2022. Yes, I know. The wind hasn’t exactly been buoying the sails at the onset of yet another year that’s threatened by this never-ending pandemic. There’s a certain indignation that’s crept into most people I speak to; a pervasive sense of wanting to reclaim our world, circumscribed within four walls for nearly two years. As I write this, I’m pondering about the prudence of moving to my parents’ place in the Capital’s suburb of Gurugram, where, at least for this weekend, there’s no lockdown in place. What that means is, at least I can find a secluded corner of a range and hit some golf balls. How the markers have shifted…access to a driving range seems like more than what I can wish for right now.
There has been some good news coming out of India. The Delhi Golf Club is finally getting its own marquee event on the Asian Tour. Big news, considering that the layout hasn’t hosted an Asian Tour event since 2018. The $500,000 DGC Open is slated to take place from March 24-27, 2022 and is sponsored by Mastercard. The DGC and the Asian Tour have signed an agreement that articulates the intention of upping the ante to a million dollars over the next five years and inviting some of the world’s top golfers to the event. South African Hall-of-Famer Gary Player, who tweaked the layout in 2019, is scheduled to make an appearance. A fellow golf hack from overseas pinged me recently to ask whether DGC’s renovation had something to do with making the course longer, and more challenging. Interesting question and a valid one from someone who’s never seen the course. And the answer is, not really. The DGC’s finite acreage — 179 acres — in the heart of Delhi cannot be increased and the 6,900-yard layout does not rely on length to keep golfers in check. That responsibility lies on the merciless and impenetrable jhadis that line the fairways on this historic layout. The question made me wonder, though, about other short layouts that host world-class events. Top of the list is perhaps the finest course in the United States — Pebble Beach — that comes in at a modest 7075 yards. Pebble Beach relies on bunkers and sea breeze — traditional hazards—to keep players from overpowering it, and those challenges have weathered the test of time. The DGC is no different: all it takes is one bad swing, and one visit to the jhadis to reduce a great round, to a disastrous one. Will the event take place? And will we be able to be part of a gallery to watch it? One can hope.
The DGC is dedicating the first DGC Open to the memory of the late Siddharth Shriram, ex-President of DGC who had conceived this tournament. Mr Shriram’s golf legacy extends way beyond the narrow fairways of the club and encompasses women’s golf across the country. He will always be remembered as an unflinching supporter who single-handedly supported amateur and professional women’s golf when no one would touch it with a 7-iron.
In other news, I read about Stewart Cink’s recent resurgence. Remember Cink? I don’t think there’s ever been a more ignored Open Champion than the veteran who stymied Tom Watson’s near-win in 2009. Cink has been flying under the radar, literally, straight and low, for the past couple of years. His dependable middle-of-the-fairway low trajectory driver has not catalysed further success on the PGA Tour. “I could hit it nice and straight,” he told pgatour.com, “but I was losing yards in the air.” Cink embarked on a swing change in which he moved the ball forward in his stance, and switched to a lower-lofted driver. The new and improved swing changed his angle of attack from -2 to +2, the biggest factor for distance with modern drivers. The average apex height of Cink’s tee shots increased nearly 20 feet, to 114′, 4″. That was 26th-highest on TOUR last season and led to a 15-yard increase in his average carry distance off the tee. “I wasn’t trying to change my attack angle, but the setup change and the way I was using the bigger muscles in my body on my back swing, I kind of accessed more of the power from stronger areas of my body,” Cink told pgatour.com, “and those two changes just resulted in a lot more ball speed and a lot better attack angle.
On the other hand, most of us amateurs benefit from taking a higher-lofted driver. Some of the highest hitters are also the longest. PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson had the highest average apex on his tee shots last season (135 feet, 2 inches). Rory McIlroy ranked second, while Bryson DeChambeau was fourth in that metric. If you can’t change your ball position, just add loft to your driver. Quick fix.
No such luck for young Victor Hovland who got his clubs back, sans a usable driver, when he travelled to Hawaii for an event recently. I read, quite wistfully, about Hovland’s clubs being misplaced in transit by the airline — it just sounds like a different lifetime that we dealt with such problems. I have just been informed that a golf trip to Thailand planned sometime back has been postponed, and will potentially stand cancelled given the nebulous state the world is in, facing this new variant. I’m just going to give away my golf travel hard case. It occupies too much space, and at least in the last couple of years has served no purpose except a grim reminder of the times we live in. A relic from a time I travelled overseas at least once a month to play golf somewhere in the world. Right now, I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to get to that range on the weekend. But I wouldn’t count on it. Back to the putting mat.
A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game