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Friday, September 7, 2012

The USGA Will Soon Develop Specs for Rain

It appears that rain is the newest technology for lowering golf scores.

It doesn't matter whether you're a long hitter or a short hitter. In many cases, it doesn't seem to matter whether you're accurate or not. All you need is a wet course and WHAMMO! Instant low scores.

At the BMW Championship, 55 of the 70 players shot under par after a little rain was added to the course, and 4 players posted 64 (-8). Playing lift, clean, and place (LC&P) allowed the mighty Crooked Stick -- a course officially "Daly-proofed" after John Daly brought it to its knees back in 1991 -- to become a pitch-and-putt.

At the Kingsmill Championship, 75 of the 144 ladies are under par after play was delayed for 2 hours by rain, and Jiyai Shin set a new course record at 62 (-9). Granted, some of the ladies haven't finished yet... but there's no LC&P there either. (Since the storm messed up their LPGA coverage at 12:30pm, GC showed the after-rain afternoon coverage when they came back on at 6:30pm. Good for them!)

Clearly the USGA will have to do something about this in order to preserve the integrity of the game. This is clearly a much bigger threat than belly putters, as players have absolutely no choice about whether to play wet courses or not! Unless the USGA is willing to mandate domes over all the courses, thus giving them the ability to limit the amount of rain that falls on the course, the equipment will simply have to be changed.

Since the problem is that balls stop more quickly on wet greens -- and since the USGA has made it clear that they don't want to "roll back" the ball specs -- the most obvious solution is to alter the grooves. This is a solution that the USGA has proven more than willing to enforce, no matter what kinds of other problems it may cause. This willingness on their part makes the solution really simple.

All they have to do is eliminate grooves entirely. Not only will all the shorter courses become relevant again (because the players won't be able to hit those greens any better than the longer courses), but it will make equipment much easier to evaluate. Does it have grooves? It's illegal. Is the face smooth? It's legal.

How much simpler could you want it?

Oh, and there's one last thing they should do. This is an excellent place to institute bifurcation -- you know, two sets of rules, one for pros and one for amateurs. Of course, once amateurs are able to play better than the pros, the game will cease to be interesting and will therefore lose its audience. But that isn't important. After all, the only thing that matters is the integrity of the game, right?

And if we want to do that, we have to eliminate the effects of rain from the game. It's just a matter of time.

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