Monthly Panel Discussion – September 2010

As a blogger, I get to attend many events as a member of the media and meet all kinds of interesting people. In this series, we’ll ask a few questions to a panel of industry experts, media members, fans and friends to get their take on what’s going on in the world of golf. We’ll be doing this every month, with the goal of sharing opinions and discussing issues important to the readers. We’ll switch out panelists every month to keep things fresh and try to make it fun and informative! If you would like to submit questions for discussion or become a panelist and take part in the talks, feel free to send us a message using the form at the end of the article. All you need is a passion for the game, a little writing skill and a voice. We want to hear from you!
Now, let’s meet this month’s panel…

Dave Andrews, Author of Pops and SunshineDave Andrews is a Harvard-educated former television news reporter. Dave is an avid golfer who has become a fan of the Duramed Futures Tour and is the author of Pops and Sunshine, a novel and screenplay about life on tour. His home course in New Hampshire is annually the site of one of the tour’s events.

Brendon ElliottBrendon Elliott was born and raised in the small upstate New York town of Norwich. He is a Class “A” PGA Professional and Head Pro at Winter Park Country Club in Orlando, FL. He is also the owner of Little Linksters, LLC which has a goal of bringing the game of golf to the littlest of golfers. You can connect with Brendon on LinkedIn.

Rob PrittsRob Pritts is a Member of the Golf Writers Association of America, The National Golf Foundation, is a frequent radio show guest and author of the blog Rocket’s Ramble. Rob is also President of Back 9 Promotions. Back 9 Promotions is about helping others in the back 9 of life that need a mulligan. Their goal is simple: To help charitable organizations raise funds through golf to better the lives of others who face overwhelming challenges in their lives.

Dave LairDave Lair is a lefty who writes the popular golf blog OrlandoGolfBlogger.com, which was recently ranked #33 on blogrank’s top 50 golf blogs list. The blog features daily stories about all things golf, from equipment reviews (from a mid-high handicap perspective) and interviews to frequent rants about how the golf industry is right-hand biased! 🙂 In addition to golf, Dave is co-founder of ThreeFellasBrew, Orlando’s finest home brew company. You can connect with Dave through twitter, and facebook.


Question: The rules of golf have been a media focus recently with Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk and Juli Inkster being involved with high-profile rules infractions. Do you think the governing bodies are too harsh with some of the penalties? What rule(s) do you think should be changed?

DAVE ANDREWS: I’m no expert on the rules of golf, and apparently Juli Inkster isn’t either. That being said I think the USGA should take another hard look at all of its rules and the penalties that are invoked for violations.

In the Inkster case, an automatic DQ seemed too harsh for her infraction. I don’t think you will ever have to worry again about professional golfers trying to use “training aids” or “swing aids” while actually out on the course in the middle of a tournament. If Inkster knew of the rule, she apparently did not think the “donut” fell into the category of a training aid. It was an honest mistake and I don’t think she was trying to get an edge over the field by using it.

In the Dustin Johnson case, it was not the rule that was the problem, it was the PGA’s management of the event that resulted in the controversy. I’m convinced that because of the crush of spectators standing in and around the bunker he never realized it was, in fact, a bunker. Players have a tough enough time playing the game without having to contend with a gallery standing in his bunker. If the PGA wanted to play the bunkers outside the ropes as regular bunkers it was obligated to keep the spectators out of the bunkers when a player was hitting his shot.

ROB PRITTS: The mass television coverage we have now on all the major tours has shown that many of the players are not very familiar with all the intricacies of the Rules of Golf. This is not to say that they are trying to push the responsibility on the walking officials but they have even been quoted as saying they aren’t clear on all the rules. To have PGA Tour players say that they rarely read the local rules is pretty disheartening because it is there job to be experts at ALL parts of the game. Is it too much to ask?

BRENDON ELLIOTT: Add Jim Furyk to the mix too…..Let’s start with Juli Inkster’s snafu. Her situation is cut and dry, a clear breech of the rules. I feel bad for her because she was in a great position to contend last week and she is GREAT for American golf but her breach was obvious. I do have a bit of a problem with viewers playing officials; there is something that just does not seem right about that to me. Let’s move onto Dustin Johnson….what a heart-breaker. Dustin seems like such a great guy and what an unbelievable talent! His situation is a little less clear. The breach of the rule is not what is in question in my mind; he grounded the club, no question. In my mind, the problem was more in the policing of the crowd. People standing in bunkers….come on…what’s that? With all that was surely going through Dustin’s mind at the time combined with the confusion of the crowd around him, he just made a mistake. The PGA Rules official should have initiated some sort of “reminder” to Dustin of where he was….maybe even his caddy should have stepped in. No matter, it was a sad way to end his chance at winning the PGA. Bottom line, a rule was breached. Now with Jim Furyk, this was a disgrace and should have never happened. Phil Mickelson said it best in his explanation during a Press Conference on Wednesday. This was not a breach of the rules of golf but rather a policy the tour has put in place. I can see why they have put a policy like this in place but come on….Jimmy Furyk? The tour’s poster boy for goodness? To sum the rule thing up I say this, “Golf is such a special game because we as golfers are responsible for policing ourselves while playing. While it is prosperous to think the average golfer knows all the rules, we do go through a great exercise through golf on being honest and having integrity…a GREAT lessons for kids and just as much so for some of your adult, corporate big wigs that tee it up. We have rules for reasons, in golf and in life. While sad, I do not feel the recent rulings were harsh….well except for Furyk’s hose-job but that again was not a Rules of Golf violation.
Q. I’m sure you heard what happened to Jim Furyk today. What do you think about the rule? What do you think about how it’s — do you think it’s the right thing to do? Do you feel bad for him? Any thoughts on that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the rule itself applies to only half the field. So if you’re going to have a rule that does not apply to everybody, because not everybody played the Pro-Am, you cannot have it affect the competition.

It’s got to be a different penalty. It can’t be disqualification if it only applies to half the field. So this rule — it’s not protecting the players. It’s not protecting the sponsors. It applies to only half the field and yet it affects the integrity of the competition.

I cannot disagree with it more. I have no idea how the Commissioner let this rule go through. It’s ridiculous. I made my viewpoint very clear to him, yes.

Source: PGATOUR.com

DAVE LAIR: In the case of Juli Inkster, absolutely. She violated rule 14-3 which states “a player can’t use a practice device during rounds.” I have one BIG problem with this one and one that could go either way. The “either way” thought is, she was swinging a weighted club to stay loose, during a delay in play, which officials deemed a practice device. OK, I guess I can buy that, but if a weighted club is deemed a practice device, couldn’t the same thing be said about players who use lead tape on their clubs? Following that logic, anytime that player makes a practice swing, using these lead tape clubs, shouldn’t they also be DQ’d for violation of rule 14-3?

The big problem I have is the fact that the officials didn’t notice the said infraction and some blowhard watching from his living room called it in. Name one other sport where this type of situation occurs. That is, a violation takes place and some random viewer can call it in and get the offender penalized. If you’re watching a basketball game and you see a player get fouled that the refs didn’t catch, do you think they’ll pay heed, stop the game and give some free throws? It’s ludicrous in my opinion, I’d classify this as a gray area and it cost her thousands of dollars.

The Dustin Johnson violation of Rule 8-1, although sucks, is a fair punishment. In this particular scenario, all players received the following advisory notice:

‘All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers, whether or not they have been raked. Many bunkers positioned outside the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, will likely included numerous footprints, heel prints, and tire tracks during play. Such irregularities of surface are part of the game and no free relief will be available.’

In this instance, he was informed of the potential for bunkers to exist that were not marked and should have been more cognizant of the fact. Overall, I think they are too harsh when it comes to violations that fall in the “gray area” of the rules.

Question: What do you think is the biggest story in the world of golf this year? Why?

DAVE ANDREWS: The Tiger Woods saga unfortunately remained the biggest story of the year in golf. His off the course and on the course problems dominated everything else. When a player like him has dominated the game for so long it is hard to ignore the impact the story has had on pro golf on so many levels.

On the woman’s side of the game, Paula Creamer’s gutsy victory at the U.S. Women’s Open was a great development, especially for the LPGA which continues to struggle to rebuild its event schedule here in the U.S. for upcoming seasons. Fan and sponsor interest in the LPGA has been waning, and some creative moves will have to be made if it hopes to reverse the trend. The women’s game is exploding in Asia, and that seems to be where most of the growth is occurring for the LPGA tour (a new event there announced just this month). The LPGA in ten years may not even resemble the tour as it is today.

ROB PRITTS: It is clear that the story of 2010 is Tiger Woods and his fall from grace. Superman ate the kryptonite cookies but watch out he’ll digest ti and will be back!

BRENDON ELLIOTT: Tiger, Tiger, Tiger and Tiger. Mostly for all the wrong reasons but his golf (And why should we care about anything else?) really made headlines as the season went along. Just think of how much bigger the Tiger saga gets if he comes back and wins the FedEx Cup and plays well at the Ryder Cup (Yes he WILL be on the team) Do I smell “Come Back” Player of the Year? Other big stories include rules, grooves, youth and Europeans.

DAVE LAIR: As much as I hate to say it, the Tiger Woods affair, has, by far been the biggest story. At least, it’s finally over and hopefully we can move on to more important matters, such as the actual game of golf..

Question: Getting back to the rules of golf – In the last 20 years we have seen huge leaps in equipment technology, with balls going further and straighter, clubs hitting it higher and farther with more spin, etc. Despite these advances the average golfer still shoots around 100, just like they did a century ago. Why do you think this is?

DAVE ANDREWS: The scoring statistics (remaining steady through the years) are just more proof of how difficult the game of golf is for the average golfer. The improved clubs and balls over the years are obviously no substitute for a good golf swing, and most average golfers just can not master that, no matter how hard they try.

It is always fun to watch the different swings of my many golfing buddies when we play rounds together. None of us has what I would call a great swing. Somehow we find a way to get around the course and shoot some pretty good scores with our variety of swing styles. A lot of us play a lot of golf and take lessons, but the elusive “repeatable swing” is still not in our games.

ROB PRITTS: The average golfer can buy the best equipment money can buy but if they don’t work on fixing there swing flaws it will never really matter. If our “weekend” duffer can commit to taking serious lessons with a plan for improvement and then actually practice we would see scores drop. The fact is most guys can barely steal the 5 hours to get out to play let alone practice.

BRENDON ELLIOTT: Simple, Golf is HARD (Ask Tiger about that) most people just do not have the time that is necessary to get better at the game. Sure, you can buy better ball striking and length in a sense but you cannot buy learning how to put the ball in the jar. The art of playing the game and hitting balls is two different things.

DAVE LAIR: If you can’t hit a ball, you can’t hit a ball, regardless of how amazing the clubs you are wielding are. Golfers are notorious for not taking lessons, practicing, or otherwise attempting to improve their game. Sometimes it’s intentional and other times, they just don’t have the time commitment to approach the game like they need to. Combine that with the blunt fact that golf is just damn hard, it’s going to be near impossible to budge that needle. Add in the fact that golf is 90% mental, I think we’re doing pretty good if the average golfer shoots 100.

I would like to thank our panel for their time and thoughts this week. If you would like to become a panelist or just have your voice heard, send me a message using the form below and we’ll draw names soon for the next round table discussion! If you have any thoughts about the opinions from this week’s questions, feel free to comment!

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