Enough is enough: Another reason longer is not better
Monday, June 11, 2012
By Ron Romanik

There are many reasons why the still-increasing distance that the ball flies is a detriment to the game. Of course, it's a combination of technological advances in both clubs and balls, but it really must be stopped--and reversed.


I don't have space to list all the reasons here, but here's a few:

-- Longer ball flight encourages building of longer courses

-- Longer courses = longer time to play rounds

-- Longer time = more expensive golf and less golfers

-- Longer courses = unwalkable courses

-- Longer ball flight means longer time looking for lost balls = longer rounds


But I'm tired of stating the obvious. One thing that is less obvious for the health and growth of the game is the role of the spectator—namely, the TV spectator. The touring pros no longer play remotely the same game as the rest of us. And I think that hurts TV ratings. When did a 480-yard hole become a driver-short iron? And that's not just for the longest hitters.


I'm not totally ignorant. I know the face angle of the irons that pros play has been creeping steeper and steeper over the years. But still, there's a huge disconnect between how pro players play the game and the rest of us.


Part of the reason is that the technological advances made a bigger difference in length for higher swing speeds and club speeds. These guys can FLY it 350 yards.


And then there's a trick that the PGA Tour has been using more and more to rein in the distance problem. Many Tour courses water the landing area of drives so that they bite and have, often, almost no roll.


Recently, I saw Rory McIlroy get so annoyed at the soft landing area that he attempted a short cut over mammoth trees and a fairway bunker that was 310 to clear. It was the 16th  at the Quail Hollow Golf Club 16th hole, and he cleared the bunker by 20 yards, and it ran out to 380 yards, 103 yards to the hole, and a sand wedge. To illustrate my point, he proceeded to three-putt from 20 feet.


At Memorial, Tiger hit 9-iron every day at the 16th. The hole is a little downhill, yes, but it's still 180-190 yards.


As a contrast, professional tennis is an excellent TV spectator sport because of the character of the game, the limitations of TV, and the lack of measurable comparisons. For many amateur tennis players, the game looks and feels very similar on TV to the game they play with their friends at the club. (Truth be told, in person, the pros hit the ball at lightning speed.)


And finally, for the touring PGA pros, the crazy long distances balls are flying makes more older, classic courses obsolete each year. I can't imagine how tricked out Merion Golf Club is going to have to be for the 2013 U.S. Open to compensate for its lack of length. I wish there was a way I could bet on "Most Three-Putts in a Major, Ever." Get Vegas on the line.


Ron Romanik is principal of the brand and PR consultancy Romanik Communications ( His full bio is here.

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Ron Romanik 
Crazy luck: A true story of last chance skins game
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
By Ron Romanik

My craziest golf story is the day I won a fistful of cash when I barely played well enough not to embarrass myself. But sometimes one shot is all you need.


Every October in Lancaster County, Hawk Valley GC and Foxchase GC coordinated a weekend of four rounds of better-ball, flighted competition. Both courses were filled to near capacity (Hawk Valley on Saturday; Foxchase on Sunday).


I've only played in the Hawk Valley event, which was exceptionally well run, but I imagine the Foxchase event was similarly structured. For instance, the flighting was done in such a way that sandbagging was almost completely taken out of the equation. Of course, often in these events, a skins pool is a habitual side bit of fun that you don’t give much thought to. At $10 for each round, with over 100 golfers participating, however, the potential upside was pretty high on this one.


Anyway, my partner and I were not particularly "on" in any fashion the day in question. I can't remember if we made any birdies in the morning round, but we were definitely floundering in the afternoon round, partly because of the steady breeze that had picked up. We rarely had a putt for birdie.

Convinced we were out of contention for any of the paid spots in our flight, I dropped all pretenses and joked repeatedly to my partner as we were nearing the end of our round: "Just go for birdies." I thought it was funny; maybe my partner did as well. I'll never know. Maybe he was smiling through his tears.


Our final hole for the shotgun event was Hawk Valley's first hole. The subtle genius of the Hawk Valley layout, designed by father-son team of William and David Gordon, is that the holes look benign from the tee and fairway, but if you're not in the right position for the approach shot, inexperience will goad you into an overly aggressive shot with substantial risk. The Gordons also designed one of the all-time classic courses in the region, the Grace Course at Saucon Valley CC.


The pin placement on the par 4, dogleg right first hole that day was not characteristically subtle. The pin was cut very close to the right front of the green, just over a deep bunker. I don't know if I've ever seen that placement before or since. And as I mentioned earlier, a brisk breeze had been stiffening all afternoon.


As I came close to my drive in the right side of the fairway, I realized that the wind was quartering into me from the left at the optimal angle to help an approach shot hold up against the steady breeze and land softly just over the bunker. I thought for a moment: "This might be a great skin hole with that pin placement."


I went for broke, with nothing to lose, starting my fade shot a few feet left of the left edge of the green. The ball rose higher than I expected, but started bending nicely, hung for a moment for dramatic effect, then angled toward the left side of the bunker. I stuck it right over the bunker. I had a ten-foot uphill putt for birdie and my only chance of a skin for the day.


My partner didn't make it easy for me when he confirmed my suspicion that a birdie on this hole would have a great chance for a skin. I'm not the clutchest of putters, by any means, but I felt a growing sensation that I was going to "will" this one into the hole. It was an unusual feeling for me.

A ten-foot uphill, right-edge putt is not the most difficult putt to execute, but I felt serious pressure that my and my partner's suspicions were correct--a big skin might be at stake. The putt had plenty speed to get there, entering the hole right-center. What a relief.


The waiting game at the scoreboard was fun, yet excruciating. I didn't do the math before, but most of the 120 or so participants drop $20 for skins -- $10 for the morning round and $10 for the afternoon round. Each round had a pot of over $1,000. One by one the holes were canceled with multiple birdies or eagles. Long story shortened abruptly -- I won the whole $1,000-plus pot.


That's my craziest golf story -- and one of my best shots in the heat of "competition," as it was. Now let me help you share your amazing story by emailing a brief summary to me at


Ron Romanik is principal of the PR and brand consultancy Romanik Communications. His full bio is here.

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Ron Romanik 
Long putters: The long and the short of it
Monday, May 14, 2012
By Ron Romanik

The question of whether long putters should be banned or not is a curious case of when push eventually comes to shove. The funny thing about it is that for the subject to warrant serious debate, a long putter had to be involved in a Major victory.


I can understand this, because history shows that many unrighteous acts can be ignored for a long time just because they are marginalized by the majority. Even I believed that it would be an abomination if someone won a Major with a long putter. But until that happened, most could tolerate the growing presence of long putters as a mere nuisance, but not an assault on the traditions of the game.


In fact, because it took so long for a long putter to win a Major was a sort of justification for the marginalization. As in: "A long putter can't help that much, or be a true threat, if it doesn't hold up to the highest competitive demands of a Major win."


Well, now the cat's out of the bag. With Keegan Bradley's win at the PGA Championship, Adam Scott's strong resurgence, and Matt Kuchar's win at the Players Championship, the topic is causing heated debates by the water cooler.


Buying a long putter has crossed my mind, but I think now that will never happen. Even though I've never been a good enough putter to even tell if I got the yips (yes, you can be an awful putter and have the yips, I now believe), I have to say I don't think I'll ever succumb to the temptation. My sporadically spasmodic back was a handy excuse I had in my back pocket for when the day might come for me to give in, but even that now seems morally expedient.


The reason for my renewed resolve might be traced to Tiger's decision to be the front man for the issue that no one else really wanted to touch. As AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson reported in February, Tiger revealed that he had spoken about the subject of banning long putters with the chief of the Royal & Ancient over the past few years then spoke bluntly yet diplomatically about it at Pebble Beach this past winter.


The argument isn't necessarily one of "traditionalism," but rather a consistency in the act of golfing that no part of the club be anchored to the golfer's torso in any way. Maybe Ernie Els revealed the most telling sentiment when he temporarily tested the long wand, one I'm sure shared by many professionals and amateurs alike: "As long as it's legal, I'll keep cheating like the rest of them." Conscience can be a useful guide sometimes. If it feels like cheating, it probably is.


Ron Romanik is principal of the PR and brand consultancy Romanik Communications. His full bio is here.

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Ron Romanik 
Cliches that need to be retired from golf
Monday, May 7, 2012
By Ron Romanik

It's long past due to retire a few of professional golf TV commentator cliches that are annoyingly inaccurate: "This is a makeable chip."

Guess what, PGA pros think they can make every chip and bunker shot.

"He's taking the pin out on this chip. That means he thinks he can make it."

What this actually means is that either: A) The pin might prevent the ball from entering the hole from the angle of attack (caused by slope or wind); or, more often, B) There is little risk of running the shot far by, therefore the added benefit of stopping a fast-running shot by hitting the pin is not worth the possible negative of the pin deflecting the ball out of the hole. So, the more accurate thing to say would be: "He’s not worried about this chip getting away from him."

"This final twosome has turned into match play."

No, match play is match play. Stroke play is stroke play. They’re different.

"That was a misread."

If a TV announcer can tell unequivocally when a player makes the perfect putting stroke, with putter blade in the perfect position, at the intended tempo for the precise putt they are trying to make, then they have Superman-like vision, mind-reading abilities, and are wasting their enormous talents commenting on golf.

"What a courageous shot!"

Not at all. Wrong word. There is no personal risk to body or soul when executing any golf shot. Well, maybe if the player were trying to "play it as it lies" inside the open mouth of an alligator.

"Never up, never in.

I'll let the legendary Bobby Jones chime in on this one (tongue-in-cheek): "While it is true that most balls that fall short of reaching the hole do not go in, it is certain that every ball that rolls past does not."

Or, more directly: The only thing you can say for sure about a putt that went past the hole is that it did not go in.

BONUS: A discussion of philosophical approaches to putting at

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last month, Brian Gay’s caddie poked at an alligator during the RBC Heritage – with a sand trap rake!


Ron Romanik is principal of the PR and brand consultancy Romanik Communications. His full bio is here.


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Bubba love via Twitter 
Enough Bubba Love to Go Around...and Around Trees
Sunday, April 29, 2012
By Ron Romanik

I keep looking for something not to like about Bubba Watson, but I can't find anything. It can be exhausting, so I think I'll hang it up and get back to my day job.


But...I have to admit that I find it kind of frustrating. There must be something that gets under my skin. If you're really trying not to like someone, it's usually not this hard. (I'm trying not out of spite, mind you, but for sport, as a counterbalance to the excessive Bubba Love sweeping the nation.)


His overly casual, lanky gait. His humility. The top button unnecessarily buttoned on his polo shirt. The pink driver. His overuse of the word "awesome." These all could be potential deal-breakers. But with Bubba, they all seem, well, sort of genuine. There really isn't much pretense. What you see is what you get.


He wants to sign autographs. He want his fans to like him. Is he trying too hard? He was born in an ungodly place named Bagdad. Is he Muslim? Can he produce a long-form birth certificate? (Yes, there is a town called Bagdad in Florida’s Panhandle.)


Then there's that big tuft of hair escaping his golf hat. But it always looks exactly the same. Like Ricky Fowler, the casual unkempt look needs to be meticulously maintained, so it seems. At least Bubba is an order of magnitude more kempt than one other pro golf champion crowned on that same Masters Sunday, first-time Nationwide Tour winner Andres Gonzales.


On second thought, humility can be such a turn-off. And that buttoned top button on the shirt is a little mock-formal. And what kind of nickname is Bubba, anyway? (He's had it since birth, actually, so it's hard to blame him for that one. Oh well. Struck out again.)


Okay, I found something not to like, seriously: How dare he be that good -- and play a style of golf so uniquely and splendidly his own -- without lessons! That's the kind of thing a polite person would keep secret.


All kidding aside, Bubba is a guy that's just plain hard not to like. And it's even harder to argue that the fresh attitude, creative shot-making, and self-described "awesome" style are not a welcome addition to a sport in need of more intriguing -- or at least more colorful -- personalities.


The graphic shows a sampling of the outpouring of Bubba Love:


Tiger says: "Congrats. Fantastic creativity. Now how creative will the champions dinner be next year?"


Bubba is a prolific Tweeter (40,000 Tweets). Follow him: @BubbaWatson


Ron Romanik is principal of the PR and brand consultancy Romanik Communications. His full bio is here.

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Cameron[5/1/2012 7:16:14 AM]
Tiger advising the Masters Champion on what to serve at next yearís Champions dinner. Thatís ironic.

Ron Romanik 
Play it as it lies!
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
By Ron Romanik

The golf community of Philadelphia is probably one of the top five active and interactive golf communities in the world. I’m excited to increase my participation here in cooperation with my good friend Joe Logan. Not that it needs my help, but I hope to add to the community’s health and well-being with frequent blog posts about recent events, storied lore, and contentious debates.


The number of quality golf courses in southeastern Pennsylvania is impressive, with a variety of attractive options in any budget range. I was lucky enough to sample many of them during my stint as Editor-in-Chief of Pennsylvania Golfer. I try to see the best features in the courses I play, but I have a particular fond spot in my heart for the Golden Age of Design—the 1920s and 1930s. And if I had to pick one golf course designer that embodies the finest realization of the game, I’d have to pick William Flynn.


Then there’s the community of golfers itself. The GAP Team Matches, for instance, have no equal that I know of, run by the Golf Association of Philadelphia. On three Sundays each April and May, nearly 4,000 golfers are engaged in spirited interclub matches. And there are also a plethora of public leagues, tours, and charity events.


In this Imperfect Lies Blog, I look forward to writing about a wide range of topics, intending to be a mix of informative, thought-provoking, and slightly irreverent discussions. I consider the greatest moment in sports history—in any sport—was when Jack Nicklaus conceded the putt of Tony Jacklin to end the Ryder Cup of 1969. I will revisit that moment in history later this year in a blog post.


You can look forward to other future column topics that will include "The $1,000 Skin on a $10 Stake," "Tips on How to Play Private Clubs for Free," "My Short-Lived, Semi-Official Course Record," and a "Somewhere, Out There, Is a Golf Course" moment on the northern shores of Ireland.


Just as a counter-position, I consider the lowest moment in all of golf history the moment when Boo Weekley decided to ride his driver like a horse. That was bad enough. Showing the world that he was wearing white socks added insult to injury. I will not be revisiting that moment in history ever again—here or anywhere else.


So, please feel free to tell us your golf stories, heartfelt opinions, or pet peeves... I’m at


Ron Romanik is principal of the PR consultancy Romanik Communications. His full bio is here.





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Ryan Gingrow, Whitford CC teaching pro 
March Madness, in basketball and golf
Saturday, March 17, 2012
By Ron Romanik

68 teams are set to tip off what is arguably the greatest 3 weeks in sport

The Owls and 67 other teams are set to tip off what is arguably the greatest three  weeks in sport.  No player thinks that his team can’t win.  The coaches?  Well, they, too, have the same belief.  Coaches will work every minute they have leading up to every game.  No tape will go unwatched and no coach’s hair will go unpulled.


The final team to cut the nets down on April 2 will have had an unparalleled combination of great guard play, inside scoring and toughness and tremendous coaching.  This has been a consistent theme for many March Maddnesses and will continue for years to come. 


So, how can you replicate the winning team when it comes time for you to start your golf season in the next few weeks?  Let me ask you this important question first:  What would you think if you saw one of the 68 teams take the court without a coach?  Wouldn’t look right, would it?  Golf is no different and battling it out on the links without a coach in your corner would look just as odd, if you ask me. 


For many years now, golf instructors – me included -- have been focusing too much on making the swing look as pretty as a Ray Allen jumper.  Pretty is good if you are like Luke Donald, and can lead two Tours in money during the same calendar year.  But for those of you who can’t, you need a coach to map out a detailed practice schedule and to teach you how to practice.


At a recent Philly PGA Section teaching seminar, Dave Phillips, PGA (Titleist TPI Instructor), most known for appearing on the Golf Channel’s Fitness Academy, stressed the importance of challenging students with results-oriented practice.  He suggested coaching golfers through scoring games with short wedges and putters, dropping balls within 100 yards and playing each ball out, and making students hit draws and fades; low and high shots; knockdowns and lobs. 


I would never expect a player to improve by just hitting ball after ball on the range.  Random practice needs to be a part of your practice routine each and every time out.  Random practice means hitting a 9-iron high and soft.  Put the 9 away and grab a rescue and hit a draw.  Pick up your gap wedge and play a low knock down type shot.  Finally, grab your driver and hit a soft fade.  If you feel your game isn’t to a level where you can hit a draw or a soft fade, then hit one to a right flag on the range and hit one to a flag to the left.  Be creative when you practice and try to see the shots on the range that you hit most on the course.


If you haven’t met with your coach yet for the upcoming season, get together now.  Your coach will help you with what you need to know.  For me, I will learn to be more specific this year with what I want.  I will detail clearly how I want my students to practice when I am not there.  For example, for a student looking to improve his or her short game, I will prescribe a certain number of putts from five, 10 and 15 feet.  I will ask students to hole out from several different bunker lies and keep score.  I will make sure they are using each of their wedges by playing par 3 games, with all shots starting from less than 100 yards.  Each one of my students during 2012 is a member of my team -- a team that will work toward lower scores and more enjoyable rounds of golf.   


Results, results and results -- no matter how ugly a team wins in the NCAA tournament, a win is a win. And no matter how ugly your swing is, the only thing that matters is the number you record on your scorecard.  If you are coachable and practice like you are part of a team, you just might be cutting the nets down at the conclusion of your club championship this year.  Well, maybe not the nets, but at least unscrewing the flag from the top of the stick!


Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching professional at Whitford CC.  His full bio is here.


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