As i was watching the Masters today, one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world, I was struck by how many players made the same mistake. On the 15th green, a severely sloped and long traverse, just about every player who was putting uphill (and all pros know it's better to putt uphill than downhill) came up short. I watched in amazement as over a dozen players made the same mistake, reading the green as faster than it actually was.

The object of my surprise is not that these players misjudged the green. Golf is so hard, and courses set up for the pros are unimaginably difficult, that any player from Tiger Woods on down is likely to misread a green. But I find it funny when a commentator says to us, "Every one so far has left this putt short…let's see if he does any better…nope, he left it short, too."

How is it possible that a television viewer is better informed than the players? This certainly is not a question of technology. It would be a simple matter for a tour player to have spotters on the greens who could communicate via text message or Twitter. (@Tiger watch out for 15 green slower than it seems. add 10 feet.)

Technology has outpaced the sport as the the rules explicitly prevent a player from being better informed. A player and a caddie are not allowed to receive any
information from "outside the ropes" — they can only glean what their experience and instincts tell them and what they see with their own eyes.

I am an avid golfer and I'm also a technocrat, so I can't decide how I feel about this. Would it help the sport for the pros to have access to outside information? They still have to perform, so what's the big deal? With a sport as steeped in tradition as is golf, this is a rhetorical question–any proposed change to the rules is a big deal!

But it is certainly fun to speculate. What would happen if tour caddies had access to a back channel? How would the sport change, and would those changes be for the better or the worse? Hmm…

One Response

  1. Rick,
    Each player would be required to either have a caddie’s assistant or a caddie burdened with a backpack containing the necessary electronics to measure temperature, humidity, moisture content of the grass on the green, air speed, direction and density. In addition, instruments would measure the biometrics of the player to detect variations from “normal” and the effect(s) of large groups of people (spectators) on all the other variables, since during practice rounds those forces are not in play.
    Given that a ‘registered’ pro with a known, verified physical condition could not compete without a court order, allowing the use of a cart and caddies must carry the bags, don’t hold your breath for rules changes.
    Another question for discussion might be: are golfers “athletes”? :>)