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JNC Lyon

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This is a question I've been grappling with for awhile, and Ryan Potts' thread on Merion reminded me of it.  Would the best way to make courses tough at the professional level be to soften up the fairways to limit distance?  As the theory of bomb and gauge tells, golfers today are much more interested in distance than accuracy.  Firm and fast fairways simply play into this interest.  Professionals don't necessarily carry the ball obscene distances, but their drives go obscene distances because they generally play rock hard fairways.  Wouldn't it be tougher if professionals faced soft fairways and got no roll?

Then, to make scoring difficult, superintendents could leave approaches and greens firm and fast.  Pros would then be hitting longer irons into firm greens, and the premium would be on accuracy and ballstriking rather than pure distance.  To me, Merion in the 2009 Walker Cup illustrated how soft fairways make a course tougher, because college players (who generally hit it longer than most professionals) were hitting long irons and woods into holes like 5 and 18.  The holes got tougher because they played longer.

Soft fairways and firm greens: is that the answer at the professional level?
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Jim Eder

Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2011, 03:34:20 PM »
The one issue with soft fairways is the fact that with limited or no roll there is a reduced probability of having the ball run into the rough. A hook that lands in the fairway could possible stay in the fairway rather than bound into the rough.

Ronald Montesano

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2011, 03:40:54 PM »
I agree with Eder. A pro, if pushed, might ask for softer fairways, especially if they contain angular drive zones.

How do you propose to keep the fairways soft?
Coming in 2024
~Elmira Country Club
~Soaring Eagles
~Bonavista
~Indian Hills
~Maybe some more!!

Andy Hodson

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2011, 03:42:29 PM »
What is the question at the pro level????

Michael Blake

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2011, 05:53:36 PM »
Didn't William Flynn discuss this exact concept?
Watering the landing areas off the tee to reduce roll.
But keeping the greens firm.

Jerry Kluger

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2011, 06:04:54 PM »
I would venture a guess that the vast majority of PGA Tour level pros can carry the ball at least 280 yards with most well over 300 so at 450 yards you would have to make the greens like a rock for them to have a problem.  Firm up the fairways and make the rough really thick - then make sure the greens have some significant contours that really punish a shot which is not in the proper location on the green. They are really good but they're not perfect - courses like Sawgrass and ANGC show how to challenge them and reward the best player that week.  The top 100 players are so good that it is no surprise when any one of them wins so accept the fact that someone going low doesn't mean the course is bad or the setup is bad. 

Jim Eder

Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2011, 06:07:07 PM »
Some tournaments have cut the fairways toward the tee in order to reduce roll also.  I am not sure how much it has reduced distance but something else to consider.

JNC Lyon

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2011, 06:32:47 PM »
The one issue with soft fairways is the fact that with limited or no roll there is a reduced probability of having the ball run into the rough. A hook that lands in the fairway could possible stay in the fairway rather than bound into the rough.

From the way many of the pros play, they would much rather be farther up in the rough than back in the fairway.  Many of these courses, it seems like players will get 40-50 yards of roll.  If courses were softened with watering in the landing, this would make a huge difference.  Instead of having 130 yards into a par four with a wedge in hand, players will be back at 170-180 with mid-irons.  These guys hit their irons well, but not well enough to be able to make birdies consistently from the 170-180 range.  To me, soft fairways would cause scores to go up if the greens were kept firm through less watering.
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Kalen Braley

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2011, 06:49:23 PM »
I agree with Eder. A pro, if pushed, might ask for softer fairways, especially if they contain angular drive zones.

How do you propose to keep the fairways soft?

Sprinklers?   ::)

However, it would seem easier and cheaper just to raise the height on the fairway mowers.

Grant Saunders

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2011, 07:17:41 PM »
I dont think the solution lies in watering.

I seem to recall a few years ago Lake Karrinyup GC in Australia vertidrained the landing areas of fairways prior to a tournemaent to take the sting out of them. I think they used needle tines which would have no impact on the turf surface. I never heard if it had the desired effect, but I like the idea in concept.

I think raising cutting heights would also help the problem of excess roll. I think it was the PGA at Valhalla in the late 90's where they pedestrian cut the fairways for the tournament. I heard the fairways stimped at 7. Slightly longer grass would also make it harder to impart the same amount of spin on the ball and make approaches tougher for the players.

As for mowing towards the tee, I think the difference would be minimal and certainly not worth the extra resources required to do so.

Ronald Montesano

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2011, 11:00:28 PM »
Thanks, Grant...I was hoping for what you said.

How can you water and drain fairways consistently, across the traditional 14 driving holes? There is no way that they all drain or retain equally, so inconsistent wetness will be the result.

If you raise the mowing height, where do you start and where do you stop? Wouldn't this be the hyper-Augusta approach, wherein you essentially grow rough in the fairway?

This seems to be an unpredictable and artificial way to impose will on the golf course.

Let the fairways run and force players to back off the driver to keep the ball in play.
Coming in 2024
~Elmira Country Club
~Soaring Eagles
~Bonavista
~Indian Hills
~Maybe some more!!

Adam Clayman

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2011, 11:24:30 PM »
JNC, They tried that a few years back at Bay Hill. The pros were made to look silly. Oh yeah, and they bitched like crazy.

I'd rather see them play on Shinney '04 conditions. But that's just me.
"It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing your whole life." - Mickey Mantle

JNC Lyon

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2011, 12:36:29 AM »
Thanks, Grant...I was hoping for what you said.

How can you water and drain fairways consistently, across the traditional 14 driving holes? There is no way that they all drain or retain equally, so inconsistent wetness will be the result.

If you raise the mowing height, where do you start and where do you stop? Wouldn't this be the hyper-Augusta approach, wherein you essentially grow rough in the fairway?

This seems to be an unpredictable and artificial way to impose will on the golf course.

Let the fairways run and force players to back off the driver to keep the ball in play.

Ron,

I think bomb and gauge shows that players don't need to back off with the driver, no matter how long the rough or how the fairways are running.  The long hitter doesn't care if he misses the fairway, as long as he has a wedge in his hands for the second shot.  Ultimately, narrow, firm fairways provide little real challenge to the modern pro.  Softer, wider fairways that lead longer approach shots and more choices would seem to mess with the best players more than anything.

Is softening the fairway for a professional tournament any more artificial than growing rough to six inches and narrowing fairways to 22 yards?  Those tactics always seemed contrived.

Adam,

Don't you find it interesting that no winning score in the US Open has been lower than it was at Shinnecock since 2004?  The pros complained and complained, but the courses set up under Mike Davis were actually a lot tougher.
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Adam Clayman

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2011, 08:10:02 AM »
Yes that is interesting. But to me the value (274 or whatever) is not germane in a sport where lowest score wins regardless of its value. It was the field's score which was high.   
"It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing your whole life." - Mickey Mantle

JNC Lyon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2011, 10:51:05 AM »
Yes that is interesting. But to me the value (274 or whatever) is not germane in a sport where lowest score wins regardless of its value. It was the field's score which was high.   

That definitely makes sense.  However, Retief shooting 276 at Shinnecock (and Phil shooting 278) shows, despite all the craziness of holes like 7, the course was there to be had.  It seems like the course, particularly 7, simply got into the heads of most players, who were content to make high numbers and complain about tough conditions.  However, a couple of guys were able to rise above it mentally and bring in some good scores.  If anything, the low winning score and high field score shows that Shinnecock was more of a mental test than a physical test in 2004, which, to me, is more desirable.
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Andy Hodson

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2011, 11:23:29 AM »
In every other sport the goal is for the amateurs to strive to be as good as the pros. In golf, we strive for the pros to be like the amateurs.

Again I ask: Since we are looking for an "answer" and a "solution", what is the question or what is the problem?

JNC Lyon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2011, 12:25:12 PM »
Andy,

The problem is at strictly at the professional level, and it occurs when pros light up golf courses by hitting the golf ball obscene distances and making birdies with wedges almost exclusively.  As we know, the professional game trickles down disproportionately to the amateur level, as owners and architects feel they have to lengthen golf courses and grow high rough to stop the distance increase at the top level.

As I see it, the divide between the amateur and the professional game has increased over the years.  As I see it, this can only be a bad thing.  As we know, golf is one of the only sports where amateurs and professionals compete by the same rules and on the same playing fields.  If the divide continues to increase, it compromises that exceptionalism.

My "answer" or "solution" is a temporary one, where courses would simply keep fairways extra-soft and greens extra-firm up in a few weeks leading up to a tournament.  This would be pretty easy, fairly cost-effective, and much less invasive than growing high rough, keeping fairways narrow, lengthening courses, or mangling courses to make them "tournament-ready."
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Andy Hodson

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Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2011, 01:38:35 PM »
JNC,

No offense intended, but your reply demonstrates my point exactly; namely that golf is the only game where we want the pros to more resemble the amateurs.

Off the top of my head, I'd say that college baseball, football, and basketball all play by the same rules as the professionals. Exceptions could be made for aluminum bats (which this year have been modified to play more like wooden bats) in baseball, the width of hash marks, and various little rules such as two feet in,etc. in football, and the three point arc in basketball. So golf does not have that market cornered. And in all of these sports the pros are much better than the amateurs, across the board. No one is saying that because of the excellence at the pro level vis a vis the amateur level that mounds should be raised, fences moved, baskets raised, courts widened, or fields lengthened so the pro game more resembles the one the amateurs play.

Basically, who cares what the pros shoot on tour? Its a competition to see who shoots the lowest score that week. The players earn the right to play at that level by being better than 99.999999% of the golf population. They should hit it farther, straighter, closer, with more spin than everyone else. They should recover, get up and down, and putt better than everyone else. (BTW, this all leads to a lower score).

I just don't see it as the problem that you do. Why can't we celebrate how unbelievably good they  are? We bitch at mistake filled games/teams in the NBA, MLB, or NFL, and demand better,  yet we rejoice when the winning score at the US Open is +4 or higher. And IMO the only way to get a high enough winning score is through contrivance. Witness Carnoustie, Winged Foot circa 1974, Shinnecock's 7th, Olympic's 18th.

Matthew Petersen

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2011, 02:04:09 PM »
JNC,

No offense intended, but your reply demonstrates my point exactly; namely that golf is the only game where we want the pros to more resemble the amateurs.

Off the top of my head, I'd say that college baseball, football, and basketball all play by the same rules as the professionals. Exceptions could be made for aluminum bats (which this year have been modified to play more like wooden bats) in baseball, the width of hash marks, and various little rules such as two feet in,etc. in football, and the three point arc in basketball. So golf does not have that market cornered. And in all of these sports the pros are much better than the amateurs, across the board. No one is saying that because of the excellence at the pro level vis a vis the amateur level that mounds should be raised, fences moved, baskets raised, courts widened, or fields lengthened so the pro game more resembles the one the amateurs play.

Basically, who cares what the pros shoot on tour? Its a competition to see who shoots the lowest score that week. The players earn the right to play at that level by being better than 99.999999% of the golf population. They should hit it farther, straighter, closer, with more spin than everyone else. They should recover, get up and down, and putt better than everyone else. (BTW, this all leads to a lower score).

I just don't see it as the problem that you do. Why can't we celebrate how unbelievably good they  are? We bitch at mistake filled games/teams in the NBA, MLB, or NFL, and demand better,  yet we rejoice when the winning score at the US Open is +4 or higher. And IMO the only way to get a high enough winning score is through contrivance. Witness Carnoustie, Winged Foot circa 1974, Shinnecock's 7th, Olympic's 18th.


I'm with Andy here. I've never understood why it's a problem that the pros shoot low scores.

JNC talks about the trickle-down effect, but the only thing that trickles down is the length and difficulty of courses, and that comes purely from this bizarre (to me) need to "protect par".

Andy's metaphor with other sports was a good one. Sure, we can be amazed at the way pro basketball players perform, but no matter how much I am amazed by him I can no more play ball like LeBron than I can hit it like Phil. But if we decided the pros were too good and they should be using 12 foot baskets ... well, it wouldn't be long at all that we'd all be shooting at 12 foot rims, even though most gym rats can't come close to dunking at 10 feet.

Adam Clayman

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #19 on: May 18, 2011, 04:09:37 PM »
And sometimes it rains.

The open at Pinehurst will have a chance to be a game changer. The added width, allowing strategic choice over brute distance, could highlight how flawed the USGA's Open set-ups have been.

Granted, Shinney '04 should've also showed them something, and from the communication I had with Marty Parks, immediately following that final round, they were really happy. But, the revisionists took over, and the soft and plop crowd retaliated against Michaud's revenge. Tom Paul made an astute prediction before that championship. He said that if one of those pros, played away from the green/pin, it would highlight the strategic value inherit in that design. well sure as shoot'in it happened. But was all but ignored by the cognoscenti/media.

JNC, Back in 04 every hole was birdied by someone on that great and terrible day. To me, that proved that it was not the courses fault for the higher field scores. It was a combination of the players equipment being designed for other than ground game shots, and their unfamiliarity with how to play on a very firm canvas. They made poor choices of shot selection and course management on that Sunday and ended up blaming the firmness. The low Am that week was Spencer Levin. He finished 16th. I attributed his performance to his familiarity with firm conditions, since he went to school in New Mexico and the winters there are mild enough to play golf, but cold enough to produce the kind of canvas the pros played on that fateful Sunday.  
"It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing your whole life." - Mickey Mantle

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #20 on: May 18, 2011, 04:33:04 PM »
I don't know, but it seems to me that it would be quite hard to shift from hard/hard to soft/hard and back to hard/hard after the pros left town.  Just as its harder than it would seem to narrow fairways then widen them again when the pros leave.  Any supers out there know?

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Ashridge, Kennemer, de Pan, Eindhoven, Hilversumche, Royal Ostend, Alnmouth & Cruden Bay St Olaf

JNC Lyon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2011, 09:57:58 PM »
JNC,

No offense intended, but your reply demonstrates my point exactly; namely that golf is the only game where we want the pros to more resemble the amateurs.

Off the top of my head, I'd say that college baseball, football, and basketball all play by the same rules as the professionals. Exceptions could be made for aluminum bats (which this year have been modified to play more like wooden bats) in baseball, the width of hash marks, and various little rules such as two feet in,etc. in football, and the three point arc in basketball. So golf does not have that market cornered. And in all of these sports the pros are much better than the amateurs, across the board. No one is saying that because of the excellence at the pro level vis a vis the amateur level that mounds should be raised, fences moved, baskets raised, courts widened, or fields lengthened so the pro game more resembles the one the amateurs play.

Basically, who cares what the pros shoot on tour? Its a competition to see who shoots the lowest score that week. The players earn the right to play at that level by being better than 99.999999% of the golf population. They should hit it farther, straighter, closer, with more spin than everyone else. They should recover, get up and down, and putt better than everyone else. (BTW, this all leads to a lower score).

I just don't see it as the problem that you do. Why can't we celebrate how unbelievably good they  are? We bitch at mistake filled games/teams in the NBA, MLB, or NFL, and demand better,  yet we rejoice when the winning score at the US Open is +4 or higher. And IMO the only way to get a high enough winning score is through contrivance. Witness Carnoustie, Winged Foot circa 1974, Shinnecock's 7th, Olympic's 18th.


I'm with Andy here. I've never understood why it's a problem that the pros shoot low scores.

JNC talks about the trickle-down effect, but the only thing that trickles down is the length and difficulty of courses, and that comes purely from this bizarre (to me) need to "protect par".

Andy's metaphor with other sports was a good one. Sure, we can be amazed at the way pro basketball players perform, but no matter how much I am amazed by him I can no more play ball like LeBron than I can hit it like Phil. But if we decided the pros were too good and they should be using 12 foot baskets ... well, it wouldn't be long at all that we'd all be shooting at 12 foot rims, even though most gym rats can't come close to dunking at 10 feet.

Andy and Matthew,

Generally, I don't care whether pros shoot low scores either.  They are great at what they do, if a player shoots 65 he is an excellent golfer.  However, most people don't think this way.  Members want to see pros embarrassed at their golf course, and they take it personally if somebody plays well and shoots a low score.  As a result, members seek to change their golf courses specifically for professional golfers, usually be adding more hazards, narrowing fairways, planting trees, and lengthening tees.  These strategies may test the better player for one week out of five years, but it will make the golf course miserable for everyone else who plays it everyday.

My "solution," as it were, is a reaction both to advances in the pro game AND the sentiment (however ridiculous it might be) of members who want to see their course defend par.  The solution is purely a maintenance one that is temporary and allows courses to be playable for members on the weeks when their course is not hosting a major championship.

Like it or not, golf IS different.  It is equally a participatory and a spectator sport.  That is one of the things that makes golf so great.  I can watch a video of Seve Ballesteros at the 1995 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill and then go attempt the shots he hit.  It's the only sport where amateurs can truly identify with the victories and defeats at the professional level.  Moreover, the sites of major championships are used much more often by golfers of varying abilities.  Thus, we have to find a state where golf courses can test professionals adequately (to stop easily offended members from tinkering with their golf course) while still keeping the course playable at all other times.
"That's why Oscar can't see that!" - Philip E. "Timmy" Thomas

Ronald Montesano

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2011, 10:08:45 PM »
JNC, I know you didn't mean it, but I like "bomb and gauge" better than "gouge."

I agree with the complete artificiality, so that's why you let the fairways run and hope for angular drive lines, not straight down the middle of the old fairway -- der bingle.
Coming in 2024
~Elmira Country Club
~Soaring Eagles
~Bonavista
~Indian Hills
~Maybe some more!!

Jim_Kennedy

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #23 on: May 18, 2011, 10:43:03 PM »
.....it would seem easier and cheaper just to raise the height on the fairway mowers.

Tiger Woods agrees with you. He once played a practice round at Augusta on fairways that had not been mowed because of the weather. In the interview afterwards he said that gauging the amount of spin the ball would have when it hit the green was a problem.

 

"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon

Jeff Grossman

Re: Soft Fairways and Firm Greens: The Answer at the Pro Level?
« Reply #24 on: May 19, 2011, 12:35:53 AM »
Soft fairways and firm greens could make things more difficult.  Why not turn bunkers back into hazards to facilitate a buried or plugged lie every now and then!  How often in the US open do you here the players saying get in the bunker and not in the rough?

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