'I love it when the fairways 'brown' up' - Ivan Morris

Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris

Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris

OUR unprecedented, long run of warm, dry and sunny weather has finally come to an end.

1976 was the last time I remember our weather being quite like it but, I do not remember it lasting quite as long? What a boon it would be to us all, if we could rely on having six weeks of such weather every year.

There is nothing wrong with a honey-hued playing surface! Nothing, that is, except that most golfers incorrectly believe they should be playing on faultless, emerald green, baize!

When greenskeepers shut off their water supply, or decide to use it very sparingly in order to do no more than 'keeping the grass alive,' neglect the rough so that it can grow wilder, and native, so to speak, thirsty grasses develop deeper roots and become healthier in the process.

Where golf courses are concerned, green may be considered beautiful but brown is better! I love playing golf best when the ball runs, skips, hops and jumps and control of distance becomes much more important than distance or even straightness.

There is a lot of guesswork in judging the bounce and roll of a golf ball on a rock hard surface. The vivid, green and lush landscapes most golfers erroneously prefer will soon be back, generating unrealistic expectations that their humble home course should always look "perfectly green."

When I feel my shoes crunching the firm fairways underneath and a certain amount of dust rising, I am at my happiest. I love it when fairways 'brown up.'

In a golf context, I would never equate course quality with emerald green. I hope and pray, it won't be another 42-years before we see it again because I won't be around to enjoy it!

Slower Greens POST A Better Test of Golf Skill

ONE of the off shoots of the faster-running fairways was that our putting greens were running a trifle slower, mainly because they could not be cut as low.

The greenkeepers were raising their mower blades instead of lowering them. While most golfers foolishly believe the faster a green the better it is, they are wrong!

That's a lie perpetrated by professionals who know the opposite is the case and always want the odds stacked in their favour to the extent that week after week in the USA, at least, the greens are engineered to run at the same speed.

They know that slower greens make it harder to hole putts and they don't want that!

How often do you hear good golfers complaining about slow greens, saying they could not get the ball 'up to the hole.' If slow greens are a problem for good golfers to contend with, why do they continually set up courses with faster and faster greens?

I know you have to strike a balanced medium as far as green speeds are concerned but, if you look back at old film footage of championships played forty or even sixty years ago, you will see that players faced with putts of say, 15-yards had to give the ball a right old 'bash' to get the ball 'up to the hole' with a chance of going in.

It is much harder to sink long putts on slow greens.

If you don't believe me, maybe you might listen to the wisdom of Ben Hogan, who said: "Slow greens make golf a better game.

Anyone can putt fast greens. The longer and harder the stroke is, the greater margin for error.

So a 7-footer must be given a pretty good thump whereas on today's Tour greens, a one inch back swing is sufficient."

Greens have become a lot faster since Hogan said that. He died in 1997.

Of today's generation, Rickie Fowler, is of a similar mindset, which is surprising because he has the reputation of being one of the best putters on tour today.

Rickie says slow greens expose mis-hit putts more readily than faster surfaces do. "I think it’s kind of nice (slow greens) because (you) actually get to hit the putt, you’re not just trying to hit it to a spot and letting it work to the hole. A putt should be hit - like any other golf stroke."

Fowler enjoys the challenge of greens that are in the nine or ten Stimpmeter-speed range. Especially when the wind blows.

“You have to use your imagination as far as creativity and trying to judge how much the wind will affect it,” he said.

“At the end of the day, you just have to hit solid putts.” While that may not sound very profound, Fowler’s case for slower greens rewarding better strokes and more refined putters would be valuable to note for courses chasing double-digit Stimpmeter speeds.

“Slower greens accentuate a mis-hit putt more, if you have a downhill putt in the United States, one kind of just has to hit it to get it going. On slower greens, one mis-hits it a little bit uphill, into the wind and it can be a pretty big difference.”

Words of the Wise

Professional golf is a difficult lifestyle. Making money is the problem. Margins are so tight. So many little things have to go right. If you are too hard on yourself mentally, golf will eat you alive.

Pro golf is a glamorous life for a very, small number of super talented individuals - the rest need to be resigned to endless frustration, penury, pain and self- loathing.

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