Category Archives: Playing the Game

Has the Pro V1 Changed the Game of Golf?

Has the Pro V1 changed the game of golf? It’s the kind of stuff obsessed golfers think about in March when there’s still snow on the ground.

Well, maybe just weird, obsessed golfers … but I digress.

Staring at snow, I realized I missed sitting around the clubhouse talking about golf. Hearing stories about how golf wasn’t always a game of bash, go find, and bash again. In fact, hear tale, golf used to be a game of skill, artistry, and lore. A game from a mystic time and place, where all putts were slick downhill sliders. All drives were uphill and against the wind. A game only “real golfers” played and only “real golfers” understand.

Is as much as golf seems to be romantically remembered in the past, the truth is, golf has always been a game in motion. Golf is constantly evolving with changes in teaching, philosophy, and most especially, equipment. Evolutions from hickory to metal, from a feathery to balata, from blades to game improvement irons, golf has always been in a continuous loop of change.

However, not even golf’s best historians could have predicted the impact the launch of a golf ball, in the year 2000, would have on the future of golf.


HERE COMES THE PRO V1

Image: www.titleist.com/company/history
Image: www.titleist.com/company/history

In golf, the year 2000 became a pre-Pro V1 world and a post-Pro V1 landscape. Even Titleist (in their humbled opinion) calls the Pro V1, “one of, if not, the most revolutionary products in golf equipment history.”

And to be fair, it was a game changer.

In the 1990s, prior to the Pro V1, there was the Top Flite Strata golf ball. In its time, the Strata itself was revolutionary. It merged a high-spinning Balata-type outer cover with a durable inner distance core. Prior to the Strata, golfers were forced to choose between distance (with balls like Pinnacle and Top Flite) or spin (with balls like Titleist Tour Balata and the Maxfli HT).

When the Pro V1 hit the scene in 2000, golf was exploding with technology. Golf’s equipment companies were pushing the envelope and experimenting with (stretching) USGA / R&A equipment rules. The golf world was also blowing up with the popularity of a new guy you may have heard of, Tiger Woods.

Almost immediately, the Pro V1 made a game-changing difference for golfers … especially tour pros. Greater distance, greater spin, more consistency, and more ball control than had ever been seen before. Golf courses suddenly became “too short.” Augusta National and others began to “Tiger proof” their courses by adding significant distances to holes and overall course length. 7,000-yard courses quickly became the norm on professional tours and it made golfers and golf’s governing bodies very nervous.

It was also around this same time (and even now through present day), the USGA and R&A began to answer – and to a degree counter – technology’s affect on the game through the creation and update of modern equipment rules. The golf world is now one of limitations on club size, spring effects, ball distance, and club lengths.

However, for many in the golfing world, these limitations are not enough. As one example, there are those who feel the modern golf ball needs to be “rolled back” or limited greatly in distance. The call to roll back the golf ball, comes with as much hope of halting the lengthening of golf courses, as it does the upheaval every time a 350-yard drive bounds down the fairway in a PGA tournament.


DID THE PRO V1 MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Taking all these factors into account:

  • The Pro V1 (and the next gen balls it inspired)
  • Modern golf equipment
  • New equipment rules
  • Lengthening of golf courses

I wondered if the Pro V1 had really made a difference. To make a difference, in my mind anyway, the difference would have to be seen in the only category that really matters … scoring.

To measure “impact” or “difference” in scoring, I used the PGA’s Vardon Trophy data as a statistical baseline. The Vardon Trophy, named in honor of English golfing great Harry Vardon, is awarded annually by the PGA of America to the PGA Tour’s leader in scoring average.

Photo: Harry Vardon, WorldGolfHallofFame.org
Photo: Harry Vardon, WorldGolfHallofFame.org

The trophy’s formula has essentially gone through four iterations: 1937-1941 (points based); 1947-1979 (scoring average); 1980-1987 (scoring average-80 rounds min); and 1988-2016 (scoring average-60 rounds min).

My intent was to use the Vardon Trophy data to discover if the Pro V1, combined with today’s modern equipment, had really changed the game … and if so, how.

Or, if perhaps, the combination of the USGA / R&A equipment rules and the lengthening of golf courses were somehow the perfect countermeasures, which led to a self-correction.


THE DATA

To be statistically consistent, I used the Vardon Trophy numbers from the most modern formula–1988-2016. I broke down the scoring average into two time periods–1988-1999 (pre-Pro V1) and 2000-2016 (post-Pro V1). In its current formula, between the years of 1988-1999, the highest stroke average was 69.92 in 1995, with the lowest stroke average of 68.43 in 1999. That’s a difference of 1.49 strokes. I also gathered an additional statistic by using all the years for that time period to create the overall average mean. For the ‘88-‘99 time period, the average mean was 69.22.

  • Vardon Trophy: 1988 – 1999
    • High: 69.92 (1995) Steve Elkington
    • Low: 68.43 (1999) Tiger Woods
    • Diff High/Low: 1.49
    • Mean: 69.22

Keeping the ’88-’99 data in mind, the high/low difference between the world’s most elite players was 1.49 strokes. When you look at the 2000-2016 statistics and factor in the introduction/play of the Pro V1 in 2000 (and next gen golf balls moving forward), here’s what you find.

  • Vardon Trophy: 2000 – 2016
    • High: 69.61 (2010) Matt Kuchar
    • Low: 67.79 (2000); (2007) Tiger Woods
    • Diff High/Low: 1.92
    • Mean: 68.71

So, comparing these two time periods, one thing stood out to me, the statistical mean. For the years of 1988-1999, the statistical mean (average) was 69.22. For the years 2000-2016, the statistical mean (average) was 68.71.

The difference between the two is a mere 0.51.

  • Vardon Trophy: 1988 – 1999
    • Mean: 69.22
  • Vardon Trophy: 2000 – 2016
    • Mean: 68.71

CONCLUSION

These numbers surprised me. I know the modern ball is better. I know modern equipment is better. I also know if there is any group of golfers who could really exploit this leap in technology, it would be the world’s best.

0.51, or just a little over ½ stroke, is an amazing number when taking into account the sometimes loud and emotional calls for significant change to the game. Dialing the ball back, shrinking the club size, bifurcation of the rules, lengthening courses, and other opinions like these sound good – and at times logical – until you look at the actual scoring numbers of the Vardon Trophy and examine the data.

It appears, at least on the surface, while technology has advanced, its affect on the game of golf has been countered through a combination of USGA / R&A equipment rules (controlling technology) and the lengthening of golf courses (accounting for it).


WANT MORE?

If you were wondering, here’s the overall data from 1947-2016 (70-years). It could be a bit skewed due to the different formulas used in compilation over the years, but from persimmon to metal, metal to graphite, balata to Pro V1, stronger athletes, longer courses, better agronomy, Trackman, etc. … with all that in play … you’re still only looking at a 3.1 high/low difference and just a 1.28 mean average difference … again, in 70 years.

  • Vardon Trophy: 1947 – 2016
    • High: 70.89 (1972) Lee Trevino
    • Low: 67.79 (2000); (2007) Tiger Woods
    • Diff High/Low: 3.1
    • Mean: 69.99 (1947-1999)
    • Mean: 68.71 (2000-2016)
    • Diff Mean: 1.28 (70-Years)

Seems like those old guys were pretty good too!


Featured Image: Titleist Pro V1 / Pro V1x, titleist.com

BIO: Keith Cook has been a writer and contributing editor at thelocalgolfer.com since 2013. Follow Keith @KeithCookWriter on Facebook or @_KeithCook on Twitter.

Author’s Blog: Click Here

Enjoy more great articles and golf news from @LocalGolfer on Facebook and @LocalGolfer on Twitter.

For Love of the Game

 

As I walked (limped) off the 18th green at Old Macdonald, my body aching from the pains brought on by a marathon of golf, and my ego aching twice as much, I felt a juxtaposition of disappointment and euphoria. Euphoric from just finishing my 72nd hole of golf (85th if you count the Preserve, a short, 13-hole, par 3 course) in four days at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Bandon DunesMy disappointment came from the realization that I would never again experience this golf paradise for the first time. I put my clubs in the car and sat in the driver’s seat, completely exhausted. I looked in the visor mirror and realized the golfer staring back at me was not the same golfer as the one who first teed off at Bandon Dunes three days earlier.

 Let me start at the beginning. I emerged from the wooded Oregon Highway 42 shortly before 3 p.m., my heart thumping in my chest. The stoplight at the confluence of Hwy 101 seemed to take forever, somehow teasingly aware I was mere minutes from my destination. But, by 3:30 I was checked into my room at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.  Small, but incredibly cozy, the room was packaged with everything a golfer needs. The mattress was soft to rest a weary back, natural stone flooring in the bathroom to massage the feet, two comfortable chairs, a TV, and of course, a fridge to store all manner of swing lubricant.  I didn’t stay in my room for long. I had to see the ocean. I climbed up a little trail near the hotel. At the top, overlooking the DSCF1348land leading to the edge of the Pacific, I couldn’t help but weep tears of joy. I made it! After months of saving, I wasn’t a golfer on vacation, I was a pilgrim on a religious journey, ready to take on the Bandon Dunes experience. Mine eyes had seen the glory of what was in store for me over the next four days.

Day 1-Bandon Dunes

Nervous, and pretty much sleepless from the anticipation the night before, I teed off at the resort’s eponymous course at 8:20 a.m. sharp, launching a beautiful drive down the right side of the fairway, flirting with the rough. My second shot, a sky-high 9 iron, put me on the back of the green. After a two-putt I walked towards the 2nd hole, ego thoroughly massaged. From 8:20 to 8:35 I was the best golfer I’d ever been. I’d parred the first hole at Bandon Dunes. However, The lord giveth…and the lord taketh away. From 8:36 to 12:13, it was a struggle.

Bandon Dunes is a resort course, no question. The undulating fairways, follow the natural landscape of the Oregon coast, and like any high end resort course, they’re as tight as a table-top. Those of us who have a tendency to hit the big ball first are in for a long day. If you aren’t familiar with the bottom of your swing, your 4 iron is likely to get you a good six feet of ball flight. I had my fair share of frustrating results, but my passion for the game was uninhibited. As I finished the Bandon Dunes course with my tail was between my legs and butterflies in my stomach, I realized I was in love. The mysterious mistress of golf and Bandon Dunes had me under her spell, regardless of how I played.

 Day 2–Pacific Dunes

As usual when one is in love, I couldn’t sleep from the anticipation of my second date. Promptly, again at 8:20, I launched my first drive into the middle of the fairway, I just wish it was the DSCF1296correct one! Day 2 at the Bandon Dunes Resort was a job-like test of my love for golf. I think I made one par, and lost about a trillion strokes on the fast greens and tight fairways. I got my first taste of the deep, numerous bunkers at Pacific Dunes as well, and it certainly wouldn’t be my last.

DSCF1288Pacific Dunes could be the most difficult course I played at the resort, but it was also the most beautiful. Nearly every hole is on the ocean, offering breathtaking sights. That’s why I played so poorly! The golf gods wanted me to spend more time taking in the course. At least, that’s what I told myself.

After the round, I left my clubs in the car (which is something I consider sacrilegious), went straight to my hotel room and collapsed on the bed. There’s something about golf where a dreadful performance completely takes the wind out of your sails. Later that evening, I resolved to get some pick-me-ups. I headed into the Bandon Dunes pro-shop near The Lodge. Souvenirs were aplenty in the building, with all manner of name brand logo merchandise from cigars, books, apparel, to golf equipment. You name it. They had it. All sporting the Bandon Dunes puffin logo. I walked out carrying a new shirt and a puffin head-cover, and went right into the bar. The Tufted Puffin is the Lodge’s restaurant, and was my haunt of choice when I wasn’t on the course. The food was great, the drinks were superb, and the staff was kind. After some retail and culinary therapy, I was feeling a little bit better as my head hit the pillow.

 Day 3–Bandon Trails

My alarm blared at 6:30 the next morning. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling thinking,  Do I really need to punish myself again adding insult to injury? Haven’t I had enough?  Every golfer knows about the Herculean effort needed to go out and play after a particularly bad round. I walked onto the tees of Bandon Trails hesitant and untrusting of my game. DSCF1304Fortunately, I was able to keep it together.  Trails is the most unique course at the resort. With 70% forest, only a handful of holes run along the ocean. It’s beautiful and my personal favorite. The grass in the fairways is tight, but seemed a little more forgiving. The forested layout and the surroundings are almost out-of-place. As I walked among the trees on the seventh hole (I admit it, looking for an errant ball), I couldn’t tell whether I was a quarter-mile away from the ocean-from the edge of the continent-or one thousand miles away. Numerous elevation changes throughout the track make each hole unique, inviting, and enjoyable. The logo of Trails is a butterfly, and it’s appropriate. I felt light as a feather the whole round, even more in love with the Bandon experience.

Day 4–Old Mac

DSCF1334Old Macdonald, is the wildcard, and the youngest of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort courses. I was joined by my friend/colleague/mentor Cliff, for a DSCF1350round of golf where every characteristic of the resort’s courses are distilled into an 18-hole endurance test. It truly was golf turned up to an eleven. Every fairway at the first three courses rolls and undulates. DSCF1364At Old Mac, they turn mounds into hills and dips into valleys. I was dwarfed in bunkers, and I’m not afraid to admit I broke out the hand-wedge a couple of times. The greens at Trails and both Dunes courses are fast, but Old DSCF1338Mac’s are downright sinister. If an outsider was watching us putt, they’d come to believe that “Oh my god, are you kidding me?” is a required utterance after each putt. After our handshake on the 18th green, we shared the mutual thought as we added up our scores, Cliff & Colin–0, Old Macdonald–1. We played golf, and golf won.

End Result

So, there I am sitting in my car staring at myself in the visor mirror. My shoulders hurt, my right hand had blisters, and my left hand was noticeably paler than its counterpart. I had to get on the road soon. I had a long drive ahead of me. I turned the key and my car sprang to life. After fastening my seat belt and choosing the right CD for the trip, my eyes returned to the mirror. I could see the fatigue in his eyes and feel it in mine. I smiled. He smiled. And then we said, in unison, “I love golf.”

 

This Week’s Winners in Professional Golf!

Congratulations to this Week’s Winners in Professional Golf!


PGA Tour-LogoPGA Tour: Spain’s Jon Rahm, Farmers Insurance Open (San Diego, California), $1,206,000 first place prize money, -13 under par.

Photo: Jon Rahm, @PGATOUR/Twitter
Photo: Jon Rahm, @PGATOUR/Twitter

PGA Tour – Next Event: Waste Management Phoenix Open, Scottsdale, Arizona (February 2-5)


LPGA.comLPGA Tour: American Brittany Lincicome *playoff, Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic (Paradise Island, Bahamas), $210,000 first place prize money, -26 under par.

Photo: Brittany Lincicome, LPGA.com
Photo: Brittany Lincicome, LPGA.com

LPGA – Next Event: ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, Grange, South Australia (February 16-19)


EuropeanTourEuropean Tour: South Korean Jeunghun Wang *playoff, Commercial Bank Qatar Masters (Doha, Qatar), €389,657 first place prize money, -16 under par.

Photo: Jeunghun Wang, EuropeanTour.com
Photo: Jeunghun Wang, EuropeanTour.com

European Tour – Next Event: Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (February 2-5)


PGA Tour Champions-LogoPGA Tour Champions – Next Event: Allianz Championship (February 10-12)


Featured Image: Jon Rahm, 2017 Farmers Insurance Open Champion, PGATour.com

BIO: Keith Cook has been a writer and contributing editor at thelocalgolfer.com since 2013. Follow Keith @KeithCookWriter on Facebook or @_KeithCook on Twitter.

Author’s Blog: Click Here

Enjoy more great articles and golf news from @LocalGolfer on Facebook and @LocalGolfer on Twitter.