Morri: Luck And Lee Prove Spin Is Still King

Curtis Luck during today's first round of the Australian PGA Championship. (Photo: Henry Peters)
Maybe the debate should be about how straight the modern golf ball goes instead of how far.

If one accepts professional golf is essentially entertainment then a ball that curves in the air is a far more interesting spectating proposition than one that simply flies high, long and straight.

Case in point? Western Australians Curtis Luck and Min Woo Lee.

Both young golfers are known for their imaginative play and having witnessed it first-hand at The Australian Golf Club last week, this writer can attest what a joy it is to watch both ply their craft.

I wrote during the NSW Open what a fascinating study Min Woo Lee is and I am now adding Luck to the list of must-watch-if-he-is-in-the-field players.

While most of the rest simply bomb the ball high and straight, both Lee and Luck employ a much more playful style, moving the ball left and right and adjusting trajectory depending on the situation.

The high, long ball is impressive to watch, particularly as a recreational player who lacks the clubhead speed or technique required to achieve it, but as a spectacle it is ultimately one dimensional.

No disrespect to Jason Day but he, like the bulk of his peers, essentially hits the same shot over and over (though the former World No. 1 admittedly does it better than most of the rest).

Luck and Lee, however, play an old-style game seemingly as much for their own entertainment as that of the crowd.

A perfect example of what makes both so compelling to watch came on Saturday at the par-5 5th hole.

Waiting in the fairway for the players to hit their tee shots, we were all puzzled to see Luck’s ball land some 50 yards short of where the bulk of the players were hitting.

As he arrived at the ball he revealed to caddie Mike Clayton that his drive, which he had intentionally tried to hit low, had come out a little too low and caught the front of the tee, knocking several metres off its flight.

Seemingly undeterred, however, Luck rejected the offer of a 3-wood for his second shot and instead told Clayton: “Nah, I’ll hit this one again.”

Driver off the deck was not an uncommon shot in the days of the persimmon clubs and a 'spinnier' ball which was easier to get airborne.

With the modern, 460cc club, however, it is far less frequently seen but it is a shot Luck is clearly comfortable with.

Realising what we were about to witness I quickly jumped directly behind Luck to see just what the ball would do and was mesmerised when he produced a low-flying tracer bullet that eventually travelled some 250 metres.


Those lucky enough to be there were equally impressed and while it is impossible to state categorically, I am fairly certain we were among a very select few to see any player attempt that shot all week.

Lee, too, showed off some remarkable shot-making over the four days, including a stunning drive off the tee of the 392-metre par-4 7th on Sunday of the tournament.

Bunkers on the outside of the sweeping left to right dog leg see most players simply aim right and smash their drive over one of the trees on the corner to find the fairway some 100 metres or so short of the green.

While possessing more than enough clubhead speed to hit that shot, Lee instead opted to slide his drive off the bunkers and turn it around the corner, poetry in motion for those lucky enough to be in position to witness it.

Both shots were examples of an old school style of play where the real skill of the game was to be able to control spin, shape and trajectory.

More than once it occurred to me what a joy it would have been to watch these two play 30 years ago with the old balata ball and wooden-headed driver and fairway clubs.

Much has been written in recent weeks, including by me, about the distance the golf ball travels for the modern professional and the dangers many of us see that presenting.

But perhaps we should be equally concerned by how straight the modern ball flies.

Having been reminded by two incredibly talented young players what golf used to look like when the ball spun a lot more, one can’t help but wonder if the game wouldn’t be better served by adding spin as well as decreasing distance.


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