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Roughing It In New York State ?

 


Please ! please ! No more beautifully created social media video posts of golf balls being dropped into lush heavy patches of all embracing rough.

We get it. It’s US Open time. The rough has indeed been allowed ( encouraged ) to grow. This isn’t the Super Seniors Sunday afternoon Texas Scramble; the course is supposed to be difficult, you’re supposed to keep your ball out of the rough and on the well groomed fairways at all times.

Now the annual face-off is well underway. In one corner those who are sick and tired of watching the best players in golf reduce most tournament venues to a veritable “pitch & putt “ contest whereby any score worse than 10 under par after 36 holes is more than likely to see you missing the cut and heading home to lick the putting wounds. In the opposite corner the Target Golf crowd ; every fairway manicured to look like the Centre Court at Wimbledon and every green running smoother than a nicely ironed billiard table. Massive drives, short irons into every Par 4 and every Par 5 affords an eagle opportunity.

The truth is that anyone who has ever played this great game of golf to any decent competitive standard naturally takes just the slightest bit of pleasure in seeing the very best professional golfers in the world struggle. At the US Open this normally requires a monster long layout and tight fairways combined with extreme penal rough and lightning fast greens. In contrast The Open Championship really comes into its own as a stern challenge when the offshore wind unleashes on the links creating havoc with yardages and depositing countless mis-struck shots into deep pot bunkers from which the only escape at times is to play away from the target.

The host club for this year’s US Open , Winged Foot in New York State has established itself over the last 60 years as a fearsome test for any golfer. When the USGA get their hands on the course you can always be guaranteed they will have it set up to deliver a champion in total control of his game. Accuracy and length off the tee, precise iron shots to the correct area of green, superb touch on chip shots, solid powers of recovery from the savage rough and allied to a “hot “ putter.

Tiger Wood has been quoted recently as listing Winged Foot together with Carnoustie and Oakmont as being the toughest courses he has been faced with over his illustrious career.

I can still recall Woods heading out for a Saturday 3rd round on the mighty links at Carnoustie when the sea “ breeze “ arrived with some rain just as the leaders headed out. Woods effectively hacked his way down the rough on the 1st accompanied by a few choice comments. The next four hours plus provided a fascinating lesson on how to adapt your game to deal with the nasty weather and severe course layout .

Regular playing members at any golf club take great pride in the condition and difficulty of their own course.Everyone wants to watch the finest exponents of our sport demonstrate how you should execute the correct shot from the correct position to manage your way round the course on any given day regardless of the weather conditions. Conversely no member ever wants to witness their precious piece of golfing landscape “ taken apart “. The never ending distance debate , combined with today’s highly skilled and rigorously well prepared tour players continues to threaten the Championship status of a number of iconic venues.

The last five Open Championships have been won with a collective -70 equating to an average of -14 under par.

In contrast the last five US Opens have been won with a collective -37 at an average just better than -7 under par.

Just as watching an endless stream of big hitters deploying driver – wedge on numerous Par 4’s and racking up countless birdies in the process becomes tedious, the future prospect of our great Opens being won with ever increasing low totals is not good for the game.
A round of -5 on any Open course has to be applauded for the skill and concentration it requires. However when that feat is replicated 4 days in a row and we are into the -20 plus mark inevitably the inquest starts.

This all drives us back to the distance debate. If the ball for major championships was altered to reduce length, the pros would no longer be dealing with 50-75 m pitches into greens but would be hitting mid-irons, long irons or hybrids. The game is dramatically changed when you start trying to work the ball from heavy rough with a mid iron opposed to some gap/lob wedge. The premium then moves towards accuracy from the tee rather than the “ grip it, rip it, find it “” approach currently in vogue.

What we want in every major Championship is strong competition. We want to see the great shots rewarded and the poor shot punished. We want to see the top players challenged to produce their best level of performance. We want to see them deal with some unlucky bounces or some awkward lies. We want to see them recover for pars, accept the odd bogey and deliver some great birdies. We do not want to see stupid pin placements or ludicrous set ups just to see the pros struggle. We want to be able to hail a genuine US Open Champion and ( hopefully next year ) another great Open Champion.

 

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