Posted by & filed under Blog, Debates, Feature Articles, Golf Updates.

Golf’s governing bodies are working on a single system used the world over. And it’s about time.

Imagine having a handicap you could use all over the world.

You could play a competition in America, Japan, or China, and your performance would directly affect the mark you play off in your home club tournaments every week. This has been a dream for many club and elite amateur golfers, and it could soon be reality.

The R&A and USGA have enjoyed a busy 2017. First, they announced they were giving the rules a thorough going over – in a bid to simplify the game. Now, the two most prominent golfing organisations on the planet have announced they are working with other authorities to develop a single ‘World Handicap System’.

World Handicap System

 

Why is this needed?

There are around 15 million golfers, playing in more than 80 countries, who have a handicap – the number that is a measure of a player’s skill level. The problem is there are a variety of different systems in operation and they don’t easily match up.

In Britain, handicaps are administered by the Council of National Golf Unions – known to everyone as CONGU. But there are similar bodies in Australia, Europe, South Africa and Argentina, as well as the United States. If I were to play a tournament in Europe, it wouldn’t currently count towards my British handicap. How is that right? Or fair?

Different systems also bring with them different conceptions of ability. Is a three handicap in Britain the same as in the United States, in South Africa or Argentina? A single, unified, system would remove those questions. Just to get to this point of announcement has taken two years.

 

The interested parties have already looked at course ratings and the systems currently in use and a joint committee has been formed that will announce proposals later in the year. The favourite model will probably incorporate modified elements of the USGA’s course rating system. Part of that includes ‘slope’, which, in very simple terms, measures courses in terms of difficulty. Under this system, playing handicaps on any given day can rise and fall depending on how hard a course is considered.

So, if I have a handicap of 11 on my home course it might be a couple of shots higher at Carnoustie, for example, and a couple of shots lower on another course rated easier. It’s important to note that a whole range of other factors also goes into determining a course rating.

England Golf, though, have been using the USGA Course Rating System for a while now. Even if all sides are in total agreement later this year, though, don’t expect this to be a change that comes in overnight. You won’t be popping out to play a qualifier on a proper links track with a bigger handicap next season. It’s more likely to be 2020.

But this is still great news for all of us who want to tee it up no matter where in the world we play.

 

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Posted by & filed under Blog, Debates, Feature Articles, Golf Updates.

Golf’s governing bodies have changed the rules to limit video reviews – but would it have spared Lexi Thompson’s blushes?

The R&A and USGA have installed a new addition to the Rules of Golf which will limit the use of video evidence in the game.

Armchair referees have been a fixture in golf for some years, most recently when Lexi Thompson was hit with a four shot penalty while leading by two at the ANA Inspiration earlier this month. Thompson, whose violation occurred during the third round, was penalised after the 12th hole on the final day, causing uproar in every corner of the golfing world.

A statement issued by the governing bodies reads that the new rule, 34-3/10, implements two standards for rules committees to limit the use of video.

rules of golf

 

Firstly, when video reveals evidence that could not reasonably be seen with the “naked eye”, and secondly, when players use their reasonable judgment to determine a specific location when applying the rules.

The first standard states “the use of video technology can make it possible to identify things that could not be seen with the naked eye”. An example includes a player who unknowingly touches a few grains of sand in taking a backswing with a club in a bunker when making a stroke. If the committee concludes that such facts could not reasonably have been seen with the naked eye and the player was not otherwise aware of the potential breach, the player will be deemed not to have breached the rules, even when video technology shows otherwise. This extends the provision from ball at rest moved cases, which was introduced in 2014.

The second standard applies when a player determines a spot, point, position, line, area, distance or other location in applying the rules and recognises that a player should not be held to the degree of precision that can sometimes be provided by video technology. Examples include determining the nearest point of relief, or replacing a lifted ball.

So long as the player does what can reasonably be expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player’s reasonable judgement will be accepted, even if later shown to be wrong by the use of video evidence.

rules of golf

 

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, said the governing bodies want to ensure that “the emphasis remains as much as possible on the reasonable judgment of the player rather than on what video technology can show”. His counterpart at the USGA, Mike Davis, added: “Advancements in video technology are enhancing the viewing experience for fans but can also significantly affect the competition. We need to balance those advances with what is fair for all players when applying the rules.”

The new rules are unclear as to whether or not Thompson would have been spared at the ANA, though it’s almost certain she would have been cleared via the “naked eye” clarification. But it certainly would have meant Anna Nordqvist wasn’t slapped with penalty shots at last year’s US Open after several television replays showed she flicked a few grains of sand while in a bunker.

The biggest question is – why has it taken the R&A and USGA five years to issue what is essentially common sense?

 

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Posted by & filed under Blog, Competitions, Debates, Feature Articles.

The European Tour is busy experimenting with new formats and any attempts to interrupt the monotony of 72-hole strokeplay every week of the year must be applauded.

 

Frankly, it doesn’t matter what I think about them, and to a lesser extent, you neither. I watch golf through the fall season, Race to Dubai, build-ups to majors, Fed-Ex play-offs, Q School – and I can’t even resist an hour of the Franklin-Templeton Shootout. I’m guessing you’re not far behind. We’re not really the problem. It’s the rest of the population.

 

PGA Tour

 

The recent World Super 6 in Perth and the upcoming GolfSixes at Centurion – why does everything have to involve a six? – have attracted some support as well as more than a little derision. I don’t see how you can complain about golf’s resistance to change and then mock when it tries to do just that.

 

I must, though, sound a note of caution for those who cite golf’s need to find a version of T20 in order to boost participation. T20 has done many things for cricket but among them is not re-populating village greens up and down the land every weekend with people in their whites.

 

By the same token, we should not confuse Keith Pelley’s admirable attempts to change the record with being the answer to dwindling numbers of golf club members.

 

At grass-roots level, though, we do share with the European Tour a necessity for something to change. Pelley is at least acknowledging that.

 

A look at the tour’s schedule for the season shows that there is practically nothing to appeal to a Ryder Cup-level player between the Desert Swing, that concludes in early February, and the BMW PGA Championship in late May. That’s not a gap – it’s almost a third of the year.

 

I’m not sure it’s ever been an easier decision than it is right now for an up-and-coming star to take his chances on the PGA Tour.

 

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Posted by & filed under Blog, Competitions, Feature Articles, Majors, Masters.

Seeing the sight of Augusta National brings excitement to any golfing fan across the world. When the time comes around for the Masters it seems to signal the real start to the golfing season, especially in the UK.

Here are 10 facts about the Alistair McKenzie-designed course that you might not know about:

 

Augusta National Golf Club

 

Membership

Obtaining a membership is extremely difficult. Harder than gaining tickets for the Masters!

You must be invited by the club and then reportedly pay a five-figure subscription fee. Notably, Bill Gates is a member.

 

Playing Augusta National

If you thought gaining a membership sounded tough then trying to play the course is just as difficult.

You must either be friends with a member, be part of the golf media ballot at the Masters, be a volunteer at the tournament or play at a nearby university to name just a few options.

 

Yardages

The yardages of Augusta National are rounded to the nearest five or 10, leaving a round figure for those of you who have OCD with numbers.

Course founders Bobby Jones said the forever changing tee and pin positions were part of the reason to leave the yardages rounded. The course currently measures at 7,435 yards.

 

Cabins

There are 10 cabins located inside the grounds of Augusta National and for the members and their guests.

One cabin is called the Eisenhower Cabin as it was purposely built by the club for President Eisenhower.

 

Amen Corner

One of the most iconic phrases in golf. The saying comes from sports writer Herbert Warren Wind, who, in 1958 referred to holes 11, 12 and 13 as Amen Corner. Coming from the jazz song “Shouting at Amen Corner”.

 

Par 3 Fountain

There is a fountain placed next to the first tee of the par three course. It has every par three contest winners engraved on it starting with Sam Snead in 1960.

As you may know, no player has won the par three contest and the Masters Tournament in the same year.

 

Champions Dinner

The Champions Dinner is for members of Augusta National golf club and past champions of the tournament.

The reigning champion hosts the dinner and picks the menu for the guests to eat.

 

Crow’s Nest

Ever wondered what is at the top of the Augusta National clubhouse?

Well situated at the top is the Crow’s Nest which is capable of housing five people at a time. This is where the amateur players stay during the week of the tournament.

 

Club Closures

Despite the peak golfing season being in the middle of the summer, Augusta National is only open until May and closes until October.

 

Strict Rules

Augusta plays by strict rules. The club maintains a no running policy as well as no electronic equipment allowed on the course apart from on practice days. The latter applies to players as well.

Commentators, broadcasters and anyone else referring to the crowds at Augusta must call them patrons. Some have been kicked out and taken off air for failing to do so.

 

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Posted by & filed under Golf Equipment, Golf Tips, Golf Updates, Reviews.

Mizuno have added the JPX-S to their 2017 ball line-up which they believe will offer a more balanced performance for players who don’t posses tour-level swing speeds.

The Japanese brand are still fairly new to the ball market having released the MP-S and MP-X models a couple of years ago followed by the introduction of the JPX and high-tech JPX Platinum 5-piece models.

 

Mizuno JPX-S

 

Mizuno say JPX-S has a softer core allowing their engineers to enhance the feel of the JPX-S at impact and also deliver increased initial ball speed for the majority of golfers. Those with slower swing speeds may struggle to get the benefits out of a firmer, higher compression ball.

But club golfers with moderate swing speeds could find performance benefits from using a ball like the JPX-S. The aerodynamics of the new ball have been improved too with an an enhanced version of their unique dimple-cluster design, helping to create more air-time and convert that increased ball speed into extra yards.

We recommend spending time with your PGA pro to find a ball that works best for you. There’s no right or wrong when it comes choosing your ball as every player may look for something different.

 

Mizuno JPX-S

 

For example, feel and spin around the greens may the most important thing for one golfer with distance off the tee more vital to another. Maybe price is the key consideration?

What seems to clear to us is that Mizuno now have a range of balls with something to suit all levels of player. And at £35 per dozen, the new JPX-S may tempt those not willing to pay top whack for their golf balls.

 

Details

RRP: £35 per dozen

 

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Posted by & filed under Competitions, Feature Articles, Golf Updates, Majors.

Royal St George’s has been named the host venue of the 2020 Open Championship. St Andrews, which has held the tournament every five years since 1990, will now host in 2021, which will be the 150th edition of golf’s oldest major.

Royal St George’s was the host course the first time the Open was held outside of Scotland back in 1894 and was won by JH Taylor, who became the first English professional to win the Championship. The 2020 tournament, which will be played from July 16-19, will mark the 15th occasion the Claret Jug has been decided on the Kent coast.

Open Championship

Image Credit: RoyalStGeorges.com

Former Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke was the last player to etch his name into that famous trophy the last time the Open was held at Royal St George’s.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to lift the Claret Jug and know that my name was displayed on the trophy alongside so many of the greatest players ever to play the game,” Clarke said.

“The Open is what it is all about for me as a golfer and it is the championship I always dreamt of winning from when I first took up the game as a kid. I have so many wonderful memories from that week at Sandwich and I will be thrilled to go back there for The Open in three years’ time.”

 

Other Open champions at Royal St George’s include Harry Vardon, Walter Hagen, Henry Cotton, Bobby Locke, Sandy Lyle and Greg Norman, while it was also the scene of then world No. 396 Ben Curtis’s famous victory in 2003.

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, added: “Royal St George’s has produced a series of outstanding champion golfers over the last 120 years and it is a thrilling prospect for golf fans to see the greatest players competing on one of the world’s finest links courses.”

While the 2022 Open is also yet to be decided, Slumbers suggested Turnberry and Muirfield could both be in the running. “We are focused on Turnberry as a golf course,” he said of the venue owned by US president Donald Trump. “There has been nothing that has happened in the last year to change its status on the rota. It remains absolutely as one of our nine courses.

“Turnberry wasn’t involved in the discussions for 2020 and 2021 and we won’t be thinking about 2022 for at least another year. It is very important that we are clear about what our business is, which is making sure the Open is one of the world’s greatest sporting events and that it should stay out of politics.”

 

Muirfield, meanwhile, lost its place on the Open rota when its members voted against allowing women to join in 2015. But a second vote is underway.

“I’m very pleased that they are having a second vote,” Slumbers added. “Muirfield is a wonderful course and it is a great Open venue. We will make an announcement very quickly after the result of the vote is known. We believe that golf should be open to all, regardless of gender, skin colour, religion or nationality. This is however a matter for the club and is really none of my business. So I don’t want to pre-judge the result. But the more the game looks at encouraging families and younger people the better.”

 

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