HUGGAN’S AL­LEY: JOHH HUGGAN

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - 14 | BY JOHN HUGGAN | GOLF AUS­TRALIA C OLUMNIST AT L ARGE

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.

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