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Insights: Sports

Harry Hurt III
From the Print Edition:
Don Johnson, Mar/Apr 02

(continued from page 1)

One obvious if still hotly debated way to slow what critics claim to be a runaway train of yardage extensions is to impose new limits on equipment like the USGA's ban on the Callaway ERC and other drivers with high "spring-like effect." There is also more talk of a mandatory reduction in golf ball performance. "The new solid-core balls are making the biggest difference," Jones insists. "The pros used to be willing to sacrifice a little distance by playing a Balata ball that they could spin better. With the new solid-core balls, they don't have to sacrifice distance or spin."

I personally believe that we should implement another approach advocated by Crenshaw and his design partner, Bill Coore -- that is, returning to tradition rather than abandoning it. I'm not suggesting a reactionary campaign to halt all yardage extensions, or, God forbid, a forced march back to hickory shafts and gutta perchas. But rather than simply making courses longer and longer, we might do better to focus on creating or re-creating intentionally imperfect playing conditions that force us to golf our balls in the traditional fashion. As Coore puts it, "Let's start from the greens and work backward to defend the hole. Make bunkers into true hazards again where the sand is not the same in every one of them. Leave the fairways in a more natural state so that you don't get perfect lies every time and the ball will run through the corner of a dogleg into the rough if you hit an errant drive."

As a scratch handicapper, I've been chagrined to find that most of my friends who belong to what Jones calls the member class favor making their traditional courses both longer and harder. Many of them actually seem to feel guilty about reaping the benefits of the new equipment technology. A pal with a double-digit handicap who plays at Sleepy Hollow recently complained that the par-5 15th hole is too short because even he was getting home in two shots most of last summer. Knowing that the 15th green is sunken and severely sloped, I asked if he made birdie or eagle most of those times.

"No," he replied. "I usually three-putted for par."

You can bet Bobby Jones would get a graphite-shafted kick out of that.


Harry Hurt III writes frequently about golf.

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