Friday, June 29, 2012

The Long Putter - Pure or Not?

Another Major goes by and another is won by a player using the long or belly putter. That’s Keegan and Webb, both “young guns” using the ugly weapon.  There’s no question in my mind it’s not pure, but it is also not against the rules. It takes some digging in the lengthy Rules of Golf to find even where the long putter could be covered. It seems that Rule 14-3 covers it and here’s what that says:

“14-3. Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment And Unusual Use Of Equipment
The USGA reserves the right, at any time, to change the Rules relating to artificial devices, unusual equipment and the unusual use of equipment, and to make or change the interpretations relating to these Rules.
Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment, or use any equipment in an unusual manner:
a. That might assist him in making a stroke or in his play; or
b. For the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play; or
c. That might assist him in gripping the club”

The word “anchoring” is nowhere to be found in the official rule book, which for those of you who have not read it, is just slightly more complicated than nuclear physics! It’s only a matter of time before that changes and following the recent majors victories both Messrs Dawson (R & A) and Davis (USGA) have stated they are investigating the situation. My interpretation of the rule is that the equipment is used in an “unusual manner” and this “assists in gripping the club”.

The R & A and the USGA reviews the rules every few years and this review would mean that no change is likely to be enforced until 2016 and possibly in recreational play not at all. Pure, unquestionably no, but legal until the governing rules bodies rule otherwise. Meanwhile, I’ll stick to my Bullseye la Femme, which at 33 inches is just perfect!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Golf in the UK - The Pure Rankings

I am back from the UK and our bi-annual match between teams from the UK and the US. This was our first match in the UK, following matches at Bandon and Pinehurst. The US was in the lead by 1½ to 1/2, so it was time for the UK team to step it up! I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the experience at each golf club on our tour. We played a mixture of private and public clubs which gave me an insight into the state of the British golf business and how they embrace visitors. The great news about "private" clubs in the UK is that they aren't! Calling or writing ahead will guarantee you a tee time - the Brits will happily take your money and the members of these clubs benefit with reduced fees and simply don't show up at the club on "visitor days". We played 6 courses over the week and here is a run down on the good, the bad and finally the indifferent. I have created the Pure Rankings, which is a secret amalgamation of scores for the course conditioning, design and overall experience of the day.

St. George's Hill, Weybridge

Designed by Harry Colt in 1912, St. George's comprises 27 holes, with the red, green and blue nines. We played what are generally considered the better 9s, the blue and red, but the green is also extremely good (and tight off the tee).  Several of the UK team are members of St. George’s and the experience and golf course were both magnificent.. The golf course is surrounded by some gorgeous period homes and sadly some McMansions allegedly being built by Russian oil tycoons. On the 18th on the red 9 a house hidden behind a huge fence warns away visitors with a huge sign saying “Beware Rotweillers”. Apparently the house is owned by Putin’s daughter and while we didn’t see her, we did see and hear the nice doggies!
Golf Course 4/5
Experience 4/5
Pure Ranking 7/10

Hankley Common, Farnham

Unfortunately, we experienced the British summer weather in all it’s glory…rain, rain and more rain! Hankley is a terrific golf course and the friendly pro helped get us on our way in a prompt and efficient manner. The course is one of many in the area designed by James Braid - actually he added 9 holes to the original 9 in 1922 - and it is a gem.
It’s also a golf course on which to hit the ball straight! Our group spent a long time looking for golf balls in the heather that borders many of the holes (see above). Many new tees have been built, but have not improved the golf course and I would recommend playing the course from the middle tees.
Golf Course 3/5
Experience 4/5
Pure Ranking 5/10

Walton Heath Old, Walton on the Hill

Originally laid out by Sir Herbert Fowler there are 2 courses at Walton Heath, the Old and the New. The 1981 Ryder Cup was played on the Old Course and in the locker room are wonderful photos of the teams. The US team with Nicklaus, Miller, Trevino, Watson, and more crushed the home team by the biggest margin in Ryder Cup history.
Once again we got wet, but apart from that had a fine time. The lady at the check in desk was charming and the course is highly recommended. The Old plays nearly 7,500 yards from the back tees, so don't even think about going back there! Walton Heath is very close to the M25 and unfortunately you can hear the sound of Britain’s busiest round at quite a number of the holes. There have been some architectural changes to the heathland course recently, including the removal of the wonderful wrap around bunker around 17.
Golf Course 4/5
Experience 4/5
Pure ranking 6/10

North Berwick, North Berwick

By far the most generous and welcoming club on our tour, North Berwick is the 13th oldest club in golf. Founded in 1832, Berwick is home to the famous, though slightly underwhelming Redan hole, the 15th. There are better Redan holes around the world, though this is widely considered to be the original. It was a wet day on our arrival, but miraculously, the clouds lifted for most of the round and Berwick provided a wonderfully playable and fun golf course on marvelous links land. Charming people and a lovely golf course.
Golf Course 3/5
Experience 5/5
Pure Ranking 7/10

Muirfield, Gullane

The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and their wonderful golf course has a reputation for being stuffy, exclusive and exclusionary. We found completely the opposite. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the club now opens the club to visitors (for hotel guests at Greywalls next door it is Mondays and Fridays)
It is a golf course that becomes more appreciated the more it is played, rather like The Old Course. Having been at University in Scotland, I have been fortunate to play the course on many occasions and despite playing poorly on the day I thoroughly enjoyed the course. The greens were slow, the rough high and with The Open Championship due in 2013, the course looks set to be in great shape for the event. The original golf course was designed by Old Tom Morris in 1891 and following several Open Championships, Harry Colt was hired to make some changes and that is essentially the golf course that we played.
Golf Course 4/5
Experience 5/5
Pure Ranking 8/10

The Old Course, St. Andrews

It’s almost impossible to review The Old Course from an architecture standpoint. Many, many more capable architecture experts have done that. Suffice to say I have played it countless times and every time I play I enjoy it more. In fact my game was deteriorating rapidly as the match progressed, but once we arrived in the “Old Grey Toon” I could feel my game return in time for the deciding singles matches. I awoke to lashing seas and a strong wind coming down and off the North Sea. The front nine played relatively easy, but around the loop and into the back nine the challenge rose. By the time we reached 18 the wind was blowing hard enough to hit 3 wood and 5 iron to 18!
The experience at TOC was terrific. The online booking process for the ballot was straightforward, but you need a stroke of luck to get the tee time you would like, on the day you would like. Once onsite, the starter and the gentleman on the first tee couldn’t have been nicer or more patient as they took photo after photo of each group on the first tee. At $225 it’s not cheap, but there isn’t a golfer on the planet who should miss the experience. In fact you aren’t really a golfer until you have experienced TOC.
Golf Course 5/5
Experience 5/5
Pure Ranking 10/10

Castle Course, St. Andrews

A David Kidd design and the newest course owned and operated by the St. Andrews Links Trust (making 7 in total). Prior to playing the course we heard many indifferent course reports from friends and other players in the town and we turned into the entrance about 2 miles out of town with some trepidation. Unfortunately our first encounter with a staff member was shocking. For some strange reason the entrance road into the club is only wide enough for one car and as we pulled in we encountered one of the green staff on a golf cart who seemed to think the road was his made an inappropriate gesture at us. Welcome to you too! Things picked up after that and the clubhouse staff and starter were very friendly.
The golf course still feels very new and rather like Whistling Straits has too many unnatural pushed up slopes and mounds that serve no purpose. The greens are big and have huge slopes, but were better than advertised.  The course management was poor, with rangers seemingly powerless to get people moving and after 4 ½ hours we took matters into our own hands down the last 2 holes and played an 8 ball back to the house! However, the view from many of the holes of St. Andrews town was worth the price of admission.
Golf Course 2/5
Experience 2/5
Pure Ranking 4/10

So, there you have it - 7 courses, 144 holes, 40 miles walked, 11 golf balls used, and the Brits finally drew level with a resounding victory at the Home of Golf. Roll on Match 4!