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  • Alistair Tait

Does Golf Really Need A Spirit Level?

Here’s an interesting thought following the PGA Tour’s decision to ban green reading books as proposed from 1st January next year. How about they go the whole hog and ban yardage books and pin sheets, too?

How about covering up sprinkler head yardages that give distances to the front, centre and back of greens? Maybe ban trackman devices on the range that give players every bit of information from spin rate, angle of attack, club head speed, ball speed, and the odds on runners in the 3:10 at Newmarket?

Putting coach Phil Kenyon went on a bit of a rant recently when he lambasted the PGA Tour for going just a wee bit further than the banning of green reading books. The PGA Tour also announced:

"In addition to this new Local Rule, a Tournament Regulation will be amended to extend the prohibition on using any device to test the conditions of the putting greens to include all practice greens, and during all official practice rounds and Pro-Ams."

That means banning of devices like a spirit levels to measure the slopes of the greens.

Seve Ballesteros must be spinning in his grave. I mean, does golf really need a spirit level?

In a lengthy Instagram post, Kenyon called the new rule “stupid” and “ridiculous,” before adding:

"Sadly once again the governing bodies haven’t thought it through well enough in my opinion. Let’s pick on putting. Let’s avoid the real issues. How far the ball goes and slow play."

Not sure Kenyon should be directing his ire at the governing bodies since the PGA Tour is instituting this local rule rather than the R&A and USGA, but I do agree with him on avoiding the real issues such as slow play and excessive distance players can achieve nowadays.

Not just top players. A major equipment company recently measured a 17-year-old amateur’s ball speed at 202 miles per hour. Said amateur was struggling with shots of 285 yards, so the equipment company made him up a 5-wood to help him cover that distance.

Back to spirit levels during practice rounds. Reigning U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka expressed his support for Kenyon when he replied:

"Couldn't agree more with your take.”

Quite how the PGA Tour is going to police this new policy remains to be seen, perhaps they’ll install spirit level detectors players must walk through before practice rounds.


I know my opening gambits of banning yardage books, pin sheets, erasing sprinkler head yardages and prohibiting trackman devices will never happen, but here’s an idea: how about one tournament a year where players compete just by using instinct and feel alone?

A top player once told me he didn’t really need to play a practice round for the Open Championship. As long as he had the numbers then he felt he’d compete just as well. That’s where golf has got to. What used to be a game of feel is now one of science, the advent of launch monitors means every top player knows how far he or she hits each club. No wonder said top player felt practice rounds weren’t always necessary, even for the Open Championship.

What if he didn’t have the numbers? What if he and his caddie had to eyeball their way round the golf course? You have to think Seve Ballesteros would have dominated such an tournament in his heyday, but which player from today’s crop would prevail in such a competition? Bubba Watson might be a good bet on that question.

Moreover, let’s have that tournament staged on a true links test like Muirfield or Royal St George’s, quintessential seaside courses that were never meant to be conquered by science.

Oh for the days when feel, imagination and finesse were part of the game at the top level rather than drive and wedge courses and stock 8-irons that fly 185 yards.

#JustSaying: “I’d like to see the fairways more narrow – then everybody would have to play from the rough, not just me.” Seve Ballesteros

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