Self-described "purists" have been dismissing Hack Golf's push for 15-inch cups. While I admire those who want to protect the integrity of our courses and rules, let's get something straight: The evolution of the modern green into a marble-like surface is not pure. Nor is it healthy. And for most people, super-slick greens are not really that much fun.
Yes, there's a thrill in first stepping up to a green measuring double digits on the Stimpmeter, but that's usually more a sense of awe at seeing how man has tamed turf by being able to mow it so tight and taut. After the first few three-putts or the stressful six-footer -- which could turn into a 20-footer coming back -- the entire exercise becomes tedious and time-consuming. Think of the hours of our lives we've spent watching a group (or sadly being part of one) agonizing over short putts to 4.25-inch holes that play smaller the faster greens get?
If purists want to see great architecture shine, they have to remember that the faster putting surfaces get, the more the design from tee-to-fringe loses its importance. Too many rounds over-emphasize putting both regarding the overall score and time-spent playing.
This is why I'm fascinated by larger cups. The 4.25-inch size was an arbitrary number reached at Musselburgh after the first cup cutter was invented, and the R&A made it official in 1891. Greens were Stimping about 5 back then. Putting greens were merely a continuation of the fairway. Speeds gradually climbed over the next century until the last decade or so, to a game with a pursuit of speed not just in tournament golf, but in daily setups that view 10+ as essential for Stimpmeter readings. With a manufactured, shockingly distinct surface rolling infinitely faster than ever on nearly all golf courses, the hole has remained the same size.
We've learned that the more man's hand intervenes in golf, the less golfers accept bad breaks or extreme setups. Conversely, the more nature plays a role in our fate, the more we tolerate the madness. Excessive green speeds seem cool but never quite capture our senses because they are artificially propagated. The introduction of a larger cup potentially diffuses the over-importance of green speed in the modern game and could re-invigorate the game for those scared off by excessive short-game difficulty or a scarcity of time.
That's not to say 15-inch cups are the best answer. Moderating green speeds is. But purists should be open to trying a version of golf that restores the putting surface to a more sensible place in the cosmos.Follow @GeoffShac
Now that you've been supplied with a playlist and podcasts to hear about all things Masters, the mood setting requires you do a little reading. Celebrating all things defending champion is a great tradition of the Masters because no winner of this event can turn down the many inquiries to relive their epic triumph.
Adam Scott has been no stranger to writers grilling him about last year's epic, and why not? A dreary and lifeless-by-Masters-standards final round exploded in the final 90 minutes to produce a thrilling playoff win for Scott over Angel Cabrera.
Golf Digest's Tom Callahan's April issue column focuses on Scott's triumphant return home to Australia last December and Scott's gentle nature. And in case you were wondering about Scott's recent struggles at Bay Hill, Callahan reminds us that the putter acted up all the way up until Sunday's back nine.
The Sunday that Scott won the Masters, he didn't putt well, you know. "I was very, very shaky with my speed control," he said, "leaving everything short on the front nine, incredibly short. On the back nine I just told myself, This is it. You have to be bold now."
Golf Magazine's Alan Bastable filed a lengthy Q&A where Scott shows how he is one of the more underrated interviews in golf. An unfortunate photo accompanies the piece, but just scroll on by that and get to the good stuff about the win, Augusta and his views on some of the course changes.
The Augusta Chronicle has won countless awards for their stories on defending champions, and Scott Michaux undertook the grueling task of visiting Australia to see the Alister MacKenzie courses built prior to Augusta National, checking out the great Barnbougle Dunes resort in Tasmania (positively nothing to do with Adam Scott!) and Michaux reconsiders the amazing sportsmanship that places the 2013 Masters in the pantheon of great tournaments. But the main Chronicle story focuses in depth on how Scott rebuilt his approach to majors after hitting rock bottom in 2008, with extensive tracing back to the early part of Scott's career with many details that may surprise you.
Many factors contributed to his professional free fall - a broken hand that got smashed in a car door before the U.S. Open; a break-up with his longtime girlfriend, Marie Kojzar; a "mystery illness" that haunted him with recurring throat infections doctors could best attribute to fatigue; and a kneecap he dislocated running out of the surf in Queensland at the end of 2008.
The Augusta Chronicle also featured this video of a Scott Q&A in Australia where he talks about the Green Jacket and various rules associated with its care while he is champion. You will also see just how much his win meant to the great sporting nation of Australia.
Now that you have a nice playlist to get you going to set the Masters mood, it's time to hear some old stories in a new medium. Mitch Laurence, whose worked on both sides of the camera and the microphone, has put together several TheGolfDirector.com podcasts that will get the Augusta juices flowing. Mitch's passion for the game is evident in his research and preparation for interviews, as I can attest having been the subject of a recent chat about this year's Masters.
But of far more interest are Mitch's chats with Ben Wright, Frank Christian and John Derr.
Wright talks about all things Masters and shares some stellar stories, while indirectly reminding us what a shame it is not to have him part of the broadcast team.
Christian, the longtime club photographer who followed his father in that role, tells us about a hickory club and a lesson given to him by Bobby Jones and shares insights into Augusta National's co-founder.
And Derr is the 96-year-old former professional who covered the 1935 Masters, befriended O.B. Keeler and got to meet other sportswriting legends Grantland Rice and Damon Runyon. Even better, Derr talks about covering the Masters at 17 and his memories of that week 79 years ago prove to well worth listening to.
Even better, hearing the old stories serves as another reminder of the great heritage of the Masters, which is now less than two weeks away. Soak it up!
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New York, NY
Dear The Donald,
Now that the bluster has settled and the rejuvenated Blue Monster says goodbye to the world's best golfers, I have a few thoughts from afar. Namely, how your course should be presented going forward.
Before addressing the design, a quick congratulations on having Patrick Reed win. To have such a modest, humble world top-five player win must be something you can relate to.
As for the Monster, well, its namesake was restored and then some. Generally, I would advocate you ignore player comments so soon after the heat of battle, but instead, elicit their views after they've had time to assess the week. Today's pros are getting better at separating course setup defects from architecture, and after Friday's high winds it was telling how so few critiqued the renovated course and how so many questioned the setup not taking the predicted winds into account.
Related: The 17th At Doral: Not Every Hole Has To Have Water!
I would concur that with a few setup tweaks, particularly on the back nine, the course will play better in high winds. Just having a year to mature will do wonders, as the thatchless but otherwise beautiful putting surfaces had that new green bounce that often even repels a spinning shot. Besides, there were still signs that good play was rewarded and poor play penalized. The field still managed nine rounds under 70 on Sunday after the players had been beaten up for three days and with some pretty tough final-round hole locations.
Now, about your comments to Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller about lengthening the 15th hole and blowing up the current 17th green to get water back into play. If you noticed the player feedback, they were pretty unanimous that there was too much water affecting play. There were 318 balls hit into the water last week, surpassing 2004's previous high of 220. This means you do not need to make the devilish little 15th any longer, in fact, I was saddened we didn't see it play super short with a front hole location. Anything would have been more interesting than that dreary final day hole location in the back right that limited birdies and took fans cheering for a ball rolling toward the hole out of play.
As to the waterless par-4 17th, it played as the toughest driving hole all week, and the players didn't exactly hit great approach shots into that huge, artfully bunkered green. More than that, the 17th provided a nice contrast to the other water-filled finishing holes and gave everyone a breather before the 18th, which was set up way too long for the winds.
Anyhow, that's all I have for you. You have the number in case you want chat.
Congrats on reinvigorating the Blue Monster.
Yours In Waterballs,
When reality had sunk in that the Eisenhower Tree was no longer, we architecture wonks got excited. No, not at the site of a majestic specimen getting taken down by a silly ice storm. That's sad.
Instead, we ever-so-briefly dreamed of the possibility that Augusta National's 17th hole might be re-examined.
Let's face it, this 440-yard uphill hole hasn't been quite the same since Tom Fazio littered both sides of the landing area with pine trees that would have stifled recovery shots of Nicklaus and Norman. Once a great birdie opportunity that still produced terribly inconvenient bogeys too, Augusta National's penultimate hole has become laborious. Then what better time to reassess everything about its architecture than now, so close to the Masters when they surely could not replace such a massive, iconic tree so close to the tournament?
What could I have been thinking?
This is Augusta National.
As I type, a majestic replacement is probably already dangling from a Sikorsky, with ex-Navy Seals leading Operation General (Ike's Secret Service name). Crews are guiding a loblolly grown for this day into a hole, where all of Ike's roots have already been taken out, placed in plastic bags for safe keeping, and fresh soil imported to ensure clean living for the replacement, which will spend the next century swatting down unsuspecting drives.
As for all of those dreams of an Old Course-replacement fairway bunker, removal of the recently planted pines or digging up MacKenzie's plans to see what else could be done to the 17th hole? Save 'em. You can bet the folks at Augusta National already have this one covered.