Not many things irk golfers more than having to hit off a fairway mat in the winter. Is it more important to let our fairways recover so they are sparkling in summer? Or should a year round sport mean playing it as it lies at all times?
Steve Carroll, Alex Perry, Mark Townsend, Dan Murphy and James Savage discuss in The Niggle…
Steve: Strap yourselves in people, this could turn into a rant.
There are many things that irk me about winter golf – the cold being at the root of most of them – but my face goes redder than a jaunt in the Arctic when it comes to the issue of mats.
It’s so dispiriting. You’ve got a good round going and then you step onto the tee at a par 3 to be confronted with a piece of bone hard artificial turf that looks like it has been shipped over straight from a hockey field.
I know what’s going to happen before I’ve even swung the club – a stinger up the arm and a shank into some cabbage as the iron goes sideways off the rubber.
To make matters worse, at a lot of places (the venerable Old Course being one of them) you also have to take a small bit of fabric around with you lest you scar the precious turf.
They could be carpet samples for all I care. They probably are.
So as well as having to concentrate on hitting fairways, you then have to bend down on every approach and fix in a strip of material with a couple of tees.
No wonder my back is shot to hell.
Now, you can hit out of the rough. But, in winter, that’s like trying to strike your ball from a jungle.
Am I being unreasonable?
Alex: That was a good rant.
Mark: It’s fine. Wandering 30 yards to your left to play from some rough is just odd and it’s a fine art to install a piece of astroturf that fits in with your swing plane.
And it just adds to your ready-made excuses for playing like a pillock in the winter…
If you dread chipping, particularly in the winter, when all you can picture, post impact, is a piece of turf that is stuck to your clubhead with the ball not having moved somewhere behind it, then it is an absolute blessing.
Dan: 30 yards? How wide are the fairways where you play and do you never miss the centre stripe?
I am more than happy to kick my ball into the semi on the rare occasions it has clung to the edge of a wet fairway. It’s much more normal than hitting off a mat at what feels like knee height. Plus I always lose it in the first three holes.
James Savage: I rarely hit the fairway so playing out of the semi-rough isn’t an issue.
I’d much rather fat it off a mat than off a wet fairway but they are a hassle to carry around and then peg into the ground.
I’ve got enough to worry about without adding anymore build-up to my next pathetic approach shot.
Alex: JB Holmes hit 28% of fairways this year on the PGA Tour. So he would have had to play from some not-existent rough 3.92 times per round. So there is no point in fairway mats. Similarly for tee shots, just play off some nearby semi.
Mark: Most people just overlook the fact they’ve got a huge piece of greengrocer’s furniture hanging on the side of their bag and just play off the fairway anyway.
Steve: By people, you mean you…
Mark: No, I like mats. People that aren’t me.
Alex: Like me, Mark has fake grass in his garden.
Mark: For the sole reason of being ready for winter golf.
Steve: In my experience, they are not that bothered about it in the shop. Bigger fish to fry.
Members, though, take it far more seriously. I have been rebuked more than once for forgetting to use a mat from the fairway, by people who got disproportionately upset about it.
Alex: I know someone that got disproportionately upset about fairway mats once…