Who can protect the game ?

That’s me doing my Lorne Rubenstein impersonation (altho I have more clubs in my pencil bag)

Lots of good golf on the “telly” today, Women’s Open from Sunningdale (BBC good announcers, really great course), World Golf thing from Firestone (Bad Sky reporting, great pictures, great course), and the USGA Seniors (Sky again). Most of the comments around here are about the future of golf, how the equipment is going to ruin the game. Well, most amateurs play as poorly as they ever did, although they lose their balls much further away now. I think it’s mainly the professional game that seems to be causing the pain, and IF I WERE TO BECOME THE GOLF RULES GUY TO PROTECT THE GAME these are the changes I’d try to make: my top 10 ways to save the game.

1. A course hosting a professional tournament could be no longer than 7000 yards (sea level) and the maximum distance from the green to the next tee would be 30 yards. Protect our great courses, length shouldn’tbe everything.
2. The maximum length for a putter would be 38 inches, and the head of all putters would have to fit inside the cup.
3. All players would use one ball, the same ball, during the tourney. I’d prefer a 1990s version, with a maximum of 200 dimples and a real 90 compression. No custom balls, the R&A and USGA and RCGA ball lists should be very short.
4. After hearing Tom Watson “I can miss the sweet spot by as much as an inch and a quarter and lose only four yards distance” and “add to that the ball is spinning less and accuracy is hardly affected. Something has to change, the driver heads should be reduced by half”. My rule would be the head has to fit inside the cup (hope they never change the size of the cup). Also the maximum length of a driver should be 44 inches.
5. For irons there would be no box grooves, only v grooves. During the Open Peter Alliss was flabergasted when Phrill Mickleson sucked back a long iron shot from the rough. “Call the police” is what I think he said. This week he’s having troubles talking when Natalie Gulbis is on the screen.
6. I would limit the number of clubs allowed in a round. 10 or 11 would work, one should have a wooden head (3 wood?).
7. The greens would be a maximum Stimp speed of 10. This would allow the course designers to make some fabulous greens, something they can’t as balls wouldn’t stay on the greens. Similarly fairways should be longer, maximum Stimp of 7. The one thing I like about the new Castle Course (our neighbour) is the out-of-this world green shapes, this has forced the greens to be slower and has put “fun” back into the game, maybe even a little reward for “skill” too.
8. Bunkers should be deeper and more of a penalty. A Brit playing at the TPC aims at the bunkers, they are all too perfectly flat and perfect, easier shot required than from the rough. Jack Nicklaus had a good idea at Muirfield (Ohio) with the finger rakes which left great furrows in the san, to test the best players in the world. They complained about the difficulty. Make bunkers hazards again.
9. Measure your one or two club lengths with the club you are going to play the shot, not your 46 inch driver.
10. All courses should have a sand cap of 6 inches to 24 inches. This would promote “FAST and FIRM” conditions which, in my humble opinion, is what links courses are and it’s the best way to enjoy the game of golf. During the Open telecast most of the top players answered 20 questions in a minute and the first was Links or Other? All answered links as their favourite type of course. It might be impossible to build real links courses everywhere but sand and less water and less fertilizer will work.
11. Caddies should be less noticeable during the round. Watching the LPGA and the routine of having the caddie stand on the line behind the players is slow and aren’t the players supposed to be able to do this themselves? Don’t they know that alignment is not as important as target? Imagine someone trying to line up Fred Couples. “Freddie you’re aiming into the lake on the left

My list could go on forever, I know we can’t go back to an older game, but we do need to. The R&A tests every ball and every club during the Open. Love to see a report on this. Anyway, my basic point is we should bring back shot making skills that were once common to our best players.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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