As the PGA season unfolds next year, discerning golf watchers may begin to notice a recurring pattern. Too many weeks, finishing holes present the exact same tee- and approach-shot challenge: water left. In fact, more than half of the courses to which premier full fields return year after year have a lake, pond or ocean bordering the left side of the eighteenth fairway and/or green. The sameness is even more pronounced at early-season Tour stops. The explanation involves two central tenets of golf-course architecture.
The first is aesthetic. "When you're building a course, you try to make eighteen special," says Davis Love III, whose design franchise has now produced ten courses. "You want a pretty view from the clubhouse, so if you're going to build a lake or pond, that's where you put it."
The second tenet has to do with playability. "The bad player's tendency is a slice," says Tom Marzolf, senior design associate at Fazio Golf Course Designers. "So when you're drawing up a course, you don't want to challenge a poor player too much on the last hole and put water where he's likely to miss. You put it where a good player is likely to miss."
Both Love and Marzolf acknowledge the problem of sound principles producing tedious uniformity. The future, however, is unwritten. Will the architects be brave enough to eschew the obvious?"Now that you've mentioned it," says Love, "I'll try to avoid doing it."
After twenty-six years as the reigning authority on greens speed for virtually every golf course in the world, the Stimpmeter is facing its first competition. And it's stiff. And computerized. And expensive. With a clean three-track system of curved ramps and a computer-chip brain, the $650 Pelzmeter plays NASA to the $45 Stimpmeter's Wright-brothers ethos. The Stimpmeter requires you to roll a ball down a single metal strip six times in two directions onto a level area of a putting green, measure the distance it travels each time and compute an average. With the Pelzmeter, you roll three balls simultaneously anywhere on a green, measure and leave the numbers to the calculator. Short-game guru Dave Pelz and his son Eddie boast that the new reference tool is guaranteed to provide more-accurate results. Call 800-833-7370 or visit pelzgolf.com.
"Those guys haven't seen a 68-mile-an-hour fastball since Little League."
—Paul Azinger, on Phil Mickelson's failed attempt to join the Detroit Tigers' AAA affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens, as a pitcher.
Question: Absent all restrictions, how far could a golf ball be made to go?
Answer: Probably far enough for you to drive every par five on your course—or, alternatively, slice three fairways over instead of just one. The 600-yard ball is only speculative, of course, but here are a few hints should you want to try cooking one up in your basement lab: Make it smaller and heavier than what's currently allowed. Experiment with asymmetrical dimple patterns. Most importantly, make it out of some exotic metal alloy, since metals return a higher percentage of energy than the current polymers. Then paint it white, take it to the course and plug up your ears.
The title, Golf's Greatest Moments: An Illustrated History by the Game's Finest Writers ($45), is misleading—the book is not about specific golf episodes, but rather covers the entire spectrum of the game. It should be called Golf's Greatest Writers, because that's what it is—more than sixty of the best-written pieces to ever take on man versus golf. Updike, Darwin, Vardon, Wind, Jenkins and Plimpton are all represented, and that's just a sampling. Contemporary standouts include John Paul Newport's take on Phil Mickelson from the November/December 2001 issue of T&L Golf. The prose is accompanied by 170 paintings, photographs and magazine covers, which are reminders of the game's power to keep us in thrall when we're not actually playing.
Last fall, Sports Illustrated's Rick Lipsey spent three months in Bhutan serving as golf guru to the government ministers of the small country between India and Tibet. "I fell in love with the place," Lipsey says of the Himalayan land with seven courses and a single electric cart—which is broken. In April he will lead an eighteen-day golf trek featuring a round at the world's highest course, at the base of Mount Jhomolhari, plus rounds at Royal Thimphu Golf Club and on the black-sand greens at Wangdi, a Bhutanese army base ($6,995, airfare not included; contact Lipsey at 212-531-1602 or visit golfbhutan.com). Proceeds will help promote golf in Bhutan.
|Phil in the majors||All Square||Phil in the minors|
|The Hooters Tour||1 up||The Champions Tour|
|Tiger's head cover||2 and 1||Tiger's driver|
|The Ryder Cup||2 and 1||The President's Cup|
|Six-foot putts||8 and 7||320-yard drives|