BROUGHT TO BOOK
I am not at all surprised to read that golf is rated very unfavourably as a sport to watch in a recent survey and presumably this will impact on the likelihood of new players entering the game.
Slow play is central to this concern and increasingly the PGA Tour continues to set a poor example.
JB Holmes taking four-plus minutes to play his shot to the 18th at the Farmers is the most obvious example, made even worse by the fact that the round took six hours to finish.
While some older players and European Tour players were critical, many of JB’s contemporaries on tour saw little wrong in his approach, Holmes included.
Recently I watched the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the play was so ridiculously slow, even the advert breaks came as a blessed release.
Increasingly, as with the last six groups in the Genesis Open, the first two rounds have to be curtailed by darkness and completed the following day – again entirely due to slow play meaning expected times are comfortably exceeded.
Too often the players retreat to their green map books and engage in endless discussion with their caddies on distances, type of shot, lining up, wind direction and so on.
They also seem incapable, without resort to a referee, of interpreting basic rules. It seems the main body of players are oblivious to slow play and have little intention of speeding up.
Conversely, the European Tour does seem to be trying to address this issue – the Oman Open was refreshingly far quicker – and to look at different formats to appeal to the changing world.
It’s time for the PGA Tour to take action and the banning of green map books would be a good start to re-establish judgement in putting and move it away from the slow exercise as at present.
Clive Kenyon, Cornwall
GAME OF TWO HALVES
The recent changes to the handicapping system, and in particular the introduction of handicaps of up to 54, really don’t seem to be a very sensible way of addressing the issue of making it easier to get people playing golf and keeping them playing. Such handicaps will only slow up play and make it far more likely that existing as well as new golfers will get very frustrated. I suggest handicaps be determined over each nine holes rather than 18.
This is compatible with the usual 18-hole round. If someone plays 18 holes in a qualifier, there would be two adjustments, based on the results of each set of nine holes, with both adjustments applied at the end of the round.
There are several benefits to this approach. A nine-hole round is much quicker. It is more likely that a beginner will be able to maintain a reasonable performance for nine holes and thus be encouraged by being able to hand in a decent card.
With an adjustment made for each nine holes, handicaps will change more and be a better reflection of ability.
The main disadvantage would seem to be those courses where the 9th hole does not return to the clubhouse, but introducing this approach does not in any way stop people from playing 18 holes if they want to or because the lay-out of the course precludes only playing nine. I know that with some clubs, nine-hole qualifying rounds are already occasionally adopted, but this extends the principle to all rounds.
Julian Hance, Email
BRING IT BACK
Is golf ball compression the answer to the distance issue? Golf ball compressions range from 70 to 110; the lower end (70 to 80) being ideal for slow swing speeds – i.e. beginners, juniors and older golfers, the 100-110 end for top amateurs and professionals with high swing speeds.
For average, mid-handicap club golfers, 90 to 100 is ideal. To get a 110 compression ball to perform – i.e. go a long way – requires a high speed swing, so why don’t the R&A and USGA set an upper limit on ball compression of say 100?
This would reduce the distance the professionals can hit the ball without adversely affecting most of us amateurs.
The ban on higher compression balls could be introduced to professional golf first and brought in to the amateur game later as they did a few years ago with the spring-like effect of driver faces and box grooves on irons.
Mark Sheppard, Manchester
OUT OF ORDER
That Justin Thomas received any kind of criticism for having an unruly fan ejected from the Honda Classic staggers and disappoints me.
Anyone who feels the need to shout anything other than encouragement at a golf event has no right being there in the
Neil Edwards, Email
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JB Holmes: the embodiment of golf’s slow play problem?
Justin Thomas: was he right to have a fan rooting against him ejected at the Honda Classic?