There is little denying that the game’s governing bodies are in a continuous battle today with equipment technology advancements. And suddenly it has percolated into a serious front-burner impending crisis in the sport, especially since the emergence of the newfangled long putters being ungainly anchored against the player’s chest. No doubt the USGA and R&A will eventually wrestle with their legality and craft a ruling that restricts anchoring on the use of long putters.
The game’s equipment and distance mantra is being pounded by manufacturers and designers into players’ minds as they thumb their noses by pushing all the limits – threatening the game’s rules of equipment legality. It all makes players believe that they can buy a game and in the process can pick up 50 more distance yards and never have to leave their TV recliner. But as Lee Trevino once said, “It’s not the arrow, it’s the Indian.”
So, what’s next? It may not be improbable with all the equipment distance advancements to soon see architects designing 9,000 yard courses and 390 yard drives being routine by professionals. There will be no 18-hole pars under 72.
The golf ball: Today’s golf ball distance advancements are out of control. Technology is allowing the golf ball to travel farther. Case in point: young PGA professionals like Bubba Watson are booming out routine 350 to 360 yard tee balls. Everyone is looking for a distance edge. Manufacturers are well aware of this and are producing multilayer balls which not only hedge on legality but also provide more spin, increased distance and maneuverability. The USGA reports a PGA driving distance increase over the last 32 years of 35 yards. With that said, it’s clear that the USGA and R&A need to adopt distance limitations and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Most of today’s courses have been designed too penal and long for the average daily-fee recreational golfer’s skill levels. Easement – redo modifications are needed. For instance, after playing 18 holes, people don’t ask you what your favorite hole was. Instead; they ask you “what did you shoot?” And nobody wants to say “110.”
Instead, with most golfers they want to say “I shot 82, my best round ever.” Now that’s ego gratifying and they’ll be back the next day to play again without the need to advertise “free lunch,” a sleeve of balls and two beers with your greens fee.
And one final thought. Let’s hope an important vestige of the game will soon return. With the game’s proliferation of golf carts, they have deprived us of a wonderful unbridled vestige of the game – walking. Allowing walking offers us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the majestic setting and beauty of nature’s dramatic hues.
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.