Golf Magazine

THE PGA: First the Bad News

By Theteesheet @theteesheet
THE PGA: First the Bad News

The Horrible Idea of Letting Fans Pick A Pin Placement at the PGA Championship

The excitement is building for the season’s final major. Oak Hill is a historic course and things are setting up for a fantastic week. Phil won the last major and Tiger demolished the field this past week. It doesn’t get much better in terms of anticipation.

Nothing can put a damper on the PGA Championships this week. However, the one pimple is this gimmick of letting the fans pick the pin placement for the 15th hole on Sunday.

Yes, the PGA is letting the fans pick the pin placement on the fourth last hole of a major championship.

My sentiment exactly.

At first, it seems like a fun idea, but so does throwing watermelons off the over-pass.

The PGA Championship claims it was Jack Nicklaus’ idea and he is part of the website presentation. While I am a huge Jack fan (look, my son’s name is Jack) and almost always agree with his take on the game: this is a horrible idea.

The PGA Championship admittedly did a fine job setting up the website for the vote. There are cool fly-bys and descriptions of the four choices of pin placements (although it does seem a bit redundant on every option to say the pin placement brings the lake into play).

More interestingly, if you watch the longer video with Nicklaus and PGA of America guy Kerry Haigh (and for some reason Ahmad Rashad hosting), Jack says the furthest pin location in the back is the one that he would be most comfortable challenging. Nicklaus’ analysis of the possible hole locations is fascinating and fun; but it should end there.

Fan involvement for the actual setup of the course is a terrible idea. I am neither a Luddite in terms of technology nor against greater fun and access for golf fans. I love both. This is neither.

This is not being concerned about a slippery slope to additional fan involvement such as tee-box selection or how high to grow the rough. This is an idea that has already gone too far. In most sports, fan involvement in the actual conditions of competition is thankfully limited to exhibitions such as selecting all-star teams. Consider baseball: the actual real consequence of the All-Star game in deciding home field advantage for the World Series has made fan selection even more ridiculous.

There is a hard line in sports that cannot be crossed by fans: it is the line dividing the fan experience and the field of play.

[fans don't belong on field of play ... or penalty box} 

In golf, it seems to be a somewhat grayer area because spectators are on the actual course. The degree to which fans affect the outcome of a shot is accidental, not intentional. However gray the line may be in golf, decision on course set-up is inside the ropes literally and figuratively.

Golfers may venture outside of the ropes during a round, but they are not outside the field of play in terms of the sport.

[athletes don't belong in the stands - psychologically in the case of golf] 

The psychological divide between inside and outside the ropes is important.

The real point is that as a golf fan, I hope and expect there is more to setting up the course than arbitrarily picking hole locations days in advance (and even more than a week) of the actual playing of the event.

Not to recklessly cast praise on the PGA Championship officials, but I always assumed a significant amount of experience and thought went into the pin placements. Surely there must be numerous factors that may impact on the pin placements for Sunday afternoon on the back nine, including:

-   Whether the tournament as it stands after the third round is best served by the potential for birdies, i.e. are there a bunch of players in the hunt so that a pin placement with a high-risk/high-reward outcome is preferable?

-   The pin placements of the prior days. It seems this means this one vote may dictate the pin placements for the other days.

-   The expected wind conditions for the day. If there is a strong left to right wind that day (or any direction for that matter), doesn’t it affect the pin placements in relation to what the organizers are trying to set up this hole to accomplish

-   The condition of the green. Whether the greens are wet or dry (or almost dead as Tiger seemed to think last week (link)), won’t the conditions of the greens over the first couple rounds and anticipated condition during the final round be relevant? We learned as recently as … umm … the last major that the R&A appropriately took into account how the greens played in the first round in setting up the course for the rest of the week.

-   The pin placements of the other holes that day, especially the holes before and after the 15th. If the long par five 13th and short par four 14th have been set up to encourage birdies with easier pin placements, what is the impact on the pin placement for the 15th? Do you want another accessible hole to encourage birdies or a tough pin to really force a player with momentum to hold on for par?  I don’t know the answer and it may depend on the particular philosophy of the tournament organizers. The point is that I hope the PGA has a philosophy and the course set-up is not simply a haphazard roll of the dice.

Please leave your brushes at home
Please leave your brushes at home

Beautiful golf and the challenge of a major championship is as much art as it is technical execution. Fans choosing the pin placement on one hole seems to be the opposite of art. Presumably DaVinci did not take notes from visitors to the studio when he was paining the Mona Lisa.

To quote another great artist Edgar Degas, “Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do.” Having fans pick the pin placement seems akin to letting a visitor take a stroke of the brush to a painting at the museum.

It’s a gimmick that we don’t need to see again.

In the future, keep us fans off the field and let’s watch the players play some major championship golf.

Douglas Han



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