Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
At the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Bryson DeChambeau consistently drove the ball over 350 yards on his way to winning his sixth PGA Tour title. We talked before about BDC adding muscle over the winter to gain distance and the proof in his latest experiment is plainly there to see. Assuming the PGA Tour doesn’t want their courses turned into pitch and putts, what’s the best way to reign in BDC and others who are surely going to follow his lead?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I don’t think anyone can do anything to prevent Tour players from pursuing their inner Lou Ferrigno. But eventually, television ratings will be the final judge as to whether the public cares or not… and if ratings decline, so will sponsor interest — both television sponsors and tournament sponsors. And if they start to drift away, maybe the Tour (and the USGA. and R&A) will finally realize that the game is being desecrated by overbreeding and overbulking.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): To combat the bombers from winning everything, grow the rough even more, and narrow fairways. That ALWAYS works. It’s a shame that accuracy doesn’t matter anymore, that’s a skill that should be an integral part of the game and a key factor in winning.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: This debate began in 1845 when Robert Paterson made golf balls from the sap of a tree. It really gained momentum (pun intended) in 1898 when Coburn Haskell files his patent for the “bounding billy”. With the odd lull between designs, we now have a ball and players who are once again turning courses obsolete. The big difference today is the ball has added yardage to tee shots of the average player but not nearly to the extent the ‘Bounding billy” did. Only elite players enjoy massive, monster drives because of the extraordinary skill required to make a good swing at such high rates of clubhead speed. In the 1970s Dan Pohl lead the TOUR with a driving distance average of 278 yards. Bryson’s average last week was 350 yards. The ‘bounding billy’ added over 30 yards distance for the AVERAGE player. Courses had to be made longer. Today, open the gate and let ’em go. Leave courses as they are and let the scant few decimate them.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): The solution is very simple. Grow out the rough, narrow the fairways and firm up the greens. Guys will be thinking twice about pulling out anything but irons if their shots are landing in 4+ inches of rough every time they miss a 15-yard wide fairway.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I have to say I’m impressed at how consistently he hits his driver, and even keeps it in play most of the time. But he’s still 112th on Tour in driving accuracy, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares in a US Open setup. That’s how you protect a golf course. But let’s be honest, not many guys can or would bulk up like he has, and even if they do, they likely won’t be able to drive it as well. So, I don’t think this will become a trend. At least I hope it doesn’t become one!
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: When the eventually banned ERC driver was introduced, I interviewed its inventor. I asked Mr. Helmstetter if he didn’t worry that his invention (which gave us all the term Co-efficient of Restitution, which we all know and love and have totally forgotten) would make all the great olde courses obsolete? His response: “Grow the rough.” As my hero Homer would say: “Done and done.”
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): There’s no defense against long straight hitters, nor should there be. However, adding penal rough, trees and ponds may force players to re-think their strategy or risk adding strokes. A course doesn’t have to undergo a complete makeover – just a few holes tightened up with appropriate penalty areas should do it.
DeChambeau was also in the news for an altercation with a cameraman who recorded Bryson hitting a poor shot from a bunker and his violent reaction afterwards. BDC berated the cameraman for showing the reaction, alleging that it was hurting his image and he was due a bit more privacy. It would seem that anything that happens between the ropes is fair game and it’s Bryson that is offside on this. Do you agree or not?
Deeks: I totally agree that BDC is offside. If you don’t want a camera to record your tantrum, then don’t have the tantrum, you moron. TV cameras are there to cover the event, not to burnish your image.
Loughry: Bryson needs a lesson in common sense. He’s near the top of the leaderboard, if he didn’t like being recorded, he shouldn’t play so well. I really laugh at some of the things that come out of him. As he speaks more, the more you realize he’s far from a mad scientist, or maybe he needs to study more Psychology and Sociology to understand his own behaviour and others and how they interact and can’t be controlled. Funny guy that BDC.
Schurman: Bryson seems like a decent guy. Give him a ‘pass’ until a pattern takes shape and then you can ‘rake him over the coals’. BTW Anything inside the rope is fair game. ‘Outside’ requires compromise from both parties.
Kaplan: Agreed. Anything that happens inside of the ropes is fair game. Bryson 2.0 is becoming a golf superstar. All of his shots are going to be shown live. He needs to get used to that and adjust his outbursts accordingly if he wants to maintain this “image” he’s going for.
Rule: Absolutely. It’s not the camera man hurting his brand, it’s he himself. And by calling him out like that, he hurt his brand even more. Every player gets upset on the golf course, only some take it to Sergio Garcia type levels, but it’s how you handle yourself after the fact that shows your true professionalism, and he failed miserably. You know what you signed up for Bryson, you’re in the spotlight 24/7, so protect your own brand by acting like an adult.
Quinn: Here was a 20-something multi-media savvy kid talking about privacy on the biggest platform he has to promote his ‘brand’? What’s left of the mind boggles in a pseudo world in which a president tweets and a pro athlete is pissed that a camera on his stage caught him being pissed. Anyway, it’s de Chambeau, just like all the others, like de Champlain. Not his fault. He might want to talk to his family.
Mumford: DeChambeau is totally offside. He’s entitled to his privacy when he’s not entertaining but when’s he’s at the golf course, anything he says and does is fair game. Protecting his brand is his job, not the responsibility of NBC or CBS. Bryson seems to be wound pretty tight. It will be interesting to see if he loosens up a bit as he gets older. If not, he’s in for some Sergio-like ribbing from the fans – if we ever have fans again.
Last week it was announced that FOX Sports has transferred the balance of its contract with the USGA to NBC. That includes broadcast rights to all USGA professional and amateur events including the US Open through 2026. During its brief span as a golf broadcaster, FOX introduced several new wrinkles to golf coverage and had its share of misses too. What did they do right, and will you be sad to see them disappear?
Deeks: To be honest, I had to google “Fox Sports golf innovations” to remind myself of what FOX introduced. It’s a pretty impressive range, and while some of the stuff may have been overkill (e.g., hole microphones and virtual reality), I give them an A for effort, and an A+ for thinking of their audience… unlike CBS, which hasn’t done anything to improve their broadcasts in 40 years, except get rid of Gary McCord, for which I will be eternally grateful. I will be sad to see FOX go, but I also like the way NBC handles its broadcasts, so it ain’t all bad.
Loughry: Didn’t mind Fox as the broadcaster at all. Some good fresh takes, they were/are known to take risks, and broadcasting golf needs some newness added. Fox brought that. Man did I like the tee cameras, bunker cameras and drone use and shots. The announcers weren’t as horrible as some made them out to be. They tried to move the needle, and I think they did in some ways. I hope drone shots make the cut over to NBC coverage, but I doubt it, they’re set in their ways (show leaders and Tiger only, and lots of commercials towards the end of the telecast.
Schurman: Fox completely messed up. Joe Buck might be their best sports announcer but then so was Brent Musberger (ESPN and CBS) both of whom are tied for the worst golf commentator of all-time. I wonder if NBC acquired the rights to these events at a bargain price. In the case of the USGA be careful what you wish for, you might get it. They wanted a bidding war for the rights and Fox won.
Kaplan: I liked the microphones in the cups, the aerial drones and that cool 75-foot camera crane system they used at last year’s US Open. Wasn’t so fond of Greg Norman’s brief time in the booth.
Rule: I have to admit, I was never a big fan of the Fox broadcasts, but at least they tried new things, and you have to admire them for that. Now most of them didn’t stick, but throw enough spaghetti against the wall, and eventually something will. The shot tracer and drone photography at Pebble were two things that certainly added to the broadcasts. They didn’t have the best golf talent leading the coverage, and that hurt them most. I love listening to Joe Buck on a baseball broadcast, but when it comes to golf, he’s no Jim Nantz. In the end, I’m not sad to see them disappear.
Quinn: It all started at Chambers Bay, an ill-advised Trent Jones Jr. design (aren’t they all) and Greg Norman trying to defend the USGA’s mind-melting (but money-conscious) decision to play it as it lay. Yes, FOX did some good stuff, but it takes more than fun stuff to tell the live story of an Open, or any tourney. Not at all sad to see them go, just hope the replacements use as much and more of the technology.
Mumford: Not at all sad to see FOX gone. As good as Joe Buck is at baseball, he was awful with golf. Ditto the rest of the cobbled together crew, many of whom got precious little airtime. Some of the technical innovations were good but it always felt like they were trying too hard – like the nerd in the front row who always has his hand up. Paul Azinger was supposed to be their golden boy after Greg Norman fizzled, but Azinger was just glib – not more knowledgeable nor with any more insight. Now, he’s at NBC – still glib, still no insight. Boy, do I ever miss Johnny Miller.