The knee-jerk response to low TV ratings for golf’s majors, compared to when Tiger Woods dominated: Show Tiger wincing from back pain. Then show it again and again and again because he might not make the cut and then you won’t be able to show it as often.
Tiger missed the cut in the PGA Championship. Oh well, at least the new Tiger, Rory McIlroy came to the rescue and takes a one-stroke lead into today’s final round.
Sure, Tiger’s decline has had plenty to do with TV ratings following the same curve, but showing him failing isn’t necessarily the best way to market the sport.
And his fade is not the lone factor leading to smaller audiences. Not as many people in the country play golf now, so it stands to reason that not as many will watch it.
One contributing factor to the decline in participants seldom generates conversation. The ego of the golf architect and the talented golfer is such that many equate “good golf hole,” with “difficult golf hole.” The truth is, tough holes aren’t necessarily good holes.
This flawed thinking led to the construction or renovation of golf courses in such a way that they became too frustrating for the below-average golfer to play, leading to many quitting the game and taking up an easier hobby, such as advanced calculus, for example.
The PGA and USGA in recent years have waged a campaign to get golfers to play the tee boxes that best suit their abilities. Good idea, but it hasn’t caught on because the below-average male golfer — Golf Digest recently reported the average ghin.com index for men is a 14.3 — has an ego problem as well. He doesn’t want to play from tees labeled in the past as “women’s tees” or “senior tees.” Some of the best and worst holes in Lawrence happen to be the most difficult.
Last weekend, we looked at the best golf holes in town, today the most difficult to par, ranked by a below-average golfer.
1. Hole No. 6, Alvamar public, par 4: Not enough power to get a drive to the top of the hill, not straight enough to land it in the narrow ideal spot, not equipped to hit a second shot onto the green, I can’t wait to play No. 7.
2. Hole No. 8, Lawrence Country Club, par 4: The sound of cars left of the fairway and of the trees pulls the brain in that direction and the ball follows. Go right and you’re dealing with trees. It’s too long to reach in two, but if I really rip two shots, I can reach the sand trap right in front of the green. From there, really good contact could mean way over the green and an ensuing drop.
3. Hole No. 7, Eagle Bend, par 4: It’s long and the second shot demands accuracy. Drive it too far right and the second shot is a layup that leaves a challenging third shot. Great hole.
4. Hole No. 4, Lawrence Country Club, par 4: Really, really long and the tee shot has to land on the left side of the fairway or a massive tree right of the fairway will force a second-shot layup and make reaching the green in three a long shot. Bunker to the left, bunker to the right, wicked downhill putt if you’re past the pin. Classic, beautiful hole though.
5. Hole No. 18, Eagle Bend, par 4: After a good drive, so much trouble lines the narrow throat of the fairway that a layup sometimes is the correct call for the second shot.
6. Hole No. 7, Lawrence Country Club, par 3: Typical result: First shot snap-hooked onto a street. Back in two. Third shot hooked into a back yard. Back in four. Fifth shot pushed into the pond short and right of the green. Drop. Seventh shot flopped onto the green. Clutch putt for a snowman. Fist bumps all around. Confidence restored, however momentarily.
7. Hole No. 16, Lawrence Country Club, par 4: Is a long, straight drive a good drive or a cruel tease? It emboldens hacks with enough courage to go for it, but we lack the confidence to use the correct club and airmail it close to the 18th green, unless of course we have a downward-sloping lie, in which case we hit it into the pond. Push your drive right and stay right where you are because you’re hitting three.
8. Hole No. 16, Alvamar private, par 4: This picturesque, strategic hole demands a long drive that stays on the right side of the fairway and a second shot that requires an entry to the green from the right side. Otherwise, the slope will send your ball into a pond you’ll want to avoid.
9. Hole No. 14, Alvamar private, par 5: Perfectly illustrates that a tough hole does not necessarily mean a good hole.
10. Hole No. 17, Alvamar public, par 5: With as good and straight a drive as is within my abilities, I can power a second shot that gets close enough to the pond for me to attempt to reach the green. After a third perfect shot, I might hold a putter. The odds of hitting three perfect shots in succession are longer than Lindsay Lohan’s rap sheet.
11. Hole No. 9, Alvamar private, par 4: Skilled golfers can play a shortcut that carries the creek and lands right of the pond in the middle of the fairway. The rest of us hope that we can hit our best drive and land it close to the creek, which doesn’t leave an easy shot into an elevated green with out of bounds lurking to the right, a sand trap to the left. The front of the green has been known to kick shots back off, where some downhill putts also end up.
12. Hole No. 14, Alvamar public, par 4: Trees to the left have encroached too far into the way of the tee shot, which is not a driver because even short hitters can send it into the woods on the right. The problem: Driver distance is required for a realistic shot at reaching the green in regulation.
13. Hole No. 10, Alvamar private: A mini-forest guards the green, so the best way to play the hole is to try to be right of the green in two, pin-high. Going over the trees is a fun shot to try, but if you’re short, you’re in a bunker and if you’re long, you’re in thick woods.
14. Hole No. 8, Eagle Bend, par 3: Water to the right, pretty long for a par 3, especially when the prevailing south wind shows its teeth. Fun challenge.
15. Hole No. 4, Alvamar private: Putting this green can be scarier than teaching a teenager how to drive with your eyes open.
16. Hole No. 18, Alvamar public: Golfers drudge to this tee box, their minds shot from playing four difficult holes in a row. Place a long tee shot to the right, but not so long that it trickles into the water. Next, select the correct club to reach an elevated green that offers difficult putts.
17. Hole No. 16, Alvamar public: It’s a weird, tight, tee shot to a landing area that slopes way right. Tee it forward and birdie comes into play.
18. Hole No. 13, Lawrence Country Club: Off the tee, there is no such thing as too far left, unless you clip a tree that overhangs another tee box. Most of the trouble is on the right, where back yards can be reached, trees can be drilled, egos crushed. Plus, a huge sand trap eats up drives that look good off the tee and then fade. The shot into the green, if pushed, goes out of bounds. If skulled over the green it also can trigger a fake tone of disappointment from your opponent who makes sure to let you know you are “Oscar Bravo.”