You can’t tell from watching television, but Jack Nicklaus introducted a major change to PGA Tour course setups this week at his Memorial Tournament.
He changed the designs of the rakes.
That’s right. The rakes.
Whereas the old rakes left the surface smooth and playable, the new ones are designed to leave furrows that will penalize players whose balls land there.
It is said that Nicklaus—and word has it PGA Tour officials—were frustrated by constantly having to increase the length of a course to adapt to the big hitters. Instead, it was decided to further punish wayward shots.
“Nowadays all the bunkers are so perfect, there’s no penalty any more,” Nicklaus said. “Bunkers are really supposed to be a penalty. All I’m trying to do is make the guy think he doesn’t want to be in the bunker, and it’s not the place to aim for.”
Several news outlets have reported that PGA officials have been considering the move for some time. But a fear of player backlash has stayed their hand.
That’s where Jack comes in. No one is going to question what the Golden Bear does at his own tournament. And once they get used to the idea, we may see the new rakes at more Tour stops.
But Nicklaus is not the first to introduce a shot penalizing rake. Henry Fownes, founder of the fabled Oakmont course also designed a special rake to leave deep furrows in the sand. He felt that being in the sand should be a severe penalty.
Of course, Fownes was a bit of a golf madman. He is said to have followed groups of players around to see where their shots were landing. Then—magically—overnight, a new hazard would appear to take even those spots away. The first hole at Oakmont is said to be the most difficult in golf.
Fownes’ philosophy was “a shot poorly played should be a shot irrevocably lost.”
I am in total agreement with Nicklaus’ move. As I have said on several occasions here, the way to deal with the bomb and gouge players is to make it more difficult for them to gouge. Make them consider more carefully the costs and benefits of thirty extra yards as opposed to being in the fairway. I don’t think that the average tour stop has to go to the extremes of the USGA and its Open, but a few modifications are in order.
And a new rake is a good idea.