Beman talks slow play, bifurcation, more

Deane Beman in 2005

FAR HILLS, N.J. – Say this about Deane Beman: He was spot-on with his self assessment.

“When I attack a problem, I offend everybody,” Beman said Thursday as he opened his 15-minute presentation at the U.S. Golf Association’s symposium on slow play.

The former PGA Tour commissioner didn’t couch his opinions on a wide range of topics. Oh, he did stick to the topic at hand for a few moments, using his time to defend PGA Tour players for the “bad rap” they get regarding slow play. The problem, Beman said (and on this, it’s hard to argue with him), is that getting 144 players, let alone 150 or 156, around in less than 4 hours 40 minutes “is not possible.” Thus, rounds routinely stretch past five hours. “You just can’t beat the math,” he said.

And to those who would counter that fields should be reduced, Beman reminded that the mission of the PGA Tour is to provide playing opportunities for its members.

One of 16 industry leaders from outside of the USGA invited to speak, Beman, 75, opined that the slow-play issue is “all about the business of golf” and that you must “attack the root causes.”

That is where he strayed into some issues where he clearly stands opposite the USGA. Curious, the timing of his comments – it almost seemed disrespectful to be an invited guest and then criticize the host – but clearly he wanted to express his disagreements. Up front, Beman said he would caution the USGA from being “in lockstep” with the R&A on the Rules of Golf, a cue for him to bring up the “B” word - bifurcation.

Beman doesn’t think it’s a bad thing. He told the audience that he won the British Amateur in 1959 using “the small ball” and then captured the U.S. Amateur the next summer while playing a bigger ball. No big deal, and he seemed to suggest that if amateurs played equipment that the pros couldn’t, it wouldn’t be any different than collegians using metal bats while major leaguers are restricted to wood.

“There’s no evidence that bifurcation would hurt the game,” he said.

He did not spare course architects and owners who want these expansive and plush layouts. Beman feels smaller greens would speed up play. “If you miss a green, you don’t look at (the shot) from three directions,” like players sometimes do with putts.

“These rounds of golf that are too long and on courses with too much water is an unsustainable model that must be fixed,” he said.

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