Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Handicaps: competing on an equal basis

by Mary Armstrong

Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 3-23-12


Over the last few months, I’ve heard a lot of talk about what role tee box (or tee set) selection has in equaling the field in competition. It’s my understanding that one local golf association has even enacted a by-law that assigns tee boxes by handicap.

This approach flies in the face of the USGA’s competition guidelines and makes about as much sense as requiring every bowler in a league that has a 175 or high average to use a sixteen pound ball. Your choice of the tee set you play from is the same as a bowler’s choice of the bowling ball weight he or she chooses. A long hitter may have some advantage when playing from a given tee set, just as someone using a 16 pound ball will have an advantage over someone that uses a twelve pounder.  Bowlers choose the weight of ball they feel they can handle just as golfers choose the tee set that fits their abilities.

Some golf courses endeavor to recommend a tee set for players based upon their handicaps, but that is primarily done to discourage people from playing a longer course than they can handle, which helps to maintain speed of play. This effort has been emphasized by the USGA’s recent promotion “Tee it Forward,” which encourages people to play a shorter course so they can enjoy the game more. I know that the bowling comparison isn’t perfect, but it very clearly relates in this case. Because golf courses have inconsistent measurements (versus bowling facilities for instance) it is important that play take place from the same tee set by all competitors, particularly in a scratch or no handicap event.

Players may play from different tee sets in a handicap event, but the handicaps must be adjusted to account for the more difficult course played from the longer tees.

In summary, to determine the best players in a competition, they all need to play the same course. If you want to “equalize” those players, then make it a handicap event.


NGF: Golf facility numbers fall again

For the sixth consecutive year, the National Golf Foundation (NGF) has reported that golf course closings outnumbered openings in 2011.

Last year, there were just 19 openings while 157.5 18 hole equivalents (e.g. two nine hole courses equals one 18) closed.

This represents the largest number of closings during that six year stretch.  The NGF explained this “supply-side market correction” is due to the fact that the number of golfers and rounds played over the last 20 years did not increase at the rate of the golf course supply. The boom started in the early 90s and since 1991, 18 hole equivalents have grown by 30 percent vs. the meager 6.5-percent growth in golfers over the same period.

“The cumulative reduction in course supply over the past six years has been quite modest, and pales in comparison to the net increase in facilities that occurred over the two decades prior to this recent pullback,” said Joe Beditz, the President and CEO of the NGF. “In 2000 alone, we gained 362 courses, and over the 20-year period from 1986-2005, we added more than 4,500 courses (18HEQ). The slow correction that is now occurring is very much overdue and necessary to help return the golf course business to a more healthy equilibrium between supply and demand.” The boom of the 90s was largely due to real estate projects that used projected “baby boomer” retiree demand to woo investors. Unfortunately, we all didn’t get old enough fast enough and the economy delayed retirements. I’m not holding my breath, but once the economy stabilizes and we “baby boomers” have the time to devote to golf, I’m hoping player numbers will explode.


Tiger’s stripes in High Def

This week we got what some are calling a clearer, more focused picture of what makes Tiger Woods tick in pre-release critiques of Hank Haney’s book “The Big Miss.” Tiger has been almost excruciatingly private and reserved in his public comments over his career. Even the nasty break up with his wife didn’t bring the same level of character revelation that we often see in celebrity divorces.

Haney was Tiger’s swing coach during that period, and although he said he wanted to focus on Tiger’s pursuit of his place in golfing history, a number of personal events are negatively described.

According to an news service article on the book, Tiger’s personal faux pas are revealed or re-hashed.  From Ian Poulter’s uninvited ride home in Tiger’s plane to his relationship with wife Elin at the golf course, Haney’s perception of Tiger’s true character is clearly spelled out for all to see.

Most of the book’s critiques seem to paint a picture of a deeply self-absorbed, complex man that was motivated to constantly improve, but distracted by other interests. Aside from his sexual escapades, Tiger apparently had a strong desire to be a Navy SEAL. This desire was so strong that he participated in a SEAL training exercise at a “Kill House” — an urban warfare simulator — in 2007, and his left knee was injured pretty badly. The story was corroborated by one of Woods’ closest friends and the wife of a SEAL that participated in the same exercise. This led to Tiger’s knee surgery after the 2008 U.S. Open.

Similarly, Tiger’s exercise regimen became more focused on his desire to be recognized as much as an athlete as a golfer. Haney and Tiger’s strength and conditioning coach Keith Kleven tried to convince him that his upper body strengthening was too much for an efficient golf swing. In 2008, Corey Carroll, a close friend at Isleworth, said that Woods injured his right Achilles tendon while attempting Olympic-style weightlifting as he returned from the major knee surgery of December 2008.

Personally, I’m at a loss to understand the Tiger bashing.  I’m not a big fan, and what I know isn’t attractive to me, but all this piling on isn’t warranted and certainly at best is based on third hand information. His personal life is just that, and if he chooses to risk his professional career for something he enjoys, then that’s up to him so long as he doesn’t hurt someone else.

Tiger’s injuries may well mean that he’ll never surpass Nicklaus’ major wins record.  The big question is: “Why does society demean individuals that don’t reach their perceived potential because they choose not to devote themselves?’ I, for one, think we should “get a life.”

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. Mary is also the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http://roadholeshorts17.wordpr



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