Watching this year’s PGA Championship from Kiawah Island should be a joy after the PGA of America endorsed the use of distance-measuring devices in its blue-chip tournament. The scene in the above photo won’t be replicated. The player will arrive at his ball, his caddie will have gunned the yardage, he’ll select a club and hit. All in the 40 seconds as recommended under the Rules of Golf.
Ha, ha, ha!
“We’re always interested in methods that may help improve the flow of play during our championships,” PGA of America President Jim Richerson said. “The use of distance-measuring devices is already common within the game and is now a part of the Rules of Golf. Players and caddies have long used them during practice rounds to gather relevant yardages.”
Amazing to think bifurcation has been the hot topic in recent days when, for all intents and purposes, it already exists. We think nothing of getting to our ball, pulling out our range finders and getting a yardage to help us select a club. Yet this practice has been banned on the professional tours.
Besides debuting in May in the second men's major of the year, the PGA of America will allow DMDs in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. The revolution has begun. Which major will follow suit? Which tour?
No surprise the PGA of America is the first organisation to endorse the use of range finders at the elite level. After all, the members it represents sell them by the millions.
When was the last time you played with someone who arrived at their ball, found a sprinkler head, took the yardage, paced off the distance to the ball, calculated the distance the flag was on the green, did the mental math on total yardage, and decided on a club? I honestly can’t remember the last time I experienced that. Must be 10 years.
Using a DMD should speed up play. Indeed, I played with a friend a couple of years ago after we’d discussed the recommended 40 second time limit just introduced under the new rules. Unbeknownst to me, he timed me on my second shot to the 3rd hole of Woburn's Duchess Course. Took all of 29 seconds from the time I arrived at my ball to hitting the shot, including using my range finder to get a yardage.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if all players in the PGA Championship took 29 second per shot? Or even played each stroke within the recommended 40 seconds? Once again:
Ha, ha, ha!
We know what will happen in South Carolina between the 20-23 May. Players will carry a DMD and a yardage book. They’ll still check the yardage books assiduously. They’ll probably have board meetings to decide if the DMD yardage tallies with the yardage book.
I’ve even got this vision of a player – Bryson DeChambeau perhaps? – facing a long putt across the green and pulling out his DMD to measure the putt’s distance, and THEN pacing it off to make sure it’s accurate. Oh, and don’t forget about studying one of those infernal green books.
It could be an absolute nightmare.
I’m not totally old school. I get it that the game moves on, but everything is measured within an inch or an mph of its life these days: swing speed, ball speed, launch angle, angle of attack, carry, spin rate, dynamic loft, club path, face angle, club path, true gravity, air density, and how fast that horse in the 3:30 at Musselburgh gallops in dreich weather.
Feel, imagination, artistry disappeared from the game long ago. Professional golf seems more of a geek’s paradise than an artist’s playground. What would Seve Ballesteros have made of it all? How would a shot maker like Lee Trevino fare in today's game?
Here’s another idea. How about no DMDs; no yardage books; no numbers on sprinkler heads to the front, centre and back of greens; no 100, 150, and 200-yard marker posts? Players have to play by feel alone, and within the recommended 40 seconds. Maybe then we'd see some artistry, imagination, feel; maybe we'd see true shot making.
I know: Ha, ha, bloody ha!
#JustSaying: “In a world of golfing draughtsmen, Seve draws freehand.” Eddie Birchenough