GOLF COLUMN: Don’t worry about distance

GOLF IS DIFFICULT, no matter how far you strike the ball on drives.

Approach shots can leak left or right, or just plain slice and hook drastically away from the target.

The sand awaits on many holes, ready to devour shots, a vacation at the beach you never knew you wanted to take.

And putting strokes take up 30 to 40 percent of an average amateur’s (10- to 19-stroke handicap) 18-hole round (1.72 putts per hole).

So don’t expect much to change for amateur golfers after the release of a distance report authored by the United States Golf Association and the R&A, golf’s two major governing bodies.

But the report could impact what is seen during pro golf events.

The report said driving distance across the seven major professional tours increased by 3 yards in 2017. That’s quite the jump from 2015 and ’16, which showed an increase of 0.2 yards per year. The report said, “This level of increase across so many tours in a single season is unusual and concerning and requires closer inspection and monitoring to fully understand the causes and effects.”

When it came to club golfers, the report found: “The average driving distance of a sample of amateur male golfers in the United Kingdom was measured to be 208 yards in 2016,” a jump of 8 yards since 2000.

It’s not a shock that pro golfers are hitting longer drives, they have better equipment, including balls, more access to technology and spend more time in the gym than past pros.

The Tiger Effect

Calls to lengthen courses have come since Tiger Woods won the Masters in 1997. Augusta National was “Tiger-proofed” in 2002 and 2006, lengthening it, planting new trees, and growing new rough.

Last month Jack Nicklaus, winner of 18 major tourneys and designer of many courses, criticized the ball’s impact on the game.

“There’s three things we have in the game of golf that really causes it to be slow and take longer: That’s the golf ball, the length of the golf course, the time that we play. The amount of money it costs is a very big detriment, because if you have more land and more fertilizer, more water, it costs more money. It costs more to play the game and the game is pretty difficult.”

It’s difficult to put the genie back in the lamp at the amateur level, so Nicklaus said he’d like to see the golf ball of today rolled back 20 percent in terms of distance traveled, and he is not opposed to recreational players using a 100 percent ball.

Titleist, the leading provider of golf balls to players on the PGA Tour, urges caution should be applied to the report and PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan also expressed reservations about any attempts to roll back equipment or make other changes.

“Having carefully reviewed the data, we do not believe the trends indicate a significant or abnormal increase in distance since 2003 or from 2016 to 2017,” Monahan wrote to his players. “Rest assured, we will continue to collaborate and share data with the USGA and the R&A — along with other industry stakeholders — in monitoring these trends, as we have since 2003, and are hopeful our perspectives will align.”

Golf pros around the country were set to be queried this week about limiting distance going forward.

They’ll have to decide how increased distance affects water usage, fertilizer and chemical usage, pace of play and golf course profitability.

Golf for Softball

Golf for Softball, a benefit tournament for the Sequim High School softball team, will be held at SkyRidge Golf Course in Sequim on Saturday.

A four-person scramble, the event has a 9 a.m. shotgun start.

Entry fees are $50 per person and will include 18 holes of golf, range balls and lunch.

Carts are an extra $15 per seat ($30 total).

The tournament is limited to 20 teams.

A $250 prize is guaranteed for the first-place team.

Proceeds will raise money for equipment, tournament fees and travel expenses.

Sequim made the Class 2A state softball tournament last season and is shooting for a return this May.

For more information, phone 360-683-3673.

St. Paddy’s Scramble

SkyRidge will host its 12th annual St. Paddy’s Scramble on Saturday, March 17.

The 18-hole, four-person scramble event will begin with a 9:30 a.m. shotgun start.

A mulligan stew lunch will be served following play.

KP’s will be available and there will be a long putt prize on the 18th hole.

Fees are $40 per player, or $160 per team.

Best-dressed prizes will be offered for those who embrace the holiday.

An optional honey pot is $40 per team and carts are $15 per seat.

Sign up by Thursday at 360-683-3673.

Cedars events

The course will hold a spring version of its popular night golf tournament, a nine-hole tournament preceded by dinner and a keg party, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

The cost is $65 for the public, $50 for members/employees.

Awards will be given to the most outrageous outfits.

A demo day featuring Callaway, Cleveland/Srixon, Ping. TaylorMade, Titleist and Mizuno equipment will be held at the course’s driving range from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Free hot dogs will be provided.

The course also will hold a St. Patty’s Shootout, a par-3 competition, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 17.

Every hole will have a KP prize and an Irish dinner and drink ticket are included in the $60 price tag ($42 for members).

For more information, phone 360-683-6344.

Ludlow special

Port Ludlow has a get out and golf special this month which includes a green fee, cart rental and a sleeve of Titleist Pro V-1’s for $40.

The club also will hold a series of women’s golf clinics beginning Monday with PGA golf pros Tyler Sweet and Kathryn Simerly.

The first clinic “Shake the Rust off Fundamentals” will run from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Other clinics will follow March 14, 19, 21, and 26, all from noon to 1:30 p.m.

For more information, call Port Ludlow at 360-437-0272.

Clinic Schedule:

March 12 — Shake the Rust off Fundamentals

March 14 — Putting

March 19 — Chipping

March 21 — Irons

March 26 — Woods

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