John Solheim's latest idea: tailoring golf equipment to your handicap
The PING chairman is convinced it will make the game more enjoyable for the average golfer that he's willing to patent it
Published on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 10:03AM EST Last updated on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 10:28AM EST
What if the equipment you used to play golf was tailored to your handicap? Would that make the game more enjoyable for you? PING chairman and CEO John Solheim thinks so. In fact, he’s gone ahead and applied for a U.S. patent that uses an equipment rating formula as a factor in calculating a golfer’s handicap.
“I’m looking for ways to keep the game enjoyable for every level of golfer,” says Solheim, who first applied for such a patent back in June of 2011.
While some would see this as a form of bifurcation - or two sets of rules - Solheim disagrees, saying his proposal would work within the current rules.
“One of the goals of this concept is to get people thinking outside the “traditional” box that seems to have been built around golf – due primarily to the influence of the professional game,” explained Solheim. “This alternative approach to handicapping gives golfers the options to play and enjoy the game with the goal of keeping one set of rules. All of us who are part of this industry need to be looking forward to ensure the game grows in both appeal and participation. This is just one example of things we should be considering.”
This is the latest in out-of-the-box thinking by Solheim, who a year ago at this time proposed the Ball Distance Rating system (BDR) which would replace today's single golf ball limit with three different ball distance limits to create "a simpler way to control distance at the tour level - and keep the competitive design of the world's great courses in play."
Does Solheim's latest proposal merit discussion? Certainly. Does it have a chance at the decision making level? Consider that the USGA said thanks but no thanks to his BDR plan, citing the need to keep "one set of rules for all golfers"
FIRST STEP: Phil Mickelson was short on specifics but received “enthusiastic golf claps” after outlining his plans for the redesign of Torrey Pines North Course at a public meeting before a small but very concerned group of golfers Tuesday night.
Mickelson’s design team has been hired to carry out the $7-million renovation of the San Diego course which according to Todd Leonard of the San Diego Union Tribune will include rebuilding all 18 greens and all bunkers, the addition of full cart paths and the replacement of the irrigation system.
When the plan was first announced, the fear was that Mickelson and the other architects would end up taking away the ease and fun of playing the North Course and turn it into another South Course, which was redesigned to host the 2008 U.S. Open. But Mickelson did enough in this initial meeting to allay those fears.
Among Mickelson’s ideas for the North: fairways and greenside areas that will feed shots toward the hole, not repel it away; chipping areas that will challenge better players but allow higher handicappers to putt from off the green; greenside bunkers placed to the sides and not the front of greens; at least one driveable par-4 on each nine; shorter holes for women and juniors.
“Torrey North is the golf course people enjoy,” he said. “Torrey South is hard ¿ It beats me up. We need to have an option that lets everybody play. That’s Torrey North.
“I do believe that modern-day architecture is the single-most reason why play and participation in golf has decline. It’s just too hard. It’s not fun.”
A more specific plan is to be presented early in the new year. Work is expected to begin in the winter of 2015.
EUROPEAN VACATION: American players hoping to get a leg up on the 2014 Ryder Cup by playing in the Johnnie Walker event at Gleneagles are out of luck. The European Tour says the 2014 Johnnie Walker Championship will be postponed so that Ryder Cup preparations can begin in July. That means that the 2013 Johnnie Walker tournament will be the only chance U.S. players will have to play the Gleneagles course ahead of the Ryder Cup. The problem is, the 2013 tournament date coincides with the first FedEx Cup playoff event, which most U.S. Ryder Cup hopefuls will be playing. Plus, with the Ryder Cup more than a year out, the makeup of the team will be far from certain. While players can sometimes play a round of golf at a championship course outside of the scheduled tournament dates, it would mean scheduling a European swing just to play Ryder Cup venue which isn’t feasible for most U.S-based players.
TAKING A PASS: One of the perks 53-year-old Peter Senior inherited by winning the Australian Open earlier this month was an invitation into the World Golf Championship event at Firestone.
However, the oldest winner in Australian Open history tells Aussiegolfer.net he’s likely to skip the event because, as he puts it, the course is “ridiculously long for me”.
“Firestone, some of the holes they have really taken back. I don’t want to blaze away for four days and be 55th and that is pretty much how it would be because the course just doesn't set-up for me."
"Holes like number eight, when I first played Firestone back in 1990 that was the first time I ever played it, that was like driver - seven iron, now I’d be going in with driver rescue, the greens are so small and nearly every hole that I'm hitting I'm landing onto the uphill in the fairway and I just stay there, all the other guys are carrying the hills and getting 30-40 yards run and they are going in with a nine and eight iron."
"I'm beyond getting my brains beat out these days. I just want to enjoy my golf."
BACK TO THE PAST: Michael Noer of Forbes Life magazine details a interesting exhibition of golf which took place recently between legendary golfer Gary Player and PGA Tour pro Billy Horschel at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida, home to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Both men played a round of golf using three sets of clubs - hickory-shafted replicas meant to re-create the feel of MacGregors from the 1920s; a set of vintage Pings from the 1960; and some modern day 2012 Callaways. The pair also dressed in era-appropriate clothing to show how time and technology have changed the sport.
Player said while he didn’t much care for the vintage clubs, he was more than impressed with the clothes. “Looks neat, doesn’t it? Hell of a lot better than how we dress today.”
Player added that the exhibition was further proof of how hard it is to compare golfers from different eras when it comes to annointing “the best”.
“If you want to choose Tiger Woods as the best ever, let Ben Hogan come here, let Nicklaus come here, with the same equipment, the same ball, the same beautiful course conditions. Let them have a jet at their disposal, have a $1 million first prize. All those things make you play better. Ben Hogan got in a car and drove a couple days to get to a tournament. I went by Greyhound bus to some.”
SWING AND A MISS: All that talk about Phil Mickelson becoming part owner of his hometown San Diego Padres was just that - talk.
A spokesperson for Mickelson says the golfer will not be involved with the group that bought the Padres in August.
Mickelson feels the O'Malley and Seidler families, which bought the Padres along with local businessman Ron Fowler, have the depth of commitment the city needs and that Mickelson feels he can't match that level of commitment, at this point.
Back in October, Mickelson said things looked promising and hopeful that he would be joining the ownership group and on the day the $800-million sale closed, Peter Seidler said there was one spot left in the ownership group that was being held for Mickelson.
MEMBERS ONLY: It appears Si Woo Kim will get to play in a PGA Tour event before he becomes a full time member next June.
Kim became the youngest player ever to earn his Tour card at the age of 17 when he finished 20th at the just completed Q-School. However, PGA rules stipulate that Kim would not be able to take advantage of his full member status until his 18th birthday, which happens to be June 28th, 2013. That is just seven weeks before the truncated season ends, making it difficult for the youngster to earn enough money and/or FedEx Cup points in order to retain his Tour card for the following season.
In the meantime, Kim is able to take advantage of up to seven sponsors exemptions and he can always attempt to Monday qualify for certain events. The Puerto Rico Open has offered to give Kim a head start by offering him an exemption into their event scheduled in early March. The tournament runs opposite the more prestigious World Golf Championship event in Miami but will offer 300 FedEx Cup points, a 20 percent increase over this past season.
MERRY CHRISTMAS: And finally, we leave you with this rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas as recited by European Tour players (click on the image to take you to the video):
“It feels terrible. It’s like holding your wife’s hand with a glove on.” - Gary Player while playing with vintage hickory shaft golf clubs as part of a unique exhibition match.
Files from the Associated Press were used in this report