Tuesday, September 13

Sarazen Wanted 8-Inch Cup Long Before Nicklaus

L to R: Johnny Farrell, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen.
JACK NICKLAUS WAS RECENTLY IN the news for fiddling with the size of the golf hole. Jack deviated from the standard 4¼ inches in diameter, nearly doubling the size of the cup to 8 inches at his Muirfield Village Golf Club. If that weren’t enough, the winner of 18 professional majors held 12-hole tournaments during Labor Day weekend. Players were required to finish their rounds in 2½ hours or be penalized for slow play.

Jack said he’s thinking in non-traditional ways about an ancient game that’s losing players in droves. Naturally, like a lot of people, Nicklaus is concerned and looking for new answers.

But, as I discovered yesterday by accident, the Golden Bear isn’t the first Hall of Famer to look at that elusive golf hole and decide that maybe it needs to be larger. Seven-time major winner Gene Sarazen apparently promoted the idea in the first half of the 20th century, according to legendary golf scribe Hebert Warren Wind.

In The Story of American Golf, Wind wrote:
He [Sarazen] made winning golf do for him what a smash hit does for an actor or a specialized process does for a shoe manufacturer. He cashed in when his irons were hot, and adroitly kept himself a leader in the eyes of the public even in the periods when he was not winning. Gene had an understanding of publicity superior to that of any of his colleagues. There was always some innovation in the Sarazen-model clubs—the reminder-grip, the sand-iron, the 4-wood that he popularized with his double-eagle [at the 1935 Masters]. He knew the value of dissenting. He once plumped for an 8-inch cup; he criticized the selection of the Ridgewood course for the 1935 Ryder Cup; he had qualifying clauses whenever he discussed the heroes of the day.
Indeed, Sarazen was an innovator and promoter. He could also play. Nicknamed “The Squire,” Sarazen is one of only five men to win all four major championships (The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship). The other four are Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Tiger Woods.

As Wind also wrote, after Sarazen won his first U.S. Open at Skokie Country Club in suburban Chicago, he summed up his golf ability this way: “All men are created free and equal, and I am one shot better than the rest.”

−The Armchair Golfer


Anonymous said...

Hell no! 8 inch cups,for the love of god why ?
The game is what it is,trying to tamper with basic parameters is ludicrous.
Let the players try to Master the game...this is like saying my goosh most students are getting 45% mark so lets make that the new 50%.

Nicklaus ought to be ashamed of himself.

The Armchair Golfer said...

Yeah, others have been railing against it in recent days. I'm certainly not for it and would be shocked if it caught on. I think Jack regarded it as an experiment.

Ryan said...

An 8 inch cup is way to big. For one it makes the game easier, for the pro and amateur. And for two, it's the thrill of competition! That's what makes golf what it is. Feeling proud of hitting a good putt or shot. It would make golf way to easy, more birdies, eagles, Aces! I disagree.

Invader Zim! said...

it's too bad the game wasn't invented with a larger cup - it would be a better game. The way it is now too much of a premium is placed on putting and not enough on ball striking. Mediocre players with a hot putter can win. A masterful ball stiker with a cold putter cannot win. A larger cup would make the game more balanced but it's too late now. The game has too much tradition to make that radical a change.

Anonymous said...

i own a 9hole walking golf course in atlanta and think the idea of 8 inch cups is terrific for lady players and beginners. i wish i could find these cups and hold cutter for my course at pumpkinvine golf club. viewing the video where experienced players enjoyed the larger cups was terrific.