Golf Controversies Abound

This golf “offseason” certainly has not lacked for blogging fodder.

The latest tidbit that has the golf cognoscenti spinning is the plan to widen St. Andrews’ famous “Road Hole” bunker and resculpt the adjourning green. From the whining, you’d think someone planned to install a McDonald’s. Most ridiculous are the laments that somehow Old Tom Morris would not approve.

I’m willing to be there’s lots that Old Tom wouldn’t recognize about the course today, beginning with the mowing. They just didn’t have anything in his day that could produce the consistently fine cuts that we expect from courses today. Anyone who wants to play the course the way Old Tom “intended” should insist on horse pulled mowers.

These also are not the first changes to the Road Hole. It was lengthened, for example, prior to the 2010 Open Championship. The fairway also was widened a bit at that point. I also can’t help but think that natural forces—wind, rain, ground shifting, et. al.—have changed the course quite a bit since Old Tom won his first Open Championship in 1861.

Then there’s the belly putter controversy, which if you believe the Wall Street Journal will be resolved by the USGA and R&A sometime today. Top names in golf are lining up on both sides. Tiger is for a ban. Dave Pelz, against. Three of the last five majors have been won with belly putters. I think golf’s ruling bodies should leave well enough alone. By permitting the belly putter for as long as they have, a precedent has been established. I also fear that a ban will result in a court fight. I do not want the courts to be the ultimate arbiters of the rules of golf.

Finally, on a much smaller scale, there’s the talk of Rory McIlroy’s switch from Titleist to Nike. Many—including Nick Faldo—believe that the change will ultimately be to his detriment. I don’t think it will make a lick of difference. Rory will doubtless spend many hours at Nike’s lab fine-tuning each head, shaft and grip until they meet his complete satisfaction. He is absolutely not going from a stock Titleist to a stock Nike. He’s going from custom Titleist to custom Nike, and that makes all the difference.

And on a broader social front, Butler National, in Chicago, has reaffirmed its “men-only” policy. A recent vote taken on the question apparently drew only 40% in favor of gender integration. That puts the club, which previously had hosted the prestigious Western Open beyond the pale in terms of future PGA Tour or USGA events. This, at a time when the USGA apparently is actively looking for Chicago area venues for its Championships. I am a staunch defender of Freedom of Association, but this doesn’t make any sense. The club is “in a death spiral” according to one member, as the economy and its policies have reduced the rolls.

Finally, a Singapore court has ruled against the Asian Tour, and ordered it to repay fines to four golfers. The players, Australians Terry Pilkadaris and Matthew Griffin, Dutchman Guido van der Valk and Malaysian Anis Helmi Hassan were fined for playing on the rival OneAsia Tour. The Singapore court ruled that the fines represented “restraint of trade.” The Asian Tour and OneAsia are rival tours, but the players argued that they were playing OneAsia events only when the Asian Tour had a hole in its schedule.

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1 thought on “Golf Controversies Abound”

  1. I hate the USGA for this belly putter screwup – my renewal was just about to go out last week, and instead I am sending them a letter sans check with my thoughts on this.

    USGA: “Throughout the game’s 600-year history, the essence of the golf stroke has been to grip the club with the hands and swing it freely at the ball. This Rule change is being proposed to preserve the fundamental challenge that makes golf a unique competitive sport.”

    The essense was also wood shafted clubs, balls nothing of the current nature, certainly not 460cc Titanium drivers. 

    I don’t use a belly putter, it doesn’t work for me.  Unlike wedges, where amateurs can basically ignore it for a long time and then it is just an equipment change – this could take someone who has never putted any other way right out of the game.  Good work USGA- make Tiger happy.  I am not leaving the game, but I am leaving the USGA.


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