Watching the coverage from Doral a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by just how many spike marks were visible on the putting surfaces. With today’s soft spikes subject to all sorts of biomechanical tests and analyses before they ever make it to market, surely a continued attachment to the humble metal spike in this day and age can be chalked up to little more than stubbornness (I mean, if you really want to keep tradition alive, how about speeding up a little?) or Luddite suspicion.
Yesterday, as Bay Hill’s new greens began to exhibit signs of accelerated wear, Ian Poulter found himself wondering the same thing. He took to Twitter to vent his frustration. As usual, a laissez-faire attitude to grammar and punctuation is required:
“The greens got crusty out there this afternoon baked in the heat & wind & plenty of spike marks. why do people still use spikes #noneed… There is only probably 10-15 guys that wear spikes still, you could probably guess most of them its not hard to work out… i mean spikes yes the metal ones, spikes there is no spike on a soft spike. sorry but really….”
Somewhat predictably, his posts were like blood in the water to a certain Rory McIlroy:
“I wear spikes… Problem!?!? If you got your swing speed over 100mph, you might need spikes too…. ;)”
Poulter was unimpressed:
“yes problem. there is no need for spikes & if you say it helps thats bullshit, soft spikes give just as much traction. xxxx”
The mystical powers of the internets being what they are, interest in the debate began to spread far and wide, even reaching the site of the LPGA’s KIA Classic, where Christina Kim was relaxing after carding a very respectable 71:
“I use metal spikes and do my best to tap down what I can, as well as walk properly. No need? Really? WOW… it would be stupid to ban spikes. That’s just ridiculous… nonsense. I’ve slipped so many times using soft spikes. No traction at all in my opinion. But that’s just me”
When, owing to a chance alignment of fragile putting surfaces with tough conditions, the impact of metal spikes is really underlined, the prospect of a ban doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous. The sheer prevalence of spike marks isn’t just an aesthetic issue, it’s one that has a direct impact on scores, a fact that Tiger Woods unwittingly made clear to reporters after his round:
“I played [Bay Hill] obviously this windy, but with the greens being new, it was certainly tough, and they got a little a bit chewed up in the afternoon here. Gary and Dustin hit some beautiful putts that were bouncing off-line. It was a tough day.”
With greens faster and putts becoming ever more susceptible to the slightest interference, surely it’s time to re-evaluate the place of metal spikes in the game, particularly with so many alternatives readily available?