HUGGAN’S ALLEY: JOHH HUGGAN
LOOK, I get it. At the elite level, golf is a lucrative business. Players are out there competing for millions of whatever currency you care to mention. So they should be careful; they should take a little time to consider; they should have their little routines before every shot. We all understand that aspect of the professional game.
But news that, as part of recently announced proposals regarding possible changes to the Rules of Golf, the PGA Tour is going to begin testing distance-measuring devices (DMDs) on the Web.com Tour, Mackenzie Tour and PGA Tour Latinoamérica later this year is nothing more than surrender in the war against slow play. Unbelievably, the new commissioner, Jay Monahan, seems to think that giving players and caddies one more job to do before they even begin to ponder what club might be most suitable for this next shot is going to accelerate things out on the links. It’s not. In fact, it’s going to have the opposite effect, as any sane person can surely deduce without too much in the way of rational thought. As my friend and fellow Golf Australia contributor Mike Clayton asks: “How can these things speed up play if you have to wait for the flag to be in before you start?” An excellent point. And Michael is not alone in his contempt for this nonsensical premise. Scotsman Craig Connelly – aka “wee man” – caddies for former US Open and USPGA champion Martin Kaymer. “Just about every caddie and player (me included) would doublecheck with the yardage book after ‘shooting’ the pin,” he admits. “It would be one more thing to do.” Rickie Fowler is another shaking his head at this ludicrous suggestion. “We’ll all go through our normal routines then ‘shoot’ the pin to make sure it is in the spot we think it is on the green,” says the former Players champion. And this is going to make golf faster? As my dear old grandfather used to say, “aye right.” Quite apart from the implications for pace of play, these DMD things are – at least for the leading professionals – almost devoid of point. As Justin Rose was quick to acknowledge, he and his peers do not play “one number” golf. In other words, knowing how far it is from their ball to the hole is only one small part of the increasingly complicated process they simply must go through before beginning their increasingly complicated pre-shot routines. They must – simply must – ascertain how far the pin is from the back edge, left edge, right edge and front edge of the distant green. Oh, almost forgot. The distance to that pesky bunker is a must-know too.
All of which is nothing more than yet another indication that golf is losing its way in these increasingly high-tech times. At its best, the game Scotland gave to the world is an art – not a science. Ask yourself this: would you rather watch the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Lee Trevino displaying their creative geniuses, or an endless stream of robotic “scientists” working their way through the aforementioned yardage-checks and pre-shot routines? The answer is obvious. And equally obvious to anyone and everyone, the proposed DMD tests (players and caddies will be allowed to use rangefinders during four consecutive pre-determined tournaments) should simply be abandoned. They won’t be of course. In what is sure to be little more than a formality (or farce), the PGA Tour and player advisory council will discuss any findings and reassess the situation. Andy Pazder, the chief tournaments and competitions officer for the PGA Tour, said the evaluation “will consider the impact on pace of play, optics and any other effects they might have on the competition.” Give me strength. There is, of course, only one solution, especially at club level. Let’s get right back to basics. Ban yardages altogether. Take away those silly 150-yard markers. Make scorecards smaller by eliminating the lengths of each hole – what good is that information? Does it really make any difference? And get rid of those fancy yardage books with the nice graphics and lots of numbers we rarely use anyway. Spend the money on something more practical like sunscreen. My reasoning is simple. Very few of us have any idea how far we are going to hit our next shot. So do we really need to know that it is 201 yards to the pin? No, we don’t. Ben Hogan never used yardages and he seemed to manage pretty well. We would too and – it says here – we would also have more fun. Gauging distance and, in turn, pulling the correct club should again be an integral part of this supposedly artistic sport. I rest my case.
THERE IS, OF COURSE, ONLY ONE SOLUTION, ESPECIALLY AT CLUB LEVEL. LET’S GET RIGHT BACK TO BASICS. BAN YARDAGES ALTOGETHER. TAKE AWAY THOSE SILLY 150-YARD MARKERS.