The Loop

Sticks and Stones

March 24, 2007

__“If not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.”

--P.G. Wodehouse__

The statute of limitations is almost up on Dan Jenkins’ January column, “Sand shots for the ages,” but this question is interesting, so what the hay, let’s give Steve Juskewycz, chairman of the Golf Links to the Past shop at Pebble, the floor: "In reference to the 1930 British Open, you stated, 'So out came the sand wedge for the one and only time in Jones' brilliant career.'  Frankly, the reason that we are so interested in this statement is that we recently acquired the original glass negative of that shot featured in the article.    In Mark Frost's book, 'The Grand Slam,' he states, 'He'd used it only twice in England' (before this shot on 16 at Hoylake).  Of course, this could mean he used it in England, but not in the Amateur at St. Andrews, which was held before the Open Championship. How did you conclude that this was the only time Jones had used a sand wedge in his career?   We certainly have no reason to dispute your statement, but we would like to get as much information about one of the more storied shots in golf history."

We asked Dan for his source and he said it was Francis Trimble of Houston, perhaps the world's leading golf researcher, who got it from Sid Mathew of Atlanta, the leading Bobby Jones historian. It was Trimble who supplied Golf Digest with the document of the sand wedge patent. Okay, so it’s Mark Frost on one side and Trimble, Mathew and Jenkins on the other. No disrespect to Frost, I’m leaning Jenkins and company.

While we’re still in the bunker, Donald Ely of Hendersonville, Tenn., wants us to remove the stones. In response to our April Pop Quiz, he says,__ “My understanding was that due to the hazard of hitting a stone they should be removed before playing the shot.” __ As rules folks know, this question has been debated by the R&A, which allows stone removal, and the USGA, which does not, for years, to the point where many of the stones in question have become  much smaller.

Ely quotes the USGA on the subject, which points to Rule 13-4 (no relief for loose impediments, which is what a stone is), but waffles on: However, stones in bunkers may represent a danger to players . . . and they may interfere with the proper playing of the game. When permission to lift a stone in a bunker is warranted, the following Local Rule is recommended: “Stones in bunkers are movable obstructions (Rule 24-1 applies).”  I’m sorry, and I know I’m being insensitive here, but the danger of stones in bunkers should be weighed against the danger of dying of old age while waiting for a fellow competitor to play out of a bunker, and stones, therefore, ought to be left the hell alone. Okay, unless they are huge.  So you know, I also favor a maximum of one marking of your ball per green, no discussion of bounce during a round, and a maximum of six practice swings. You’re away. (Add your comments below, or weigh in further on the USGA's rules blog.)

-- Bob Carney