Rough Justice

By Adam BarrFebruary 18, 2006, 5:00 pm
To borrow from the great Edwin Starr (sing it with me now):
Rough (ugh)
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin (say it again yall)

No need to say it again. Like mosquitoes, cod liver oil and the alternative minimum tax, none of us can see any real good in the long grass that borders fairways. On some courses, it is allowed to grow into a stomach-wrenching evil ' and the members are actually proud of it.
Alister Mackenzie
The legendary Alister Mackenzie was no proponent of rough.
I will accept arguments that at the games highest level, high grass is necessary to adequately punish shots that go off line. Supporting that argument is the ability of elite players to spin (and therefore stop) the ball, which decreases greatly in the kind of flier lie often found in tour-level rough.
But for the rest of us ' whats the point? Isnt golf difficult enough? Doesnt life pack enough annoyances? On a well-designed golf course, an off-line shot is punishment enough for the recreational golfer. Anyone who has played in Scotland, or on some of the better-designed, older courses of the northeastern United States, knows that.
Golf course architects of the Golden Age knew it as well. Geoff Shackelford, the veteran golf writer, last year put together an intriguing little book called Lines of Charm (published by Sports Media Group of Ann Arbor, Mich.). Shackelford collected quotations from some of golfs best designers in the first half of the 20th century. Theres a whole section on rough. In the introductory remarks to that chapter, Shackelford writes:
'[Max] Behr was the first to protest the emergence of 'rough,' a tacked-on feature that has since become a standard component of modern design and prime element of the penal-school approach. To the Golden Age architects, rough did not exist on their pallet of design ploys.'
Shackelford did not use the word pallet by accident. These men ' Behr, Tillinghast, Mackenzie, Macdonald, and others ' were artists, and as such, they knew the value of restraint. And in this case, mowing.
Narrow fairways bordered by long grass make bad golfers, said Alister Mackenzie, co-designer of Augusta National and designer of Pasatiempo (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and many other great courses. They do so by destroying the harmony and continuity of the game and in causing a stilted and cramped style, destroying all freedom of play.
Amen, brother. Its bad enough to yank a ball 40 yards off line. Now you have to look for it too, and then hack it out of grass that feels like steel wire in a bad mood? Thats too much. And if rough is so necessary to good golf, then why did Augusta National stand up to the worlds best for generations without it?
Outside strategic concerns, theres the mere annoyance factor.
Long grass entails too much searching for balls, said the great and blustery Charles Blair Macdonald, designer of Chicago Golf Club and others. Mackenzie went on record with the same complaint in The Spirit of St. Andrews, the book in which much of his design philosophy is collected. The lost ball feature of rough is an ever-present evil, agreed George C. Thomas, designer of Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, the venue for this weeks Nissan Open on the PGA Tour.
Add the strategy layer: rough doesnt help there, either. Behr opined that rough cramps the architects style in creating future threats, because the next shot out of rough is often an escape, not an intelligent or courageous negotiation of a hazard or challenge further along the hole. The golf architectis not at all concerned with chastising faulty strokes. It is his business to arrange the field of play so as to stimulate interest, Behr wrote.
Again, can I get an amen from the congregation? If fun is the object ' and I defy you to convince me it isnt, even if you are out there to test yourself ' why spoil it with extra hay? The turf that borders the fairways need not be as closely mown as that of the promised land, but it need not be up around our ankles either. Perhaps an extra half inch to differentiate the secondary regions from the better targets ' but thats all. Imagine the speed-of-play benefits. Imagine the risk-reward shotmaking opportunities for those trying to return to a better line of play. Imagine using a golf ball until it wears out. Then imagine buying more because you want to play more because golf is faster, more rhythmic, more ' fun. Less rough equals more of a lot of good things.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your mowers.
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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

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."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

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.'"

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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."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

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."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

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.