What You Need to Know about Titleist TS


Titleist is the number one ball company and will remain in the top spot for the foreseeable future. The company says sales of the new softer AVX ball are “off to a fast start” and iron sales have been a bright spot as well, making up a large part of the almost 25% increase in club sales through the second quarter of 2018. The new 718 AP3 players-distance irons leapt to the best-selling slot in the 718 family complimenting the game-improvement 718 AP1s and players model 718 AP2s.

Drivers and fairway woods however haven’t been doing as well. Titleist is the second most played driver on the PGA Tour behind those from TaylorMade Golf but at retail Callaway Golf has beaten both companies and solidified its top position in woods and irons. Titleist needed a 2019 driver line to replace the 917s which were considered by many underperforming, producing too much spin and not enough yardage. The company had to have a driver to get consumers excited and the best way to do that is to perform better than the competition.

Their answer was the Titleist Speed Project, a research program to find the highest ball speed combined with lower spin, retention of more ball speed on off-center impacts and higher launch.

All are key factors in producing more effective yards off the tee or for that matter from the fairway and the drivers and fairway woods coming out of the Project have been labeled TS (Titleist Speed). The new drivers were first “seeded” to endorsement staff members at the U.S. Open in June with the TS2 and TS3 replacing the 917 D2 and 917 D3 respectively.

Key features shared by both TS drivers:

-More streamlined 460cc head to reduce aerodynamic drag
-MOI or resistance to twisting improved by 12% compared with 917 models
-Titanium crown, Titleist’s thinnest ever, is 20% thinner and 10 grams lighter
-Variable thickness face is 6-grams lighter so score lines had to be lasered not etched
-Stock shaft length increased one-half inch from 45 inches to 45.5 inches
-Loft and lie may be separately adjusted with the familiar SureFit hosel

The sole slot behind the face which they called an Active Recoil Channel first seen in the 915 D2 and D3 drivers is gone. Titleist says it wasn’t needed to help low-on-the-face impacts in the drivers, but it is still being used on the TS fairway woods.

The TS2 driver has a fixed rear sole weight which moved the center of gravity lower and deeper in the head and due to the grams saved in the face and crown it could made heavier. The TS2 is a high launch low spin design and available in a choice of 8.5°, 9.5°, 10.5° and 11.5° lofts.

The TS3 driver retains the SureFit reversible weight cartridge in the sole from the 917s and produces a flatter mid launch trajectory compared with the TS2 but with reduced spin compared to the 917 D3.

With a choice of stock shafts between the Mitsubishi KuroKage Black Dual-Core 50, Mitsubishi Tensei AV Series Blue 55, Project X HZRDUS Smoke Black 60 or Project X EvenFlow T1100 White 65 both the TS2 and TS3 are $499.

TS fairway woods use a thinner stainless crown 27% lighter than the 917 models and they made the variable thickness face thinner near the edges. This allowed positioning of the center of gravity for a lower spin and higher launch trajectory. MOI of the clubhead improved 11% giving better stability and adding to the forgiveness. Both the TS2 and TS3 fairway woods also have a larger Active Recoil Channel to help preserve ball speed when contact is low on the face. The TS2 is a low-spin high launch design while the TS3 is low spin and mid launch. Both are priced at $299.

Photo credit: Titleist

New Year – New Rules

The other day it occurred to me that like lots of others I didn’t know as much as I should about the January 1 changes to the Rules of Golf. So, after some research here’s my view of the most important new rules we need to know before heading to the first tee after the first of the year.

First of all, compared to the old copy hiding under that moldy rain jacket in the outside pocket of your bag the primary differences in the 2019 edition are the wording used is less convoluted, more understandable (hurray!) and there are ten fewer rules (amazing!). Both the full edition and the smaller Player’s Edition have illustrations to explain definitions and options.

And in case you were worried about where to find the minutiae of rules decisions that weighed down the previous rule book there is an Official Guide to the Rules of Golf to be published in November. It will have the Rules of Golf with Interpretations [decisions], Committee Procedures and the Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities. To make everything even more convenient and to encourage referring to the Rules while playing, there are free Android and iPhone apps.

With all that preamble out of the way here is my take on the changes most effecting every day play:

-Three minutes to search for a ball rather than five instituted to improve the pace of play but somehow it seems unlikely to help
-There are no more hazards just penalty areas and if you ground your club there’s no penalty just don’t do it near the ball. Keep in mind bunkers are not penalty areas but loose impediments are movable in both
-When dropping a ball it is no longer required from the shoulder but from the knee which should make it more likely to get a good lie (I well when the rule called for facing away from the hole and then dropping over your shoulder!)
-The “DJ rule” is retained. There is no penalty for the ball accidently moving on the green. Spike marks may be tapped down which depending on a player’s diligence could hold up play but for a real help speeding play it’s now OK to leave the flagstick in when putting
-When taking relief, the point where the ball may be dropped is determined by the longest club in your bag. Depending on the reason for the drop the distance is still one or two club lengths

The single biggest change though and a real boon to the average weekend golfer is a local rule covering a lost ball or one out of bounds. If the new rule is in effect, no longer will you trudge back to the tee after that 300-yard blast barely snuck OB or was permanently hidden in thigh-high fescue. It will be allowable to dropping a ball near where the previous shot was lost or out of bounds. There’s a penalty of two strokes but that’s lots better than a trip back to the tee…which no one did any way.

The one rule that should have been revised, namely getting relief from divots in the fairway, wasn’t. This is a common occurrence and unfair in effect to penalize a player for hitting his or her shot in the short grass. Too bad the folks at Far Hills don’t agree but that’s another whole discussion.

Images: United States Golf Association

Monday After Paris

The 42nd Ryder Cup is in the books with the U.S. losing convincingly. Team U.S.A. hasn’t won in 25 years on the other side of the Atlantic, six straight times since their win at the Belfry in 1993.  

The Americans couldn’t seem to hit a fairway particularly when it counted with tee shot after tee shot finding deep lies in deep rough and making a mockery of what has been called the bomb and gouge mentality. The net effect was this neutralized the U.S. players length advantage and then there was the putting. As good as they were Friday morning in the four ball matches with three wins the remainder of the day and through Saturday and then Sunday singles Americans couldn’t make the crucial putts and the Euros could.

Whichever side you were rooting for the action this year was captivating as usual. If you love golf and haven’t been to a Ryder Cup put it on your list for September 2020 when the venue will be Whistling Straits-Straits Course in Kohler, Wisconsin.

Prior to the actual start of play and having to fill hours and hours of coverage plus write thousands and thousands of words my media colleagues predictably engaged in the usual speculation. First it was about who the captains’ picks would be, then whether Paulina Gretzky was going to show up with Dustin Johnson and finally to what the makeup of the parings might be.

Many in the media seemed obsessed with naming the “hottest players” but informed observers know there is no such thing. In fact, it changes from tournament to tournament and even from day to day not to mention within a single round. But, as with much of the pre-Cup coverage they have to talk and write about something.

Once the opening ceremonies started it was evident the producer had some idea about what the fans would like to see and hear. That was accomplished about three minutes in with the fly over by French Air Force fighters. In the view of many the English rock band Kaiser Chiefs and French singing star Jain missed the mark as was conspicuous by the players staring at their shoes and fans just staring.

Master of ceremonies David Ginola did an OK job, but the former Premier League player and current host of France’s Got Talent was a confusing choice having no discernable connection to golf but then probably Carson Daly was busy.

Fans in costume have become a standard feature of the Ryder Cup and some are clever but two small requests. Please NBC, showing obviously inebriated male Euro fans in skirts is going too far not to mention the really terrible head gear they wear. One bright idea, though some may argue, is the ubiquitous Heineken four-cup beer carrier but it certainly saves trips back and forth to the beverage tent.

Truth time – in an earlier column I predicted a U.S. win by a 15-13 score which obviously shows how much I know. The guess was predicated on four factors.
Comparative world ranking which the U.S. was clearly higher, putting stats which showed the U.S. as superior and that there were four rookies on the European squad versus three on the U.S. team. Also factored in was Francesco Molinari couldn’t keep playing as well as he had when he won the British Open and that Sergio Garcia was having an unspectacular year after his Masters win in 2017.

My feelings were so strong Team U.S.A. would dominate that after making my initial surmises based on the foregoing the venue was factored in for at most two points and probably more like one point for Team Europe.

Boy, was I wrong. It was obvious who putted the best and the record of those I suspected as low-performers or non-performers was a huge factor. Molinari went 5-0-0 and the team’s four rookies were a most respectable 7-6-0. Even Sergio managed 3-1-0.

Contrast this with the U.S. rookies at 6-5-0 and the veterans Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods were collectively posting 0-6-0.

Oh well, paraphrasing fans in other sports, “There’s always the next in two years.”

Rose is a Rose Either Way

 

Justin Rose won the FedExCup bonus of $10 million on points though his three over par effort on Sunday at the Tour Championship put him in a fourth-place tie for the tournament behind Tiger Woods.

Don’t ask me to explain the points system since not even the players say they are clear about it, but for next year there’s a new plan so presumably we will no longer see Steve Sands and his white board. Fans will get a bit of bonus as well with the Golf Channel hopefully relegating “he controls his own destiny” to wherever inane clichés go.

In 2019 the player with the lowest gross score for the Tour Championship still may not win the FedExCup because the tournament will be a handicap event. The points leader at the end of the playoffs starts the Tour Championship with a score of -10 strokes, second in points with -8 and so on down to those at 26 through 30 who get no handicap adjustment to their score.

If in place this year points leader Bryson DeChambeau with a 19th place score of -1 would have finished at -11. Woods would have deducted two strokes for a -13, second place Billy Horschel four strokes putting him also at -13 and Dustin Johnson who finished in third four shots behind Woods would have used his six-stroke handicap for a three-way tie at -13.

Sounds like a playoff or maybe matching cards like at the member-guest…but wait.

In fact, Rose would both win the tournament and the FedExCup because his fourth-place -6 would be handicap-adjusted by eight shots giving him -14.

Coincidence? I don’t know but trying to keep this all straight made my brain hurt so I didn’t go back to see what would have happened in 2017 when Xander Schauffele won the Tour Championship and Justin Thomas the FedExCup.

When I first read the press release describing the new system my reaction was, “A handicap event…really?”

OK, stroke-play I’ll give you two a side, and if I beat you by less than four shots you win. Sounds like the conversation Saturday on the first tee doesn’t it? Well that’s what the FedEx Cup is changing to. We can only look at the bright side and assume this handicap system won’t be as big a pain in the cerebral cortex as the point system.

The PGA Tour wants to finish the year with only one winner not two like Woods and Rose or Schauffele and Thomas. The new plan also had to satisfy the sponsors FedEx and Southern Company by having the best chance to put the top players on display plus make the media happy and of course the fans. The players will show up regardless, but the new plan does bump the FedExCup payout from $25 million to $60 million with $15 million for the winner up from $10 million.

Players will still earn regular season points for determining who gets to the playoffs but at least the contest for the FedExCup and the Tour Championship should be easier to follow. It means however Steve Sands will have to find another job on Tour Championship Sunday.

Flight Tuning – the Exotics EXS from Tour Edge

Tour Edge Golf is upping their ante in the driver market with the Exotics EXS model which is loaded with advance features and as significantly, at the very affordable price point of $300. Announced as the first of the new EXS family, the driver will be at retail on Nov. 1.

The Exotics brand originally was conceived to be played by the low handicappers among us and hit its stride year after year with top performing fairway woods and hybrids, but the drivers never attracted the same kind of attention.

That should all change with the EXS. It has all the indications of being a top performing driver capable of competing with drivers costing 50% more.

“The EXS driver is absolutely loaded with technology,” said Tour Edge President and Master Club Designer David Glod. “This is the most technology we’ve ever been able to fit into a design and each one works in concert with one another to provide the best performing driver possible. The shapes are beautiful, and we utilized only the finest in materials and components. I believe that at the aggressive price point that we are offering, the EXS driver will have its highest impact on the driver market over any other previous Exotics release.”

The EXS driver’s 460cc basic clubhead is anything but basic with a frame made from 8-1-1 titanium. The face is a variable thickness design of TSP 910 titanium as was used in the EX 10 model only in the EXS its both thinner and lighter. As has become almost an industry standard the crown is carbon fiber which saves more weight and part of the sole towards the toe is also made of carbon fiber. This helped to reduce the head weight and push the center of gravity deep for forgiveness and lower spin with the added benefit, less toe weight means a draw bias.

The “Flight Tuning System” is all about the weight saved in face, crown and sole being used in the two sole weights, one of 9-grams near the heel and one of 3-grams in the rear. The result is a low spin head producing a medium trajectory launch and an anti-slice tendency. Switch positions of the sole weights and the EXS produces a medium spin with higher launch and a neutral shot shape. There’s even a kit available for additional cost with three more weights (6, 11 and 14-grams) for further fine tuning.

Tour Edge says the majority of miss-hit happen towards the toe so the EXS has a RollFace with the bulge and roll in that part of the face reconfigured to help reduce ball curvature. The company also points out this the most forgiving driver they have ever made. The crown has a new shape and with the added taper to the clubhead’s profile improves downswing speed by reducing aerodynamic drag. Plus, to help preserve ball speed on impacts low on the face the speed slots in the sole have been made wider.

Finally, to further dial in the driver to the needs of the player the hosel has two degrees of adjustability, as much as any driver on the market. The hosel also adjusts to three lie angles giving the EXS 16 different settings between the two FTS weights and the eight different loft and lie settings.

Ryder Cup – USA Over Euros

Ok, the real hype can begin now U.S. Ryder Cup team Captain Jim Furyk has made three selections leaving one pick which he will reveal that on Sept. 24. European team leader Thomas Bjorn picks Wednesday completed his roster so let’s take a look at the two squads and make a guess who will prevail at Le Golf National outside Paris.

Team Europe is complete: Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen, Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.

Team USA: Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods. That’s only eleven with a player to be named later, in two weeks but let’s assume Tony Finau gets the nod.

It’s best to have some backup to rationalize any guess as to the winner and longtime observers know Ryder Cups comes down to a simple formula. Sinking putts plus making birdies equals taking home Samuel Ryder’s trophy.

We looked at strokes gained putting rank and birdies per round rank for PGA Tour events this season. However, several of the European Team members don’t play fulltime here so European Tour results were also researched and the best ranking used. As an example, Fleetwood is number 193 in SGP on the European Tour and number 77 on the PGA Tour so his PGA Tour rank was used.

That analysis shows the U.S. Team has a clear and significant advantage in both strokes gained putting as well as birdies made per round.

Moving on to a different measurement and though some feel the Official World Golf Rankings are flawed they do give an idea of how players stack up and again show the U.S. with at least some advantage. The top three in the OWGR are Americans (Johnson, Koepka, Thomas) with the lowest ranking being Woods at 26. The Euros can claim the 4, 5 and 6 spots (Rose, Rahm, Molinari) but they have two at 30 or over (Garcia and Poulter).

Who is currently playing well is also a huge factor and since the British Open won by Molinari no Euro team member has won on the PGA Tour. The best finish is a second by Justin Rose at the Dell Technologies Championship.

Other indications of the potential for the U.S. to dominant include that since Sergio Garcia won the 2017 Masters, Americans have won six of the seven majors played with Koepka taking three of them. The strongest competition is on the PGA Tour and to win, much less win repeatedly, is a perfect indicator for the strength of either side. There’s no question Team USA is tops by any objective measurement.

But what about subjective measurements such as heart, desire, maturity and reaction to pressure? Difficult if not impossible to quantify but anecdotally Mickelson is playing on his 12th team and not one of them won at a European venue. Lefty very much wants to correct that, has said so in public and will not hesitate to tell his teammates…probably several times how important a win in France will be to wipe away the blemish of over the pond losses going back to 1993.

Part of any consideration has to be the role rookies will play for each team and the Euros have five (Fleetwood, Hatton, Noren, Olesen and Rahm) while the U.S. has three (DeChambeau, Simpson and Thomas). DeChambeau after back to back FedExCup playoff wins is the hottest player on the planet will be a positive with whoever he is partnered. Simpson won The Players Championship and has a T-2 last month at the Wyndham Championship plus shot a 63 in the third round of the Dell Technologies last week. Thomas should perform well too with three wins this season, spending four weeks atop the OWGR and most recently a win at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in August.

The questions on the European squad not only include their rookies but the inclusion of Garcia by Bjorn. The fiery Spaniard has had a miserable 18 months since his Augusta win and nothing seen lately would make one think that was going to change.  

And that brings us to the wild card factor at this Ryder Cup. For the first time U.S. players will be faced with not just partisan crowds but a whole sports culture exemplified by international tennis, soccer and cycling but certainly not golf. It most likely things won’t become too ugly, but we could see something similar done such as the baiting by U.S. fans in the past of European stalwarts Garcia and Colin Montgomery. It will be a tough experience for U.S. players.

At the end of July, I wrote the early call was a U.S. win 16 to 12. That prediction hasn’t changed except the effect of the European fans wasn’t sufficiently factored in. So, though there is no way Team USA can lose the final score is now guesstimated to be 15 ½ to 12 ½ for Europe.

Opportunity to Excel

Previously I reported Michael Breed’s proposal players missing the cut in PGA Tour events should be paid. His thinking is these 80 or so players still have expenses, their presence has contributed entertainment value and therefore deserve compensation.

In opposition were my points based on the fact gaining a PGA Tour does not and should not guarantee a player will earn money. It simply provides the opportunity. In addition, there is a question as to the where the $10 million required to fund this for a full season would come from. Breed’s feeling was it could be raised by soliciting additional sponsor dollars or maybe “charging $1 more for a beer.”

Both ideas in my view are unrealistic.

Breed is consistently ranked as one of the most respected teachers in the game and as host of A New Breed of Golf on Sirius XM Radio he is not one to shy away from a topic nor reluctant to voice an opinion.

After my column “Why Not Just Give Everyone a Trophy?” appeared he called, and we talked for over half an hour. It would be fair to say neither of us changed our opinion and the friendly exchange ended by agreeing to disagree however some interesting points were raised.

Breed said, and of course it is true, the PGA Tour is very well off financially with an immense income and it’s not just from selling the broadcast rights for the Tour events. They also have an extensive real estate/golf course operation not to mention income from the use of their brand name by a variety of “partners.” He also brought up the agreement recently signed with Discovery Channel for $2 billion covering the international rights fees for Tour events plus the immense potential of revenue due to the advent of legalized gambling in this country.

Bottom line is Breed believes the money is there to pay all the players something and they deserve it because they have earned a Tour card.

On the other hand, just as golf is unique among sports, professional golf is unique in the world of pay-for-play. Players are independent contractors and got into the business understanding there are no guarantees. In fact, that is the essence of the PGA Tour setting it apart any other professional sport.

Players on the PGA Tour have the chance to exhibit their skills in the face of intense competition. It is a bastion of individuality and an arena where the spotlight always shines.

Playing on the PGA Tour shouldn’t be just another job with a minimum wage disguised as an appearance fee rewarded for being unable to make the cut.

Playing privileges on the PGA Tour are an opportunity to excel.

Why Not Just Give Everyone a Trophy?


Michael Breed on his Sirius XM PGA Tour radio show A New Breed of Golf has proposed players missing the cut in PGA Tour events should be paid.

If I understand his premise correctly Breed feels these players have expenses and by their presence they contribute to the entertainment value of the tournament. A typical tournament field has 156 players with the low 70 scores and ties after the second round going on to play the final two rounds thereby “making the cut.”

Those with scores outside the cut receive no money but Breed says these 86 cut-missing toursters should receive a “minimum wage” of $3,000 as an appropriate amount to offset expenses.

It’s unclear where this money should come from but those making the cut certainly couldn’t be expected to be in favor of reducing their prize money nor would it make sense to decrease the amount going to the local charities benefiting from the PGA Tour tournaments in their cities. But Breed appears to think the solution is simple…just raise additional money from sponsors which if you do the math would be more than $250,000 each week.

The reasonableness of somehow magically finding a sponsor or sponsors to put up the $10 million needed to fund this scheme for an entire PGA Tour season is something out of never-never land.

Breed just hasn’t thought this through.

Why should those missing the cut be paid simply because they have made a choice to pursue a particular career?

Unlike other “jobs” they weren’t interviewed and then hired for their PGA Tour card. They simply showed up with their golf clubs and proved in an intense competitive environment they were good enough to try to take prize money away from DJ, Tiger, Phil and all the others.

Paying someone for showing up is the same as giving every kid a trophy so no one goes home with hurt feelings. You and I know life isn’t like that.

Monday After Bellerive

Brooks Koepka beating Tiger Woods for the Wanamaker Trophy and the 100th PGA Championship gave us some great golf and wonderful competition on a demanding course, but it is increasingly apparent the fourth major needs something to distinguish it from not only the other majors but the week to week traveling circus a.k.a. the PGA Tour.

By way of comparison the Masters, Bobby Jones’ tournament, has the tradition of being played early in April at the same course conveniently timed just as the weather is warming for golf in much of the country. The U.S. Open is our national championship and typically played on courses so difficult they would bring tears to the eyes of most amateurs. The British Open is the oldest, most historical, theoretically open to anyone in the world and often on linksland which requires an entirely different style of golf virtually unknown in this country.

The PGA really has nothing unique other than the mythic determination that somehow, it’s a “major” even though the field includes 20 club professionals. The schedule change next year to May between the Masters and the U.S. Open could be a real shot in the arm. But truthfully it still needs a singular uniqueness to better establish its identity…push it towards the front of the pack that not only includes the other three majors but the four World Golf Championship events, the FedExCup and other big tournaments during the year plus the Olympics every four years and the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup annually.

Even though television executives may not like it the time has come to convert the PGA Championship to match play as it was until 1958. Keep the PGA professionals as part of the 156-man field and simply have a 36-hole qualifier on Wednesday and Thursday to select an elite 32 for match play.

One last thought on the PGA—the possible venues could be expanded by going outside of the states occasionally to gain not only the publicity but more international fans. As I said just a thought.

Tiger Woods: A seeming lack of focus on the 14th hole of the final round and wide right drive into the hazard on 17 sealed Woods’ chances for winning his fifth PGA and 15th major. However, his final round 64, his lowest round ever in a major championship, had fans glued to their televisions. It’s not going out too far out on a limb to say not only will he soon win again and his position now at 11th in the Ryder Cup points list means a role as a playing vice-captain on the Ryder Cup team is a given. Woods comeback to tournament winner and major champion will be of the same magnitude as Ben Hogan returning after his 1949 collision with a bus.

Disappointments: Play in the PGA by much of the U.S. Ryder Cup team was not inspiring and except for Justin Thomas none were ever in contention. Dustin Johnson finished T-27, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler T-12, Webb Simpson T-19 and Bubba Watson who along with Phil Mickelson missed the cut.

TV Coverage: You would think that TNT, which covered the first two days of the PGA Championship in conjunction with CBS Sports for the weekend, could have done a better job but it was refreshing to hear the critics going after someone other than the coverage on Fox of the U.S. Open.

Photo credit: PGA of America

USGA Shoots Themselves in the Foot…Again

USGA has again taken a position that gives the impression they like embarrassing themselves and enforcing the feeling of many the organization is irrelevant to golf in the real world.

The latest is the announcement by the USGA (and R&A) citing they “are proposing regulations regarding the use of green-reading materials, reaffirming the need for a player to read greens based on their own judgment, skill and ability. Following a six-week period of feedback and consultation with interested parties that begins today, the regulations will be finalized in a published “interpretation” of Rule 4.3 (Use of Equipment) and adopted Jan. 1, 2019, when golf’s new rules take effect.”

A couple of points seem appropriate—why are they asking for feedback if the new rule will be in effect next year? It appears the decision has been made so why bother soliciting comments other than for the sake of appearances?

The USGA’s stipulation today’s green reading books give an advantage to players doesn’t hold up. Green reading books of the type the USGA is banning are used almost exclusively by elite players and most commonly on the professional tours. The simple fact the putting average on the PGA Tour for the past 15 years has actually gone up didn’t appear to have made a difference to what was assumedly an already formed opinion. PGA Tour stats show the average putts per round in 2002 was 29.09 and this season is 29.15. Of course, the minuscule increase is statistical noise but if Tour players are gaining such a large advantage and the green reading books means less skill is needed why doesn’t it show in the results?

Referring to the press announcement again, “Both the USGA and The R&A are committed to the position that a player’s ability to read their line of play on the putting green is an essential skill that should be retained,” said Thomas Pagel, Senior Director, Rules of Golf and Amateur Status for the USGA. “The focus of the interpretation is to develop an approach that is both effective and enforceable.”

The answer to the question of why average putts per round have not plummeted is not addressed which opens speculation of what the USGA ‘s real agenda might be and equally important the Association’s relevance to golf in general and the recreational golfer. Enforcement is another question and raises the specter of local tournament committees being in the position of arbitrating the proper numbers, marks, colors and arrows. Really?

This new rule is another in a long list of changes that apply mostly to the game as played by less than 1% of golfers…the elites. Should for example the PGA Tour, whose slogan until recently was “These Guys Are Good,” believe the topographical slope maps included in green reading books are not appropriate they should ban them.

The USGA has had similar “shoot themselves in the foot” embarrassments with other issues including “square grooves”, solid core golf balls, clubface rebound, anchored putting and their as yet unfulfilled goal of rolling back golf ball distance. They seem to make rules with little regard for 99% of golfers only on their view of the elite few.

It’s a wonder average players can see the USGA as having even a little relevance to the game.