Rebates for Fast Play Here Are Your Thoughts
Thanks to those of you who supported the idea. Thanks also to those who offered additional suggestions.
Thanks even to Glenn Clark, who ended his e-mail this way: Rebates...silly. Go somewhere else or take up another sport. Before that, Mr. Clark said he prefers to play at a reasonable pace that keeps his swing in sync. (I think I played behind Glenn once.)
To which I say, with no disrespect intended to Mr. Clark, that modern golf is like flying on commercial airlines. Its a communal activity, but everyone seems to think everyone else on the plane (or course) should cater to him or her. Golf is the same way. The other golfers on the course care no more about whether your swing is in sync, Glenn, than you do about theirs. But they do care about your pace, Im pretty sure.
Many of you came up with a concern that, I must admit, never crossed my mind. Heres what Jim Williamson had to say:
I see a problem with your strategy. Golf is suffering not only from slow play, but also from an influx of people who simply don't know the meaning of common courtesy. Like society in general, golf is forgetting its manners. Add to that the incentive to push the people in front of you and you have a potentially lethal combination. Simply put, the way most people will apply peer pressure is by hitting into the slower group in front of them. That's not just bad manners, but dangerous.
Thats not the kind of peer pressure I had in mind, but Jim and those of you who echoed his concerns are right. Ive seen it happen. I hope reason would prevail and post-round conversations would be the pressure of choice. A lot of you suggested better marshalling, which would be good for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it would prevent the kind of problems Jim and others of you so wisely noted.
Speaking of wisdom, some of you told me that at some courses, the financial incentive isnt the plum it appears to be. An e-mail correspondent identified only as PDoctorlaw chimed in thusly:
I admire your Admiral Farragut, 'damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead' approach, but where I play (at a semi private club in rural Virginia), offense is taken when a few have tried peer pressure. Of course, if everyone applied the pressure, it might work, but I doubt that will happen. Money talks but here the cart fee is $12 and the green fee is only $16 ' getting $2 or $4 back as a reward would not mean much.
Well, if the course is that cheap, no wonder its so crowded.
Golf writer Geoff Shackelford improved on my suggestions, correctly noting that course owners could overcome their reluctance to open the cash register by offering food and beverage or pro shop credit to fast groups. For the course owner, this could lead to that holy grail of mixed retail/service businesses: incremental spending increases. But we digress.
Thanks to all of you who sent suggestions about course design (tees closer to greens as in the Old School of design; and cart paths on the right, where most amateurs err, instead of on the left; abolition of paths-only policies), and to others who put in their two tees worth. I read em all, and Ill respond to as many as I can.
One of the best questions I got was, Have I put the issue before the National Golf Course Owners Association? The answer is no, but I plan to do so now. Ill send a copy of the column to that organization and report its response to you.
IN MEMORIAM: The world of golf communications lost two of its finest over the past week. John Morris, the PGA Tours vice president of communications, died June 21 while waiting for a heart transplant at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. And Peter Farricker, the longtime equipment writer for Golf Digest, died June 28 after a two-year struggle with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrigs Disease.
Morris was a thorough and capable press officer who kept the Tours interests at heart while approaching and understanding reporters as colleagues, not antagonists. Thats no small feat. He was a proud Penn State grad who loved golf and treated all he met with respect.
Farricker, who leaves a wife and young son, was known among colleagues and sources as one of the most knowledgeable people in his field. As a reporter, he got the job done issue after issue, year after year, always putting himself in the readers spot and writing accordingly. He was a big man with a big golf swing and an engaging smile that appeared often on a face framed with bright red hair.
Godspeed to both men.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.