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Aussie Golfer: The need for green speed

THE rules fiasco involving Dustin Johnson is just the latest indication that modern green speeds might be too fast.

BY now you’ve probably read a quite a bit about that rules controversy that overshadowed Dustin Johnson’s first major victory at the US Open.

So rather than go into the details once again, I’m going to suggest the whole debacle has come about because of a much larger, much more important issue for golf.

Whether Dustin Johnson’s golf ball moved as a result of his actions or not, it wasn’t the only time it happened at the US Open. And it’s not the only time it has happened in tournament golf.

Shane Lowry was involved in a similar incident on Saturday, France’s Romain Wattel on Sunday, and several other pros mentioned it happened in their groups across all four rounds of the US Open.

It happens a lot at Augusta National too. Billy Horschel saw his ball roll off the 15th green into the water this year, after he had marked and replaced it.

Ian Woosnam once putted on a snooker table to prepare for The Masters, while others have honed their putting game by practicing on concrete.

And let's not forget the debacle that arguably cost Jason Day a chance of raising the Claret Jug at St Andrews last year.

Gale force winds blew golf balls off greens that were clearly mown too short on The Old Course.

But by the time officials ended play, Day had made two of the three bogeys he carded for the entire tournament, missing the playoff by one stroke.

Fast greens, in the realms of 14 or 15 on the stimpmeter, are a relatively new phenomenon in the history of golf and is being used as a defence mechanism to protect par against modern technology that is making it increasingly easier to find the green in the first place.

It was somewhat ironic that it was one of the longest hitters in the history of golf involved in this major incident.

SERGIO SAVES BIRDIE IN THE MIDDLE OF FINAL ROUND:

[VIDEO:4966306342001]

Johnson is the exact type of golfer the fast greens were there to protect against. Someone who overpowers the golf course with prodigious distance off the tee, leaving short irons into par-4s, and only slightly longer clubs into par-5s.

It’s not the only defence mechanism tournament organisers are using in the (losing) battle to protect par.

The PGA Tour is particularly fond of using heavy rough that requires less shot making and more grunt just to extract the ball and get it back to the fairway.

In addition to making the greens run quicker, The Old Course at St Andrews is just one example of a golf course that has lengthened holes to maintain its relevance in the modern era. Something that’s been described as defacing the Mona Lisa of golf.

So if defacing Old Tom Morris’ work of art is not ideal, and watching golf balls roll off greens is not preferred, what can be done?

The most popular proposal, at least among those that recognize this as an issue, would be to place limits on the manufacture of the golf ball so that it doesn’t go as far off the club.

Others propose a change to the golf clubs themselves. Adam Scott recently wondered whether a change to the size of the driver head should be considered.

“When I was a kid, pulling the driver out of the bag was a concern, like you're going to have to make a great swing to hit a good drive,” Scott said in an interview.

“Now it's the go-to club. It's the most forgiving club we have. That's a huge difference in how you get off the tee to start a hole of golf.”

Some claim that the lengthening, the fast greens and deep rough has been a success in fortifying golf courses against the arsenal of the modern professional golfer.

But the effect of hitting the modern golf ball with golf clubs that can propel the ball further and straighter is quite literally changing the landscape of golf.

Golf’s governing bodies, the R&A and the USGA need to dig their heads out of the sand, as this apparent success may just be a Pyrrhic victory that could see professional golf reduced to nothing more than a putting competition on concrete greens.

I hate to imagine the rules controversies that may dish up.

peter knight on chippinbg one-handed:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michael Green

Michael Green founded AussieGolfer.com.au - Australia's #1 golf blog - in 2007, is a member of The Australian Golf Writers Association and has covered some of Australia's biggest golf tournaments, including the Australian Open, the Presidents Cup and World Cup of Golf.

Michael began playing golf as a 10-year-old in Adelaide where his father introduced him to the game.

He has managed to maintain a single-figure handicap while studying, living and working abroad and keeping a close eye on his three children.

Michael has a PhD in Physics and when not writing about golf, he continues to work in medical research in Sydney.

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