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Rolling the distance back

Update: March, 12/2017 - 09:00
 
Viet Nam News

By Robert Bicknell

I just read an article where the USGA has not ruled out the possibility of “variable distance golf balls” and I’m trying not to lose my mind.

OK, I understand the argument that advances in golf equipment have made older, shorter courses obsolete, at least for the better players and professionals, but requiring some events to use a “limited distance” golf ball seems very strange.

I think we first have to look at distance overall and consider how much of it is equipment and how much is the player. For this, I can only use myself as a subject but I’ll try to be objective…

When I was 16 years old, I drove the ball over 275 yards pretty consistently with a wooden headed driver and balata balls. When metal woods first appeared, I was consistently 285 yards. So, the metal head did make a difference. When graphite shafts appeared, I was consistently over 300 yards. The balata ball remained in my bag for the most part (except for a brief experiment with Tour Edition balls – because Greg Norman played them… and I loved the extreme backspin).

During those years, I played a lot of baseball and ice hockey as well. I was in relatively good physical shape, except for the fact that I weighed 125lbs (57kg) soaking wet and with sand in my pockets.

I might have been thin, but could bench press my own body weight, was extremely fast so I hit a lot of home runs and had a great slapshot. My clubhead speed was 122mph.

This is why I drove the ball so far.

Now we fast forwards to today and I’m 58 years old and drive the ball over 300 and have been known to bomb a few out there in the 340’s, but my clubhead speed is only 114 or so.

Equipment plays a major role in this for sure, but it’s not the sole reason.

TaylorMade makes sure I have the latest technological advances in my bag. Currently I go back and forth between the M1 and M2 drivers. Both have Fujikura x-flex shafts and I was playing the TaylorMade Tour Preferred ball, but have recently switched to the (soon to be launched) TP5x ball which is even faster off the clubface.

However, because I am now 58 years old and not a spring chicken anymore, my swing isn’t the same now as then. I use a ¾ backswing to protect my back, but get even more distance because I impact the ball more squarely and, thus, my transfer of energy is much more efficient.

Interesting note, in the old days, my pitching wedge was 120 yards, but now it’s 155 and since iron technology hasn’t changed that much I can assume this is partially due to swing change.

So, improved technique also has a huge role in the added distance.

Lastly, we need to consider the physical aspects of the subject… me. As mentioned, I used to be 57kg but was very fast, but now I’m 77kg and significantly slower.

However, the 20 added kilos isn’t fat, but muscle as I’ve become a gym freak and, given the opportunity, will happily spend hours in the gym lifting weights.

I’d honestly rather lift weights than play golf. Salonpas is my favorite cologne…

Physically, I am a lot stronger now that when younger and heavier, so I have more leverage. This helps to explain the added distance with mid/short irons.

All things considered, I think that it’s a combination of everything which is allows players to hit the ball further, especially at the low handicap and professional levels.

Equipment plays a major role in longer distances for weekend and mid/high handicap players, but there is little doubt today’s Tour Professionals are in better physical shape than before, have more efficient technique and better technology.

To be honest, rolling the distance back by limiting ball technology would take the fun out of watching professional events. People like seeing Rory, Dustin and others crushing huge drives.

Also, most amateurs need all the help they can get out there, and very few of them are willing to change their swing or get into the gym.

Bottom line: This is the world we live in and it continues to evolve. Let it be. VNS

 

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