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Golf: The Distance Debate

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Stan Sutherland
Stan Sutherland

“So rather than wading through the 24-page report and all its 200-level statistics charts and graphs…we thought we would step in here and help you understand what all the fuss is about", write E. Michael Johnson and Mike Stachura who, “dissect the latest distance report from golf's governing bodies to help you understand what it really means.”

Following the money perhaps?
Maybe I got it wrong, all those years reasoning why they don’t roll back the ball and lessen the effects of technological advances and I’m thinking those in power just love the way the game is going and thereby prosper by its products and services; ball and equipment manufacturers and the TV media who believe low scores and long hitting get more bums on seats.

Now thanks to the two Mikes’ statistics I’m not so sure I’ve got it quite right but nevertheless reserve the right to say they’ve got something wrong in their thinking but not necessarily their statistics.
The way they’ve had to change the famous Old Course ‘Road Hole’ and more recently the proposed lengthening of  Augusta National’s 15th hole suggests there’s still a need for further ‘Tiger proofing’.

The pro game becomes pitch and putt

I agree, “I worry the pro game is becoming pitch-and-putt instead of a full test of golf,” and then we are provided with, “In the 2016-17 season there were 76,464 approach shots hit between 50 and 150 yards according to ShotLink. In that middle ground of 150 to 175 yards there were another 44,342 shots. For shots 175 yards and longer there were 80,121 shots. Granted, this includes second shots into par 5s when going for it, but a 4-iron shot is a 4-iron shot regardless of the par of the hole, isn’t it?”

But something has changed when it comes to shotmaking, the shots the pros have to make and club selection, for instance Phil Mickelson frequently carrying five wedges in his bag and I quote the same E. Michael Johnson who in, “ The clubs Mickelson used to win the Open - Golf Digest” dated July 21, 2013 wrote.

“Just as he did at Merion GC during the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson opted to not carry a driver at the British Open at Muirfield, using a standard-issue 13-degree ... At the other end of his bag, Mickelson carried five wedges, including a Callaway Mack Daddy 2 64-degree model.”

Even Ben Hogan at his greatest could not afford to sacrifice several clubs for the sake of an extra wedge(s). Now try and convince me that there are not worrying and radical changes going on in this great game.

The list goes on
Among other Q&As raised by E. Michael Johnson and Mike Stachura there’s one entitled, “Why is distance perceived as a problem?” where it is written, “the elite players’ distance gains will obsolete golf’s traditional major championship venues (see Old Course at St. Andrews). All can be argued one way or another.”

How can you 'argue'  the defence of defacing the ‘Road Hole’ or for that matter the fact that Dr Alister MacKenzie would not now recognise Augusta National?

I’m starting to think E. Michael Johnson and Mike Stachura have changed roles from statisticians to spin doctors for the golf establishment and therefore will now cease to buy into their albeit impressive statistics.

Link to Golf Digest

Quote of the Day

“Certainly, manufacturers almost universally have disagreed with equipment rule changes over the last two decades.” - E. Michael Johnson and Mike Stachura


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