Friday Four Ball: Golf Needs to Simplify

By | February 23, 2018

Lexi Thompson involved in rules issue at the Honda LPGA Thailand | by Keely Levins for

“During the second round of the Honda LPGA Thailand, Lexi Thompson incurred a two-stroke penalty on hole 15 for breach of the Local Rule regarding temporary immovable obstructions as prescribed in Appendix 1. The Supplementary Rules of Play for the Honda LPGA Thailand state that advertising boards are temporary immovable obstructions.”

Clearly, that there are times when advertising signs are moveable obstructions and times when they are temporary immovable obstructions is not great. That Lexi Thompson assumed she understood the ruling without consulting an official is hard to explain. That golf continues to be a sport filled with such complex rules that even professionals can still be caught making mistakes is unacceptable. It shouldn’t be this hard to play golf by the rules.

James Hahn isn’t happy with the idea of limited golf balls

As I discussed here a few days ago, there’s going to be a lot of players who are in no mood to see the equipment they’ve used to develop their world-class game changed anytime soon. Credit to James Hahn for having the courage to express his dislike for the possibility of an 80% ball being forced upon PGA Tour players.

Tiger changes driver-weight settings, shoots even-par 70 at Honda Classic | via

According to photos on Thursday, it appears Woods has also changed the weight settings in his TaylorMade M3 for a bit more forgiveness and fade-bias… At the Genesis Open and the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods had the M3 driver weights in the forward position, which moves CG (center of gravity) forward and tends to lower spin.

I understand how invested fans are in the latest Tiger Woods comeback effort. That Tiger can’t seem to find a fairway right now is news. Are we really going to sweat a detail like Tiger using the weight technology in his driver to try to make it more forgiving while he gets his swing back under control? Sure, why not.

This little detail sends a clear message that Tiger Woods has admitted to himself that he can’t find the fairway with swing adjustments alone. He’s so out of sync right now that he’s willing to see if the equipment can help. Good luck Tiger. The golf world is banking on you already.

Hoffmann plays with new-found purpose at Honda | via Sean Martin for

He hopes to find a cure for muscular dystrophy after being diagnosed with the disease in November 2016. The 28-year-old has started a charity to fund research while still chasing the PGA TOUR dreams he’s had since childhood.

“I could become a recluse and feel bad for myself, but what’s that going to do?” Hoffmann said Thursday, after shooting a first-round 67 at The Honda Classic. “I love being out here and I love playing on the PGA TOUR and that’s my dream, and to help people ultimately is my goal. I think I can do really special things with this platform.”

You can read more about Morgan Hoffmann’s story in the piece he wrote for The Players’ Tribune back in December. You can also learn more about his cause and contribute over on his Morgan Hoffmann Foundation website. Well done Mr. Hoffmann and good luck.

Is Nicklaus Really Closer to Getting an 80% Ball?

By | February 21, 2018

Jack Nicklaus says USGA’s Mike Davis assured him governing bodies are “getting closer” to addressing distance concerns | via Sean Zak for

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Nicklaus said, “I assume you’re going to study for another 10 years or so, though.”

“He (Davis) says, “Oh, no, no, no. We’re not going to do that.” He says, ‘I think we’re getting closer to agreements with the R&A and be able to do some things and be able to help.”

Mr. Nicklaus has been campaigning for the creation of a limited golf ball for some time now. Currently, he is asking for a ball that would only travel 80 percent as far as the modern ball.

“If you bring it back 20 percent, that will bring it back to about what it was in about 1995 when we last played a wound golf ball.”

The issue is a complicated one, to say the least. We previously discussed the extended plan Mr. Nicklaus is proposing. A flight of golf balls, ranging from 100% of the current limit down to as low as 70%, to be required on a course-by-course basis for professionals and optionally for amateurs. I’m then assuming there would be some sort of handicap adjustment involved for non-professional players that choose to play limited golf ball.

Interestingly, Mr. Davis didn’t appear to specifically say they were looking at a new ball spec from the quotes provided in his conversation with Mr. Nicklaus. I do believe that the USGA and R&A are feeling pressure to reign in the incredible distances the top players have achieved. The problem, if you agree that there even is one, is that there is more at play here than just a juiced up ball.

Mid-iron play is seen as a dying art on Tour. Certain classic courses simply can no longer host professional tournaments as they are too easily dominated by the current batch of long hitters. Whether this is a problem or simply an evolution of the game is a matter of opinion.

What I find most interesting about Mr. Nicklaus’ efforts is that his early success on tour is normally attributed to his freakish length. Jack was the dominant long-ball player of his generation. He changed the game by often overpowering courses and thus his competition. It’s a simplification of his overall amazing talent, of course, but distance was a great weapon for a young Jack Nicklaus.

Later it would be Tiger Woods changing the game and causing a revolution in “Tiger-proofing” golf courses due to his combination of length and accuracy. Again, a gross simplification of his talent, but it was often his length that got the most attention as he dominated both courses and players alike.

But let’s think about “Tiger-proofing” for a moment. When we lengthened courses, like Augusta National, to try to maintain the course’s integrity, what did we really do? We made the course more challenging for the long-hitter to be sure, but we also made the course even more difficult to play for the average-hitter, and nearly impossible for the short-hitter. I just don’t see how changing the ball wouldn’t do the exact same thing.

Complicating the issue of length is that there are simply some amazing athletes that have risen to the top of the game in recent years. No matter what ball is put into play, these physically talented players will likely continue their dominance. You may limit Dustin Johnson down from 400-yards to 320-yards, but, you’ll also limit the 320-yard journeyman down to 256-yards if the ball performs on a straight 80% multiplier. Who really loses on that deal? It sure isn’t Johnson.

Mr. Davis must realize that they need to find a way to bring distances under more control without doing any harm to the game. Golf is just starting to claw itself out of the “Post Tiger” recession. (Current comeback attempt acknowledged.) The argument for the 80% ball is a desire to put a renewed emphasis on shot-making. It all sounds fine, except, it’s too late for many of the current crop of Tour pros. They grew up learning to play the game with the modern solid-core ball. They have developed skills to take the maximum advantage of the ball as it exists today. Mr. Nicklaus may want to see a ball that performs like the wound golf ball he played with back in the 1980’s and 90’s but very few of today’s top players have ever used such a ball. Changing the ball could cost the game some of their current shining stars. Who thinks that’s a good idea?

I sure don’t envy Mr. Davis on this one.

Changes Coming to the Handicap System in 2020

By | February 20, 2018

New World Handicap System Designed to Welcome More Golfers | via

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The new system will feature the following:

• Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability

• A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with some discretion available for national or regional associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction

• A consistent handicap that is portable from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA Course and Slope Rating System, already successfully used in more than 80 countries

• An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and factoring in memory of demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control

• A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day

• Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation

• A limit of Net Double Bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only)

• A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game

As we first discussed here back in June of 2017, the world governing bodies have proposed some significant changes to the current ways golf handicaps are calculated. Due to be implemented in January 2020, they are efforting to create a single unified system that will be used worldwide. Many are often surprised to find how inconsistent the system can be depending on which governing body is running things. The flipside of that is that few golfers run into this inconsistency as being any sort of issue for the way they enjoy the game. But, one system seems like a logical thing to do in an ever-increasing global game.

At first glance, many of the changes are designed to encourage more people to actually get a handicap. Liberalizing not only the formats of play allowed but lowering the number of rounds necessary to establish a handicap is refreshing.

Also at the core of developing a united system is requiring the adoption of the USGA slope system worldwide. It should be interesting to see how courses not currently using the system react to this stipulation. Just how many courses will need to be evaluated for slope by January 2020?

The daily handicap revisions based on course and weather conditions also feels like a bit of a wildcard right now. It makes sense as a general concept. A course will certainly play differently given the weather and seasonal condition. How all of this will be calculated, who will determine what the current conditions are for handicap purposes, what happens if conditions change in the middle of a round, sound like challenges without answers just yet.

I encourage you to read through the materials posted by the USGA. They indicate they’ll be looking for feedback. It’s only our game if we participate.