PGA Tour Confidential: The New Big Four, A Royal Portrush PGA Championship and the Best Hole in Golf

Cypress Point No. 16
Joann Dost
"No golf hole in the United States dishes out beauty and brawn in such equally strong doses," as Cypress No. 16, writes Joe Passov.

5. At the USGA’s recent pace-of-play summit, former PGA Tour commission Deane Beman said, “It’s not possible to get 144 players around on any given day in less than 4:20-4:30 minutes if everything goes perfectly.” So do PGA Tour players get a bad rap on slow play?

SHIPNUCK: What planet is Beman living on? Kids at AJGA tourneys play in four hours flat, and they're taking more strokes and don't have the benefit of professional caddies. Tour players don't play fast because it's not part of the culture out there and there are no repercussions for dawdling, but it's certainly possible for them to play in close to four hours.

PASSOV: I do think PGA Tour players get a bad rap on slow play. Play at classic, shorter courses where the next tee is close to the previous green and slow green speeds down to 9 or less so there would be little fear overrunning 20 footers six feet by and little trepidation over three footers and you'd see much faster play. You'd also see 30-under win every event, but at least they'd be over quickly.

VAN SICKLE: There are Tour players who are slow, period. But I'd mostly agree with Beman. With drivable par 4s in vogue and most par 5s being reachable in two by today's big hitters, backups and waits are inevitable. But they clearly spend far too much time on the greens, so I wouldn't give them a free pass on this issue.

RITTER: Just watch a telecast. Or read Golf Magazine's report from a couple years ago. There seem to be about 10-20 consistent offenders who more than justify the bad rap.

SENS: Shame on Beman for holding players to such a low standard. But that's been the drift of golf over the years. At the '49 Open at Medinah, the first group out (a threesome) played in 3 hours, 27 minutes. The last group played in 4:16. Yeah, the fields are bigger today, and the galleries are larger. But there's no reason pros can't be asked to play faster than they do. It would be better for the game in so many ways.

BAMBERGER: PGA Tour players play within the accepted norms of what constitutes a proper pace. The problem is those norms. Golf, at every level, would be a better and faster game if players would simply walk directly to their ball, look out for their playing partners as they prepare to play their shots, and be ready to go within a half-minute, tops, of when it is their turn to play. The putting routines are absurd. I am not at all convinced that even the Tour players putt better by spending so much time examining the matter from every possible angle. For Sunday golfers, it does NOTHING. Beman is correct about the pace, if you accept the conditions as they are. But golf as a half-day enterprise will ultimately be its death, and since we don't want that something has to give here. By the way, if you're playing in a cart, and most of us are, one guy should go straight to his ball in the buggy and the other guy -- I know this is radical -- SHOULD GRAB SOME CLUBS AND WALK TO HIS BALL. By the Way II, in Scotland, at almost every course you go to off the tourist rota, four golfers, shooting in the 80s and 90s and carrying their own clubs, will routinely play in three and a half hours, or far less. Playing match play helps. Match play makes everything more fun, faster and better.

MORFIT: No. They're slow. We're slow. Everyone is slow. And it's killing golf.  

6. Travelin' Joe Passov named Cypress Point's par-3 16th as the greatest golf hole in the United States. Agree or disagree?

SHIPNUCK: Yep. Nothing else is really close.

VAN SICKLE: The 16th is a great hole, no question. I wouldn't argue it ... except if the aforementioned pace of play is part of the definition of a great hole, I'm not sure the 16th would qualify. It's a hole so difficult that it brings pace of play to a grinding halt because a lot of players make big numbers there. There is no better-looking hole in golf, I'd agree with that. If you're going to criticize Tour players for being slow, maybe holes themselves should be subject to the same scrutiny.

BAMBERGER: I prefer No. 15 at Cypress, the short par-3 before the long par-3. The most aromatic hole in all of golf: kelp, sea air, the breath of the nearby eucalyptus trees, if the wind is right. If you're on that tee, you're on top of the world. But Travelin' Joe has the best job in the world.

MORFIT: I am not about to disagree with a guy who has not only played nearly every hole everywhere, he remembers them. However, I'd like to nominate 7, 12, 14 and 17 at Stanford Golf Course.  

RITTER: Hard to argue with Joe, but I might lean toward No. 12 at Augusta for both the history and the feeling you get just from wandering down to look at it.

PASSOV: Even though I barely possess warning-track power, there's no hole in golf that is so completely compelling to me from aesthetic and challenge aspects. Even the bail-out layup to the left with a hybrid is thrilling.

SENS: The greatest hole in the country is any hole I just birdied. And besides, I like the little par-three 15th at Cypress even more.

The PGA Tour Confidential debate continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.

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