA Tour is really not that good for the game, if you look at it certain ways. I also think a good argument can be made that the game the pros play is so different than the one we play that it is completely irrelevant to our own golf. I'm going to make both of these cases here, and you tell me if I'm off base or not.
First, is the PGA Tour good or bad for the game as a whole? My contention is that it does more harm than good, at least from a couple of perspectives. Hear me out.
First of all, the much-talked-about pace of play problem can be directly related to the "standard" these guys on TV set for us. Endlessly stalking putts from multiple angles, taking forever to choose a club, play a shot, etc. PGA Tour two-somes, with caddies, typically take well over four hours ... sometimes nearly five ... to play 18 holes, and that pace has crept into courses everywhere. When I was in my 20s, we generally played a pretty good "money game" — of fivesomes usually — and played 27 holes as our "standard", in less than five hours, with a break after 18 to figure bets over a beer. What happened?
Secondly, the prodigious distances these guys hit the ball are so misleading to all of us, but especially the youth coming into the game. They were hitting 7- and 8-irons to a par five last week at Bay Hill, for Pete's sake. When was the last time you did that? What can you really learn about your own game watching a bunch of 20-something prime physical athletes, with lab-tuned equipment, hit the ball the distances they do? We don't have their technology or their strength ... and never will! It might be entertaining, but it's not relevant to the way you play the game ... no more than NASCAR is to the way you drive.
So here's where I see the negative impact on the future of the game. These guys are setting the bar so high in the way of distance, it can make the average recreational player throw up their hands and ask "Why even try?" And it manifests mostly in the youth coming into the game. While there are a lot of very talented junior players out there, most of the kids are so focused on trying to hit it far, that they never learn how to play and score. Listen up, kids, a six-iron isn't supposed to go 175-190 yards!!!!!!!!
What I see locally are a bunch of kids that only want to hit it hard. Most can blow it by me 40 yards off the tee and 20 yards with any iron ... but they can't break 90, or even a hundred!!!! I watch high school scores and they are atrocious for the most part. The team that can shoot under 320 is rarer than those that post over 360. What's a kid doing on a high school team if he or she can't break 90 ... or even a hundred??!! Those kids are not going to be golfers for life if they can't learn how to score when they are in their teens.
I'm just sayin'...
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Terry, I agree that the PGA Tour has it issues and slow play is the BIGGEST issue! However, they are totally relevant and in fact, more so today than ever before. I believe they will become LESS so if they bifurcate the rules! Then it will be "us and them". The coolest thing about golf is that us mere mortals can play the same exact courses the tour pros play and we play by the same set rules. Not another sport like it!!! And by the way, I hit my 6 iron 175-180!!!
Professional sports, in general, are not relevant to everyday life. A pickup basketball game looks nothing like an NBA game. Pop Warner (hopefully) looks nothing like the NFL. These guys are the best of the best. You can't compare yourself to them, regardless of what sport you are talking about.
If the kids are on a high school golf team, and not scoring, blame the coaches and their golf teachers. They should be teaching them that it doesn't matter how you get to the hole, it just matters that you take fewer strokes than the other guy. Same thing in football... you're not going to get on ESPN for hitting someone really hard and bouncing off him. Keep your head up, hit him in the gut with your shoulder, wrap him up and bring him to the ground.
You say a 6 iron isn't supposed to go that far? We are evolving. Humans aren't supposed to run as fast a Usain Bolt has, and he can go faster. Remember when the 4-minute mile was the gold standard? When no one would break Bob Beamon's long jump record?
I believe you are correct, in that, the focus for many of our younger players is distance over scoring but I don't think that you can tell anyone what their club distance should be. Last year my 6i was my 170ish yard club, this year so far it's more like my 150-160 yard club. Natural talent and strengths determine length (and loft) But from my view point as a school district employee that observes the golf team, coaches don't seem to do much coaching or instucting. Here anyhow, they seem to just hand the clubs to the kids and say, go play. No imparting of rules, pace of play, scoring. I watched one young player, take 3 extra shots trying to get his ball to go through the trees he was under, rather than hit out sideways to the fairway then to the green.
I don't think a youthful obsession with hitting the ball far is necessarily a fault of the tour but rather a reflection of the club manufacturers' marketing efforts and personality traits that are generally inherent in our nation's youth. We breed a culture fueled by testosterone and competition that favors strength over craft. Our young athletes look up to and emulate linebackers, not kickers. You’re forgetting that golf suffers from the perception of being more hobby than sport and a pastime of nerds and elderly rich folk much more than it suffers from emphasizing distance over scoring. I think if you really want to see the general scoring mean go down it will result from more of our nation’s athletic youth choosing golf over football, which is something you’re just not going to accomplish with Steve Stricker as your poster boy. As the old proverb goes: you don’t win friends with salad.
Also, was there ever a time where the public didn't revere the tour players' prodigious length over effective putting? Palmer, Snead and Nicklaus weren't deified for their short games. And I can't imagine there was ever a time where the putting greens were crowded and the driving ranges empty. The current tour may be lacking its answer to Ben Hogan but Tiger and Rory are still pretty damn good.
I agree with you on the pace of play.
I also agree with your conclusion but not your basis on the length. I do think people are hitting the ball too far (including myself). But I dont actually have a problem with the length we are hitting the ball.
My problem is a result of the ball traveling farther. I think golf is too expensive and courses are being forced to be built bigger due to increased length. This increases cost for the owners and therefore they charge the average golfer more to play.
I dont really care if someone hits their 6i 120 yards or 220 yards. But the latter of the two is unsustainable in my opinion.
joe jones says:
There has never been a direct correlation between the abilities of professional athletes and every day players in any sport. Anyone that has ever competed against a elite player quickly realizes and identifies his shortcomings. Even a scratch amateur golfer realizes that he can in no way compete with a pro. The distance that the Pga are hitting the ball and slow play are easily solved.All the tour has to do is get off their fannies and do it. If you have small infection on you toe you treat it before the whole leg becomes infected and you have to cut off the leg. Hitting a ball a long way is a combination of ability and mind set. Regardless of what you tell kids they will try to emulate the pro.
Duke of Hazards says:
i think that the science and tech will continue to play a role in golf (and most athletic sports), even if they've all but put a lid on the equipment specs (USGA limits on ball and club specs). thousands of people every day make their livings analyzing hours of ultra high res, slow-motion capture footage of tour pros and high level ams trying to eek out that extra yard. that's just human nature and can't be changed - bigger, faster, stronger.
the main issue is these high school kids competing in the afternoons at the munis playing sooooo slowly. it's rather depressing. hopefully we'll see a trend shift towards the Brandt Snedekers and Ricky Fowlers as far as pace and the PGA bucks up and applies more pressure to the snails on tour.
Would like to see a shot clock, but only at the elite amateur and professional levels. The habit will likely trickle down to the rest of the golfing public through normal emulation. You have a very reasonable, let's say, 40 seconds to hit your shots and putts starting from the time it is your turn to play, which would be after the previous player's ball stops. It works in basketball and football. It will work in golf and add a whole new dimension to the challenge.
Is the PGA Tour good for the game? I think the PGA's interests are often in conflict with the sport of golf. If you want to see more players of every age, better educated golfers, improved playing conditions on all courses and more revenue going to these courses; then the golfing community needs to get more people out playing the game. Period.
Everyone here loves golf. Why aren't we playing golf right now? Because people only have so much free time and disposable income. The PGA and the golf industry are competing for those dollars and afternoons every single weekend. When people are sitting on the couch watching the Golf Channel/NBC, they are not spending money at a local golf club or driving range. These same people buy their third driver in the last four years, yet another wedge, and the $4 Urethane covered balls. Then they complain how expensive the game is and only play once a month!
The PGA's goal is to run tour events and sell marketing. They do not care if people understand the rules and etiquette of the game. They do not care about pace of play. A longer telecast mean more advertising revenue! The goal of club manufacturer (who sponsor the players and the PGA) is to sell more clubs. They do not care if someone gets better, just as long as they buy more clubs and other equipment. Realize if you owned the perfect club, you would never need to buy another one! I hear the lip service that the Golf Channel and the PGA give to speeding up pace of play or improving the behavior of people on the golf course and I laugh. They do not respect the game, they only respect their bottom line!
For the slow play issue, I blame the golf telecast as much as the PGA Tour for not enforcing slow play penalties. The telecast doesn't give the viewer a true appreciation for just how slow--or "deliberate"--the guys are really playing. They see it in small windows. If someone is playing slow, the telecast tapes the shot and plays the "action" part of it. Then figure that the broadcasts start around 1:30-2pm and are done around 6pm. Well, that's right around four hours! It's the convenient editing that makes the players "faster" and gives the viewer the perception that "stalking" putts from every angle is necessary for quality reads and also standard for four hour rounds. I certainly get why the broadcast does this--who wants to watch someone think? But it deceives the viewer on pace of play.
I think distance is slowing non-pro golf down because we wait for the green to clear on the short par 4s and almost reachable par 5s more now because we think we can get there (cause we did that 1 time) and when we don't get there we have to go find it and hit it again, and probably again, before we reach the green and start reading that 40 ft double breaker for bogey.
OK. I don't want to write a dissertation so I'll do my best to simplify my thoughts. First off, to answer the question, I think The PGA Tour is not bad for the game as a whole but it can be bad for us "mere mortals." We should not try to emeulate the Pro's but we can try to adopt any technique than MAY help us to improve. I know I can't hit as far as the PGA pro but what can I do try to get just as accurate. So to get philosophical and cerebral, here are a few questions:
Why do we play golf? I love the game and the competition. I appreciate the skills needed and that everyone has a different swing and the way they approach the game.
What is the objective of golf? For me, is to get the ball into the hole with the least amount of strokes. Unless it's match play, it's me against the course, first and foremost. I can't shoot par but at least that's my goal on every hole. Knowing my skill level, if I can break 90, I'm doing OK. If I can get to the low 80's, I had a great round and I have beaten the course at my level.
Where do I want to be? My ultimate goal is to be a scratch golfer but I am working hard to be able to get down to a single digit handicap.
We need to enjoy the game based on our abilities so we need to follow the same old adages that has been passed down to us:
Swing within yourself
Take Your medicine
Play the high percentage shots, etc, etc
I have no allusions to be as good or as long as any pro but I think I can be as good as them in my chipping and putting. That being said, watching any pro's is entertaining. It can also be educational and instructive. If I can improve my game and scores, great! Other than that, I don't think the watching PGA Tour is good for my game. "I'm just sayin'..."
I agree as far as the perception of golf goes,it does more harm.People need to understand that the pros are playing in a different reality.
As has been said before,the irons are lofted 2 clubs lower than ours.Tiger Woods may hit a 9iron 180yds,but not MY 9iron.
The pros also never make a really bad swing.This is because they hit hundreds of balls every day.When was the last time you saw a pro top a ball of the tee a total of 30yds?
I would like to see an event where the pros had to play with off the shelf equipment,or better yet,a pro-am where both players played with the amateurs clubs.
I see a lot of good and bad out there - you can learn a lot from the pros about proper set-up and technique and you can mess yourself up trying for too much distance, or better yet, trying flop shots that aren't in your repertoire - who hasn't done that after watching the pros. However, if there is one thing I have learned from watching the tour is that even the best, hottest players hit a lot of bad shots. The true lesson is how do they react and recover from those shots. Sure, they are turning those shots into par saves and I'm often turning them into bogey saves, but the lesson is the same.
@Werepuppie... I like the pro-am idea. Take it a step further, and only allow the set make up of a kids set... wood, iron, putter.
yeah and spoons make people fat and cars get drunk and kill people. Its on each person alone.
joe jones says:
I watched a segment about old equipment where a group of todays pro,s hit hickory shafted drivers. Using modern golf balls they were able to hit 285 yard drives with ease. Because the shafts were so whippy they had to wait on the club head lag to come through but they adapted easily after a few swings.I would love to see a 20 handicap p-layer come close to even hitting the ball under the same circumstances. I have a McGregor Custom Persimmon driver that I used to play to a 5 handicap in the 60s and I can't hit it worth a damn today.
I had a driving average of 270 yards in those days. Want to realize how good the pro's are. Find an old Driver or an old set of blades and see how well you can play. It will give you a better perspective about what separates the men from the boys.
A great topic, Terry.
I came into to golf without ever having seen it on TV, and have little use for watching it now - it is a separate reality as so many have said. You can learn many lessons from watching - few of which apply to your own golfing.
It's one of the greatest examples of how competition effects judgement, nerves, and performance because it's individual, high-stakes, and more or less played on the same course and conditions. I have hit the old clubs like Joe says, but also would like to see how I'd play with all their "aids" - especially an experienced caddie!
TV golf should not be used for instruction - and young kids especially should get jazzed playing practice games (a-la-halfcourt, H-O-R-S-E, City, etc.) to work on skills.
I'm sure every course would love to have more rangers, marshals, etc. but it's too expensive. Most of us are self-centered jerks, and no different between the ropes.
Golf is evolving, and like the NBA, has infected the way kids play (7-footers, carries, traveling, dunking, trash talk)... or is it the other way around. In language theory (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociolinguistics), the youth literally reinvent the language they speak from what they hear and see around them. Likewise, golf is always being recreated by the newcomers to the game. They bring to the game what they know and who they are. Thus the public game is made up of regular Joes, influenced by mass media.
Snead, Hogan, Nelson, etc. played for money and came out of the Depression, when previous generations of Society Folk would have considered that quite vulgar. We're still playing within that model - where now women, perhaps disabled folks, and people of all nationalities are welcome to earn a living with the game - never mind the supernumerical industry, retail, teaching, writing jobs spawned from this.
Playing public golf courses is still really awesome, even when courses are in disrepair, crowded, or blasted by foul weather. That is the magic of golf. Even if all of this goes away, you'll be able to pick up some crooked stick, a whack a stone, or an acorn toward some target, and have a great time. That's what we're all doing!! Don't for a second pretend it's anything more than that!!!!
1. Pace of play. Blame the officials for not enforcing the rules.
I like Tiger's suggestion, just call the penalty and pace will take care of itself. Golf is so nit picky about so many other rules that probably do not affect the outcome of the round but someone else's slow play affects my round.
2. I can't hit or throw a baseball anywhere close to that of a pro, but it's still fun to play. I can't jump like a pro basketball player, let's say dunking is not an option for me, but it's still fun. I don't see length in the pro game as a problem. However, I would like to see them play one or two mortal length courses during the season.
3. Youth. Kids will be kids. Of course they are going to be obsessed with going long. It's the coach's job to teach the control and strategy. But kids lack experience and will make silly decisions. Then you have a teachable moment to ask them, now how could you do that one better? Perhaps every school could learn a few things from the First Tee.
I'd love to see a golf skills competition on a 'standardized' course. Each player has to hit draws, cuts, high, low, etc, etc, etc. Gather points for each event. Setup courses all over the country and mortals can truly compare their raw skills with the pro.
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