You may turn on CBS’s coverage of the RBC Canadian Open this weekend and hear considerable gollies and gushings, which are understandable, when the focus is on big hitters like Dustin Johnson and Robert Garrigus.
“David, did I hear you right?” Gary McCord might say to David Feherty. “How far was that drive?”
Feherty might deadpan, “Oh, just 348 yards.” And then Feherty could reprise an updated version of a line he once used after a great Tiger Woods shot: “Never has my flabber been so completely gasted.”
“Geez — grip it and rip it and check your pants, huh, David? So what’s he got left, and what’s he using?”
“He has a perfect lie at 181 yards, but it’s into a stiff breeze. Gary, he’s hitting an 8 iron!! Really?”
How Do They Know?
Really, indeed! There are three questions here:
- How do they get that information?
- How do we know that information is correct?
- How much does that information cost us?
Answer #1. Commentators are often former players who know how far pros can hit, and in many cases know the distances of individual players. Plus, they get club-choice information from signals by the caddie or by officials on the course. For example, fist is a 5 iron, four fingers a 4 iron, one finger pointing down a 6-iron, etc.
Ah, but Is an 8 Really an 8?
Answer #2. We don’t know that information is correct. It certainly makes for great entertainment — and sustained viewing — to hear how normal-sized mortals hit abnormally long. Yes, they are that good and they have flawless form, but is that really an 8 iron the guy’s hitting? Do you think a caddie who wants to keep his job is really going to signal to the world that a reputed big hitter is pulling a wimpy 7 iron when the rest of the field is hitting an 8? Hell, no! And even if he does pull an 8, is that 8 an 8, or is it an 8 made with a 7-iron loft secretly by the manufacturer?
Of course, the media has a part in this, something the online golf community has suspected for years. There are 129 replies so far to this forum question: “Are Tour Pro Distances Exaggerated?” Some say no, but many say yes for a number of excellent reasons, including “just do it” who writes:
“Yes they exaggerate why should the reporting in golf be any different that anything else in this country. The government/ House and Senate exaggerates everything, Mfg`s exaggerates club claims, anyone that wants to prove a point exaggerates, many on golf forums. Every corner of life here exaggerates for or against, one way or another, to such a degree no one can find the truth anymore about anything. Sorry for the rant!”
“A conspiracy by the powers of golf!”
Answer #3. Rant on, “just do it” — no apologies necessary! Because this is all part of a grand plan, a conspiracy by the powers of golf to get us to buy more. See, the psychology here is important. It’s the psychology of shame, and it goes like this:
Commentator claims pro hits 8 iron, and you at first are wowed by the distance … and then shamed in comparison. A wise therapist once told me, “Comparison is the quickest route to shame,” and it’s true. “If I were a better man,” you tell yourself, “I could also hit an 8 iron that far.” You vow to show them (whoever they are)! You take lessons ($$$), buy the best equipment ($$$$) — you even sign on for sessions with a sports psychologist ($$$$$). All because some golf announcer says a pro hit an 8 iron!
Does this make sense?
So watch away this weekend. Enjoy the RBC Canadian Open, the scenery, the competition, the masterful putting and monster drives. But if David Feherty says Dustin Johnson is hitting an 8 iron to the pin 181 yards away, step away from the credit cards.