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Readers Letters - June/July 2009

Roey to the rescue!

Since I took up golf 16 years ago, at the age of 30, I have struggled to devote the time to practice that I would like to reduce my handicap. I have been for long-game lessons periodically with PGA pros, some of which have had an immediate, though temporary effect on my scores. Devoting time to practice to ingrain the techniques learned, as well as playing, has been difficult.

I am sure I am not alone in having a job whose demands restrict golfing time, but I also have a very precious special needs child who is thoroughly deserving of my spare time. I have read many times in Gi over the years how improving the short game is the quickest route to lowering scores, so finally, inspired by Mark Roes short game instruction (Issue 83), I bought some reduced distance balls, a mat and a net and set about improving my short game in my garage. Over the winter and early spring, I have been able to devote time to his techniques, which I found easy to follow. I have also been able to involve my son in these activities as well. The result has been a significant improvement in my scores as I’m taking two or three to get up and down almost all of the time, and not taking four (and shamefully sometimes five) as I did before. More importantly for me, the short game practice has given me another avenue for spending quality time with my son.

Thanks Roey!

Peter Morrison, Monifieth, Dundee

He’s worse than an MP!

We are all only too aware of the state of the world economy, and golf is certainly not immune, with many clubs’ very existence threatened. It’s against this backdrop that I’ve been prompted to write, as I read recently that Tiger Woods will be paid $2.1 million to appear in the Australian Masters. At a time when many in this world are going through a real struggle, surely this is nothing short of obscene? The whole notion of appearance money is something that I believe blights the game of golf. Already there are sponsors in America (chiefly banks) taking their names off events because of the threat of a public backlash.

The European Tour, with its ‘Race to Dubai’, and the PGA Tour offer players a staggering opportunity to make a living in terms of prize money. On top of this players at the pinnacle of the game make huge sums from endorsements – and yet how often do we hear TV commentators tell us that for these players its not the money its the trophies?

I think taking millions of dollars to turn up and compete in Australia paints a different picture. I know Tiger’s not the only one but he’s the most high profile of golfers and one who could lead by example. Had he said simply, “Cover my costs” I’d have been the first to write praising his attitude. These players have a great life and I know they work hard to achieve the riches they get and I have no problems with the prize-money on offer. But being paid millions of dollars simply to turn up is just wrong.

Sam Robinson Skelmorlie, Ayrshire

Avoidance of doubt...

I wonder if the cancellation of the planned Woods/McIlroy Masters practice round was to avoid the ‘fuss’ that would surround the world No 1 and golf’s hottest prospect. Or perhaps the Chosen One (or is it the Nike One?) was being a bit canny? After all, if you’re a competitive sort – and Woods is most certainly that – you wouldn’t particularly want to go out of your way to make a potential challenger that comfortable around you.

It’s well established that very few of Woods’ playing partners survive the hullabaloo surrounding him nor his intense presence when in contention. (See the final round at Bay Hill for one example, and for another the praise heaped on Phil Mickelson for managing to finish one shot better than Woods on Masters Sunday.) So it’s to his advantage to let the likes of McIlroy get a first taste of playing with him in a competition.

Tiger Woods is a phenomenon when bettering an exceptionally difficult golf course, but also when bettering a fellow professional standing between him and a victory. Has his enforced layoff allowed others to gain confidence in standing up to him? Mickelson and Harrington appear to have the mettle. And yet the youngsters such as McIlroy could prove the greatest threat because they grew up idolising him rather than fearing him – potentially a big difference.

But we certainly can’t be too hard on those that haven’t managed to play their best when faced with a prowling Tiger. It wasn’t that long ago that he met with Michael Schumacher and Roger Federer amid talk of who was the greatest. And look what has happened to them. One has retired and the other will shortly have a Brit above him in the tennis world rankings!

M Williams Thornton Heath, London

I am a 78-year-old male golfer, having played the game for almost 57 years, and for the period 1963 to 1985 was a single-figure handicap, fluctuating between 5 and 7. My strengths have been in the past reasonable driving, decent fairway woods and good mid irons; weakness was short chips and pitches.

However now, not unexpectedly (but particularly since I had radiothereapy treatment 12 months ago), I have lost a great deal of length, especially with irons, which are Callaway Big Bertha with graphite shafts that I purchased in 1995 (do graphite shafts wear out?) My driver (13 degrees) and 4-wood are Ping graphite, and I use a TaylorMade Rescue in the place of 3- or 4-irons.

The big problem I find is in getting totally unbiased advice such as given by golf professionals in my younger days. For example, years ago, when I had coaching from the late Bill Cox, I recall he once refused to sell me a set of John Letters Henry Cotton irons because he felt they would be unsuitable, and my game prospered with a set of Dunlop Peter Thompson clubs.

Most club professionals now only stock very few brands so that if a pro is a Cobra fitting centre that is the make he reckons will suit the golfer, subject to variations in loft and lie.

Another pro will recommend Titleist, another Ping, and so on. If the bemused golfer decides to go to a golf superstore there is plenty of choice, but the staff do not know the individual golfer’s faults and foibles, whereas the good club pro often (or should have) an extensive knowledge of his members swings and capabilities.

Custom-fitting sounds the panacea for all golfing ills (is it?) because it is restricted to particular manufacturers equipment. For example, Ping may suit me better than, say, Mizuno. So the question is where can we get impartial advice and, furthermore, is it worth golfers of my age even bothering?

C. T. Blackburn Deganwy, Conwy

Editor’s note: Your letter is timely. As Tony Johnstone explains in his driver test within this issue, the most important part of custom-fitting is identifying the right shaft to suit your swing characteristics. This process is made quicker and easier with the use of a ball-flight analysis system such as Flightscope and Trackman. Find a local pro who has this technology and treat yourself to a fitting session that will transform your game.

Why not give to charity?

Shane Lowry’s achievement in winning the 3 Irish Open as an amateur, albeit in a rain-shortened tournament, was quite something. But why on earth should England’s Robert Rock be the beneficiary of the first-prize cheque when he came in second?

I’m well aware of the limitations of amateur status, but surely the European Tour could fine some loophole that allows an amateur winner to nominate a charity of his or her choice to which the money he would have won is donated? As a charitable contribution, not only would this significant sum of money escape the taxman, but it would also reflect very well on the European Tour. To pass on the winner’s cheque to the guy who comes in second seems ridiculous. If not a charitable donation, surely the money could have been better used further down the food-chain, helping to expand the purse of Challenge Tour, perhaps, or an exceptional payment to the Golf Foundation?

M. Cooper

A missed opportunity

As someone who has played and followed amateur golf for many years, to a decent county standard, I was saddened to learn of Shane Lowry’s decision to turn his back so readily on the amateur game – and, in effect, the Walker Cup – after his victory in the 3 Irish Open.

To win a professional tournament as an amateur is an incredible feat, though it has to be said the conditions at Baltray did Lowry’s cause no harm at all. As a leading Irish amateur golfer, he would be used to playing in the wind and the rain (he now has to prove himself in summer conditions worldwide). That is to take nothing away from his performance. Such is the standard on tour today that for an amateur to go out and win in the manner he did was fantastic – but a single swallow does not a summer make. With a place in Colin Dalgleish’s Walker Cup side at Merion surely there for the taking – and he’d still have, what, 32 months of the three-year exemption on the European Tour waiting for him after that – surely it would have made more sense to add this honour to his CV. The experience of competing as a member of a Walker Cup side, win or lose, has to be worth so much more than three months or so of anadine tournament golf – he’s going to be on a diet of that for the rest of his career.

Perhaps the problem runs deeper, and these days amateur golf is just not regarded as being worth the effort? Youngsters are all in too much of a hurry to turn pro. All I know is that had I been in the fortunate position of being even remotely good enough to have a shot at the Walker Cup, I would have regarded that as being a fantastic way to crown my days as an amateur. The experience is spoken highly of by the likes of Nick Dougherty, Marc Warren and the fast-rising David Horsey, to name just three of Europe’s young tour stars who represented GB&I in the Walker Cup. I’ve no doubt as a pro one of his dreams will be to play in a Ryder Cup – I wish him every success, I just hope he won’t look back and regret turning down playing at Merion in the Walker Cup.

Andrew Clotworthy Portsmouth

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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