Golf Gazette/Jay Dempsey: Flogton puts a new twist on an old game

The lords of the links must be rolling over in their graves. Let me tell you why.

Lately, there has been some relaxing and neutering of the hallowed and time-honored rules of golf. For instance, there is a new ball on the market that helps to prevent golfers from slicing. It’s illegal, but many players have indicated they intend to use it — illegal or not. I suppose it’s not a bad idea. Less time spent looking for wayward shots should help to speed up the game, something most of us would like to see. However, a golf instructor’s livelihood can depend on trying to cure the dreaded slice, so don’t expect to see these golf balls being offered in many pro shops.

In Oakland, Calif., there is a group of well-healed businessmen who have taken things into their own hands, so to speak. Not only do they allow the tossing of buried balls out of bunkers, but they also permit teeing-up your ball in the fairway. This creative bunch have given themselves a name. They are known as Flogton, which is “not golf” spelled backwards.

A spokesman for Flogton said the intent was not to challenge the rules of the game, but rather to increase participation, even if it means bending or breaking some rules.

Another rule modification the group practices is to allow the use of illegally altered wedges, which tend to create more spin on the ball. One such club has been made with a cheese-grater inserted onto the face of the club. Pat Gallagher, a founder of Flogton, said, “You’re not cheating, you’re just playing a different game.”

Some players looking for more distance and accuracy off the tee have been using cooking spray on the face of their drivers. A Flogton devotee said, “We don’t want to antagonize anybody, but we think there is room for change.”

This year marked the debut of the WIDE Open, a golf tournament inspired by executives from Golf Digest Magazine and TaylorMade Golf. Instead of using the familiar 4 1/4-inch cup on the greens, the hole size was increased to 15 inches. Not only did the usual four-hour round turn into a three-hour jaunt, but the players also made more birdies and rarely three-putted. “This experience gave us amateurs a chance to play like the tour pros,” said a happy tournament participant.

One PGA Tour veteran, Tom Watson, has suggested that many golfers should play from closer tee boxes, meaning, for example, teeing off from the white tees if you normally tee it up from the blues. The USGA is initiating “Tee It Forward” this July, a program encouraging golfers to play the course at a length aligned with their average driving distance. I recently gave the gold tees a shot and really enjoyed myself. It’s fun making pars and birdies.

Being old school, I won’t be resorting to most of these new and novel tactics. The cooking spray, however, does sound interesting. Just because your golf guy is an old fuddy-duddy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try something new. If it will get you to enjoy the game and play more, go for it. Statistics show there were 24 million fewer rounds of golf played in the United States in 2010 than in 2005. Maybe it’s time.

Oh, do me a favor, please. Don’t say anything if you see me on line at the IGA with a can of Crisco.

TEE TIMES Henry Stasiukiewicz of Cedars Golf Club reported the club’s first hole-in-one of the season. Friday, May 13, was not unlucky for Peggy Bowles, a member of the Cedarettes. She aced the seventh hole at the Cutchogue course that day. Peter Cowan checked in with the first hole-in-one of the year at North Fork Country Club. Joe Deerkoski found the cup on the 140-yard, sixth hole. Also at North Fork, Harry Shields aced the 13th hole. Congratulations Peggy, Joe and Harry.

19TH HOLE One of golf’s most entertaining figures recently passed away. Seve Ballesteros was a magician on the course. Learning to play the game with only a 3-iron, Seve could execute shots that others would watch in disbelief. Ballesteros could beat almost anyone using, simply, one club. He did just that in a tournament at St. Andrews in Scotland, shooting a 68 with his trusty 3-iron. I can’t think of any of today’s players with the style and creativity of Seve Ballesteros. He will be missed.

OUTINGS Calverton Links will be the site of an outing benefitting RSRT (Rett Syndrome Research Trust). The event will be held on Monday, July 11. For information, contact Greg Wayrich at (516) 818-5783 or Steve Garms at (631) 786-2249.

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