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Re: The Future of Golf/ Is this where it's going?

PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2014 11:24 am
by lagpressure
I think one of the big oversights is that golf is very much a sensory sport. I had breakfast with Al Barkow this morning and we discussed this all a bit. Al's thoughts were that the younger Ipod generation simply doesn't have the patience to learn the game. It's a hard game, takes too long to play, too long to learn, and any kind of instant gratification is just too far down the road for most to see.

Personally thinking back to when I was a kid... I was attracted to the many "feels" of the game. Feels meaning all the sensory experiences that came with it. The sound of steel spikes clicking across the concrete in anticipation of playing. The scent of freshly mowed grass early in the morning. The swoosh sound of a balata golf ball coming off the clubface. The softer feel of a forged iron compared to a cast iron. The sound of a well struck drive coming off persimmon. The look and aesthetic of the persimmons and the stylish shape of a nice set of forged irons. The feel of my index finger and thumb against the whipping when I would lean against the clubhead with the grip on the ground while waiting to tee off. The smell of a nice pair of leather golf shoes.

I used to love to just hit balls for the feel and experience of doing that. I would always prefer to shag my own balls because that way I was hitting a whole bag of balata's and not the poor quality range balls that usually were offered. Hitting my own balls felt better. I liked taking that break to go pick them up as well, and I could visually inspect my dispersion patterns. This was incredibly important to my development as a ball striker.

Walking the golf course was a given because when I first started playing, they didn't have golf carts at my course. Walking your round is a completely different experience than riding in a cart.

Then there was the whole connection to your own gear. Being able to work on your own clubs.. and learning that craft to some degree. Drilling holes in your persimmons and putting lead into different places. Sanding down your own club, filing or grinding your own wedges. All this was an intrinsic part of the experience of learning the game. It allowed and encouraged a deeper more personal experience with one's own equipment.

I remembered advertisements about clubs in golf magazines that talked about "Feel". "You'll love the feel of your new set of ______________". I remember the "nothing feels like a Titleist" ads.

I'm still in love with the feel of striking a pure long iron. I can't think of a better feeling in the game. You have to swing the club correctly to do that.. to have that experience, and believe me.. it feels better in the body to have a better golf swing.

Hogan talked about the joy of just striking balls. But I really suspect a lot of that enjoyment came from the feeling of a finely tuned forged iron or persimmon against balata.

It's just not nearly as enjoyable an experience to hit a plastic golf ball with a cast iron or a titanium club. The sound is very shrill and unpleasant in comparison.

I think the golf industry is making a big mistake by overlooking all these things. If I were a kid now taking up the game, I don't think I would be nearly as attracted to golf. I wouldn't know why if I didn't have the comparative reference, but I sure wouldn't feel the game in the same way internally.

I think the industry needs to consider that it's not about making the game easier, but making the game feel better to the player.

Re: The Future of Golf/ Is this where it's going?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 12:29 pm
by J-Pav
Not trying to be provocative, but I'd like to raise a question for a little discussion.

The question is: "What is the right size for a proper golf hole?"

The context is this: If the current size of 4.25 inches was arbitrarily standardized over 200 years ago because the "hole cutter" happened to be that size, could we not benefit from actually applying a little bit of thought and science to the concept? That is, when you have a 6,000 square foot green (average PGA tour size green?) is there not a mathematical formula for rewarding the best shots to the green? I don't remember my Mark Broadie putting stats, but isn't anything roughly inside of 60 feet a two-putt? Why should a ball striker who consistently hits it close to the hole (say 5-15 feet) have the mathematical disadvantage of watching the guys who are only within 15-60 feet have virtually the same likelihood of a two-putt green? How do you reward that ballstriker accordingly?

I want to say this was actually a concept first raised by Sarazen in the Thirties (eight inch hole, I think?)

I don't think the mathematical answer is necessarily 15 inches, but it seems logical there should be some kind of mathematical interpretation, no? And can there be purity in that?

Re: The Future of Golf/ Is this where it's going?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 5:13 pm
by lagpressure
It's a good question.

Hogan once suggested that putting only count for 1/2 a stroke. That way, a player hitting the green and two putting makes par, but the player missing the green and getting up and down would be 1/2 a stroke behind.

So a par 4 hole as we know it would change in that a par score hitting the green with two putts would be a 3.... and an up and down par would be a 3 1/2. A birdie would be a 2 1/2. A chip in birdie would be a 3 that would tie a player hitting the green a two putting.

Certainly this would tilt the game in favor of better ball striking. While not perfect, it would be interesting. The problem I see would be that no one in their right mind would be going for tucked pins. You'd be penalized for being on the fringe of the green 10 feet from the pin while a player 60 feet away into the fat of the green would have a huge advantage.

Interesting though.

Re: The Future of Golf/ Is this where it's going?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:25 pm
by J-Pav
I think you're right, in that the spirit of the game requires one to always strive to get the ball as close to the hole as possible. Greens in regulation is usually considered the key metric here. You would never want to reward someone for not (ultimately) trying to get the ball as close to the flag as possible (in order to shoot the lowest score possible on the hole).

So my suggestion would be this: calculate the distance required to reward birdie to the x percentage of golfers who hit the ball closest to the pin. Now we might be entering into CalTech level math here, when you consider the number of golfers, and the size, speed, shape and slope of any particular green...however, for the sake of a very informal example, let's say we want to reward the top 20 percentile of golfers closest to the hole. Let's say the distance is 15.2 feet (arbitrary, again). There will be an equation that says at 15.2 feet, the size of the hole will need to be x to get those ballstrikers a statistically significant number of birdies. Maybe the size of the hole grows only from 4.25 to 4.75 inches. Maybe it goes to eight inches. Maybe 15! :( But mathematically, we should be able to calculate a more precise number than Old Tom Morris was stuck with when he went to the pipefitter to reinforce the cup holes in the 1800s!

The key factors to assess are: the percentage of shots closest to the pin that should be rewarded and the size of the hole that rewards their ballstriking. Unfortunately, at some point you have to ascertain that 15.3 feet should not be "as rewarded" as 15 feet, but to me that is much better than rewarding a 60 foot from the pin approach the same as a 15 foot approach.

As an aside, I ran this by my near tour caliber level co-worker today and he nearly had a stroke (pun intended) at my "lack of purity."

Re: The Future of Golf/ Is this where it's going?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:21 am
by lagpressure
What if you just had a circle around the hole, say 15 feet in diameter that once inside that... you just picked it up. That would speed up play, and motivate golfers to become better ball strikers. A player putting from 30 feet could still give it a run.

I've had rounds where I hit it inside 15 feet 13 times... but only made three of those putts and bogeyed twice and shot 71 with some pretty stellar ball striking. In theory a guy could never hit it inside 15 feet all day and beat me. But with the gimmie circle, I would shoot 61 while the player who lagged great, rolled in a few bombs and upped and downed it all day, well, their score would not be affected.. say they still shoot 70.

Re: The Future of Golf/ Is this where it's going?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 11:43 am
by J-Pav
Here's another one.

What if the target wasn't a hole, but rather an object? I've read where Hogan intentionally fired away from pins because he was afraid of hitting the flagstick. What if the "target' was a 55 gallon drum? The hole is over when you "bang the drum". It might be on an approach, a pitch, a chip or putt, but the goal is always to get to the target as quickly and accurately as you can. This would also reward the player who is most accurate from the greatest distances.

Kids could grab an old garbage can and set-up makeshift courses anywhere they could find room, re-igniting a low budget interest in the game!

Okay. Okay.

For serious discussion...Is putting really "overweighted"?

From a Broadie article: "Broadie’s work has determined that for the top 40 PGA Tour golfers their driving and approach play contributed 68% of their Strokes Gained total as a group from 2004 through 2012, as opposed to just 15% for putting. Approach play alone contributed a whopping 40%, more than double the impact of putting.

The Strokes Gained figures are clear; the long game (driving and approach play) provides two thirds of the difference between the best PGA tour golfers and the average ones as well as between tour pros and good amateurs. Even when looking at good amateurs versus Saturday afternoon 18 handicappers, the two thirds rule holds true. “It’s the closest thing to a universal truth in golf”, wrote Broadie.

So putting is (roughly) 50% of your score, but it is the least impactful skill (15%) of the golfer. There really has to be some remedy to this. Whether it's bigger holes, gimme lines or even garbage cans I have no idea.

Re: The Future of Golf/ Is this where it's going?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:36 pm
by k2baloo
J-Pav wrote:So putting is (roughly) 50% of your score, but it is the least impactful skill (15%) of the golfer. There really has to be some remedy to this. Whether it's bigger holes, gimme lines or even garbage cans I have no idea.

I personally am happy that players are separated more by their ball striking than their putting, only because I think it's a more impressive skill. Bigger holes, gimme lines, etc... only seem like it would further disadvantage good putters.
I am not sure about how you would make putting more important though, that's tricky. At a course like augusta the better players may gain more strokes than at other events because the greens are so tough. If I remember maybe I will look at that later.

Re: The Future of Golf/ Is this where it's going?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:17 pm
by J-Pav
If you read the Broadie book, the question he poses is this: if you were playing for score and Tiger Woods could play one of your shots for you, would you rather he drive, long approach, short approach, or putt? Asking pros and coaches, it seemed that Tiger's ability to make clutch putts won everyone over. However, the statistically correct answer was that he should always make your long approaches. This would lead to you gaining the most advantage on any field of players.

Once you take out tap ins and factor in that most any pro will two-putt from inside 60 feet, the whole drama unfolding on the greens where guys pace off their putts, balance back and forth on their shoes, re-pace the putt and check the quarter, mid-point and three-quarter length breaks, do the spiderman, check the magnetic field, etc. all amounts to not much statistically. It just seems that everyone best remembers the big fist pumping clutch putts so the statistical importance is unintentionally overweighted.

I too, would like to see Advanced Ball Striking better rewarded. And since it seems the big drama on the green is much ado about not much, maybe there is something to the bigger hole ideas. Maybe too that since the putting is basically a wash anyway, the game is fine as is.

Re: The Future of Golf/ Is this where it's going?

PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2014 1:33 am
by 20 Mule Team
If you want to reward ballstriking and reduce the importance of putting wouldn't the simplest answer just be to slow down the greens? Dial it back to about an 8 on the stimpmeter, just like the old days.

That would also fix a whole lot of other issues in the modern game:

“The saddest part of all this?” Shackelford says. “Good players struggle on slow greens. So the more courses speed things up, the more it hurts the average golfers and helps the elite player. What a needless mess!"

Re: The Future of Golf/ Is this where it's going?

PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2014 5:27 am
by J-Pav
I thought that was a great article!

My co-worker once played a US Open qualifier at Bay Hill. He hit a 200 yard 4 iron to inside of three feet. Unfortunately, he it to a tricked up green. There was so much slope he couldn't replace his ball without it starting to roll away. Finally, he had to compress the ball into the green to get it to stick. Then he proceeded to four putt from inside three feet. Needless to say, he completely short-circuited. I've never played at that level, but I've had that same experience from time to time. To me, that is not what golf is all about. I thought your article nailed it regarding flow and pace.