Among Chamblee’s best 5 is the work of Harvey Penick and specifically his way of communicating in the simplest of manners to his students who included the likes of Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth and countless others. Penick’s Little Red Book should be among any golfer’s must read list.
I also like that Chamblee recognized the golf course architect in this list of best developments over the last 50 years. In an era when technology is forcing golf course architects to adapt or become irrelevant, several notable designs have captured the attention of the modern day golfer and for all the right reasons.
“The Golden Age revival of golf course architecture over the past 20 years. It has given us Bandon Dunes, Cape Kidnappers, Ballyneal, Friars Head and Sand Hills, to name a few. The popularity of these venues illustrates the lengths to which golfers will go to play a course uncorrupted by someone’s contrived aesthetic appeal, both of commercialism and design. Every architect I have talked to pays homage to Alister MacKenzie, yet so few seem to understand his principles of creating an ideal course, principals such as “Every hole should be different in character and there should be infinite variety in the strokes required to play the various holes.” Thankfully the architects of the courses named above are among the few who do. You want to play golf in three hours with one ball and breathe inspiring air? Play Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes.”
It’s understandable that the advances made in technology would be on this “best” list. Perimeter-weighted irons, metal-headed drivers, cast vs. forged in addition to the introduction of the hybrid and two piece golf ball. Playing the game has never been easier, or so we think.
A list of the “best” developments in golf wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of three legendary figures. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have each in their own distinctive way changed the game of golf forever. Tiger took the golf from a game to a true athletic competition with his power and dominance.
As Chamblee notes, “Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. No sport has ever had two better examples of how to compete, how to win and how to lose. The game is indebted to these two for the safekeeping of its traditions, as either could have used his immense power to avoid the obligations that come with enormous success. Arnold has the popularity of transformative U.S. presidents; Jack has the kind of respect that goes way beyond his mind-boggling success.”
While I think Brandel did a fine job capturing the “best”, I’m not as enthused about his compilation of the “worst” 5 developments in golf.
5. Overly complicated instruction
4. The Stimpmeter
3. The rule against anchored strokes
2. Slow Play
1. Losing Tony Lema and Payne Stewart
Now it’s hard to argue the loss of golfing great’s Tony Lema and Payne Stewart as being a devastating development in golf. Both proved to be wonderful champions and more importantly two of the finest ambassadors to the game. Losing them so early in their careers and lives left a void that will never get filled.
However including the overly complicated instruction as a bad development is somewhat short sided. The game of golf exploded during the late 60’s and again when Tiger Woods came on the scene. Golfers around the world have started to study the golf swing, educating themselves on what it takes to play this game at a higher level. Sure, players can cripple their athletic movement with over analysis, but the game is healthier as a result of players pursuing knowledge and understanding of the golf swing. Golf, as an entertainment medium is largely driven by golfer’s seeking this kind of knowledge.
Here we go again, this darn Stimpmeter getting blamed for every golf course superintedent’s nightmare. Let’s not forget the original application for the Stimpmeter. Remember, each of the 18 greens on a golf course is essentially it’s own ecosystem. It was a challenge for golf course superintendent’s to achieve consistency across all 18 putting surfaces and the Stimpmeter was created to help golf course superintendents measure speed for the purpose of achieving consistency throughout. The golfing public’s desire to play on conditions like they see on television and the ability of golf course superintendents to achieve similar conditions as a result of the innovation in maintenance equipment has driven us to this predicament of greens being too fast.
Slow play belongs on this list. The notion, perceived or real, that playing a round of golf takes too long is a barrier to entry for some and a reason to leave the game for others. Chamblee correctly attributes the problem to more than just the golfer taking too much time.
“Events have conspired against them – an industry-wide conspiracy, actually. Because of technology, players are longer and far less accurate, so they take more time to size up shots. Holes have reached absurd distances, which take longer to walk, and greens have reached insane speeds, which take longer to putt. Distances from greens to tees are often longer than the holes themselves, which take more time to navigate. Again, bifurcation would have taken care of most of these issues, but combined there is no chance Tour players will move appreciably faster in the future. Because what we see is what we do, the rest of us won’t be speeding up, either. “
Finally, including the rule against the anchored stroke among the worst 5 developments in golf is ludicrous. Sure this issue has garnered a lot of attention over the past several years, but when you look at the real impact it will have on overall participation in the sport, it’s inconsequential. Players are not going to quit the game as a result of the USGA banning the anchored stroke. Casual golfers will continue to play by their own set of rules (bifurcation by their own accord).
At the end of the day, when you look at the best and worst developments you have to accept the fact that innovation has been the driver of a lot of what is causing the game trouble. As people innovate we must also adjust to accommodate the very innovation we’re promoting.