Classic courses, slow play and Halloween

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.

The USGA just released a list of host courses for the U.S. Open, which would appear to signal a return to their traditional style of play – tight fairways, rock hard greens and penal rough. In addition to Shinnecock (2018), they have added Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, The Country Club, LA CC, Pinehurst, Oakmont and Pebble Beach. The classic courses don’t require much in the way of strategic thinking, something that Chambers Bay and Erin Hills were supposed to do. Do you like this move back to a more typical U.S. Open style or are you a fan of experimenting with some of the newer courses and styles?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I say do both… classic and New Age.  We all love the classic courses, but in my view, you can’t ignore the new layouts simply because they’re new.  I think the USGA should vary the mixture, reflecting the complete variety of courses that America is fortunate to enjoy.  I’d love to see them add an American links like Kiawah, a desert course like The Boulders, a northern pines course like Sahalee, a Florida course like Seminole… the point being, test the best on the best America has to offer, old or new.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Who doesn’t want to see those courses on TV? The majority of them are not regular Tour stops. They’re also tough so I love the direction. There are ways to protect scoring and with Mike Davis at the helm, I’m sure there will be some thought behind protecting against crazy low scores. That said, and I’m sure it will happen, I do like the idea of taking the US Open to more courses that the public can actually play and even to some non-traditional markets. It’s a MAJOR and should be the toughest test of golf conducted each year.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I prefer a more traditional and penal venue for the US Open, but I don’t mind the USGA experimenting with different styles of golf courses provided they are still tough as nails to score on. Erin Hills’s wide fairways and lack of wind obviously did not provide much in the way of a challenge for scoring, as evidenced by Brooks Koepka’s final score of 16-under par. However, similarly designed Chambers Bay was certainly no cake walk for the field in 2016. In fact, Spieth’s winning score there was four shots higher than Kaymer’s victory at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2015! As long as the winning score for the week is somewhat close to par, I’m happy.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I’ve always been a believer that the majors should be on classic courses, as long as they can adjust them to today’s necessary yardages.  But I do prefer a 7,000 yard tight golf course to a 7,500 yard open one for a major.  I think it brings more people into play instead of favouring the bombers.  Saying that, I did actually enjoy watching them play Chambers Bay and to a lesser extent Erin Hills, as the courses were fun and interesting. And it’s neat that anyone can play those courses if they want to pay the green fees, as opposed to Shinnecock, LA CC, etc, where not many get to see the properties.  So although I have bounced back and forth like a tennis ball in this answer, I would have to say I prefer watching the US Opens on the traditional tracks.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The only fans of Chambers Bay are those who haven’t played it. Anyway, the move back to the future should be applauded. Anything the USGA (or any governing body) does to restore shot-making and reduce the advantage of the bombers and gougers is a very good thing.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Strategic courses are way overrated in the bomb-and-gouge era. These guys are just too good and when you give them big wide fairways like Erin Hills, birdies happen by the bushel. The only way to make par meaningful, and that’s what the U.S. Open has always been about, is to mess with the players’ minds with tight fairways, deep rough and firm, fast greens. They can get strategic the other 51 weeks of the year. As far as I’m concerned, I want to see players hit what the course demands, as long as the set-up is fair, and the best tests for that are on classic courses.

Much has been made lately about pace of play. Following a 6 ½ hour round for a girl’s high school championship at his course, former PGA of America President Ted Bishop recently wrote an article pointing the finger directly at coaches, instructors and professional tour players for teaching and using elaborate pre-shot routines. The European Tour has said they’ll impose a shot clock on players for next season and penalize slow-pokes. What’s the best way to eliminate excessive pre-shot routines and end these tortuous rounds?

Deeks: Shot clock, on every group, starting automatically on every tee and finishing as the last player leaves the green, in every round, in every tournament, on every course, everywhere in the world.  18 holes of golf should NEVER take more than 4.5 hours TOPS.  That equals 15 minutes per hole.  Take more than that and armed guards should escort you from the property.  Take less than 4 hours and your first beer is on the house!

Loughry: There are SO MANY factors that go into slow play: course design, course/weather conditions, course setup, the players themselves, pairings (2, 3’s or 4’s), to some degree coaches/instructors, and tee time intervals. The solution? Fix all of those things above (spread out tee time intervals, 10 minutes or more), set the course up easy (especially par 3’s), play in 2-somes or 3 at most, design courses that are walk-able and don’t require a shuttle to get to the next tee, play ready golf, even synchronized hitting, and putt out, don’t mark anything under 3 feet, just finish the damn thing. It’s not hard to figure out, the problem is not every golfer subscribes to the same philosophy when playing.

Kaplan: I like the shot clock idea and I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out on the Euro circuit next season. To me, however, the biggest issue is slow play at the amateur level. I refuse to play in any events at my home club anymore, including men’s’ night, because of how long it takes to play. It has gotten way out of hand and no one is doing anything to curtail it! I’ve watched people look for their balls for well over 10 minutes BEFORE RETURNING TO THEIR ORIGINAL SPOTS TO RE-HIT. I’ve seen multiple groups take over 15 minutes to putt on a single hole. And I’ve played tournaments where there have been five groups crammed onto a single par 5 at once. In my opinion, there are two ways to fix this: 1) Give the marshals more authority to both move groups along and punish players/members for playing slowly. 2) Call out any slow play nonsense when you see it.

Rule: I hate slow play.  Hate it!  And I agree that it’s caused mostly by insanely slow and deliberate pre-shot routines. It’s so frustrating.  Hit the ball already.  I love the idea of a shot clock actually.  Firstly it will make sure that guys are ready when it’s their turn, reading putts and figuring out yardages while others are hitting, instead of sitting around, and secondly, it will make them pull the trigger quicker.  The challenge will come on the back nine on Sunday when the leader is 3 seconds over his limit and has to be penalized. That will be a sticky situation for the tour but if it’s black and white, then the players will have to respect it.

Quinn: It’s pretty well accepted that Cary Middlecoff invented slow play, Jack perfected it, the Tour pros (men and women) embraced it, and now 18 handicappers emulate it. The only cure is stroke penalties (after one warning) at the Tour levels and it will slowly, very slowly, trickle down to the masses and we can all be home in time for dinner.

Mumford: Shot clocks and rules for slow play are only useful if somebody actually enforces them. I know too many public course owners and managers who throw up their hands and say, “What can we do?” Well, to start with you can throw the bums off the golf course when they take too long. And don’t blame the marshals. They’re just following procedures set down by the club. Kick a few slowpokes off the course and the message will be heard loud and clear by everybody else. And all those annoying, elaborate pre-shot routines will disappear too.

It’s Halloween. If you had to attend a costume party dressed as a PGA Tour player (or European Tour, Champions Tour, LPGA), who would you choose and how would you dress?

Deeks: I’d go as John Daly, in his wardrobe.  No, that’s probably too scary.  Maybe Crustie Kerr… she’s pretty frightening to interview.  I’d wear a Lady Dracula mask, Lacoste shirt and skirt.  Everyone would know who it is.

Loughry: If I had to choose who to be for Halloween, I’d go as Old Tom Morris. It would give me an excuse to wear a kilt. I’ve always wanted to try one so I could show off my great legs but more importantly, I think it would free up my swing a little and help me get a few extra yards.

Kaplan: I would dress up as Andrew “Beef” Johnson for sure. Not only is he my favourite player and a goofy looking fella, but that costume is super easy – fake (or real and grown-out) beard, some towels under a golf shirt, a Titleist hat, and a six-pack.

Rule: Well the easiest one for me would be John Daly – and not because I’m working on my beer belly – but because I own several pairs of Loudmouth pants, so I’d have a selection of outfits to wear!  Of course I’d now have to find a leg brace to complete the costume. And maybe a Hooters waitress as my caddy.

Quinn: I have about a half dozen pairs of plus-fours, a few argyle sweaters and matching socks, some decent old ties, one white shirt, a battered cap, and an itchy tweed jacket. So I’d go as Old Tom. I impersonate a golfer every time I step to a tee box, so why not at a party?

Mumford: Definitely Miguel Angel Jimenez, with the long hair, five-day stubble, a nice cigar and a glass of red wine. Come to think of it, why limit it to one day a year? That’s a pretty good lifestyle choice.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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