Viet Nam News
by Robert Bicknell
Well, once again the topic of “does the golf ball go too far” has reared its head and there are definite pros and cons to the argument.
With the way balls go now, many amateurs are hitting the ball longer and that makes the game more fun for them. Unfortunately, it also makes many older golf courses somewhat obsolete, especially for Tour players.
When designing a golf course, the architects try to force players to navigate around hazards, which are strategically placed where the average drive will land. So, players nowadays just bomb a driver over the fairway bunkers on courses designed in 10-20 years ago or more.
To find ways to keep courses challenging, designers are either adding horrible fairway bunkers which are damn near impossible to reach the green from, or they are making courses ridiculously long.
In the old days, a 7,000-yard course was a monster. Nowadays, courses are 7,400 yards or more off the tips. Some designers believe that in another 20 years golf courses will have to be 8,000 yards just to remain challenging.
And it’s at this point where I call bullshit.
What we are seeing are Tour pros hitting the ball further and, in some cases like Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson or Rory McIlroy, they’re hitting the ball off the planet. But these are the exceptions rather than the rule. Yes, Tour pros hit the ball far. They’re pros.
They have the best equipment, the best training, the best coaching and they have nothing to do all day except practice. This is what they do for a living. They’re bigger, stronger and faster. A rep for a shoe company reports that the average shoe size of their tour staff has gone from 9½ to 11½.
Amateurs, on the other hand, have only increased their yardage by maybe 10 yards or so. This isn’t earth-shattering. So instead of hitting a 6-iron for their approach shot, they’ll hit a 7-iron. Big deal.
The hardest part is still putting the ball in the hole. Short game. Chipping, pitching and putting. Whoever has the best short game usually wins the match,
But, are balls and equipment that much radically different today than say 10 years ago?
As a TaylorMade sponsored pro, I receive all the latest equipment from them and there is no doubt the clubs are getting hotter and easier to hit. For example, I started with the RBZ driver around 5 years ago and thought it was the best I ever hit. I switched from another brand to TaylorMade because of it. Then a year later they came out with the SLDR and after a few weeks, I thought that was the best. Then the R15, followed by the M1 and M2 drivers. Each becoming progressively better.
Now I have the new M3 driver and it’s the best I’ve hit yet. With every new generation of club, be it TM or Titleist, Callaway, Ping, Honma, Mizuno, or whatever, they have spend millions of dollars in research and design to keep improving their stuff.
My new P770 irons are very impressive as well, but the crème de la crème is the TaylorMade Spider Tour Black putter. That one club has changed by game completely. I wish I had this when I was younger. A lot younger.
So, while I am 60 years old, I am actually hitting the ball further than when I was 18 years old. Of course, back then we had wooden headed clubs and balata balls, but even then I launched drives 300 on occasion, but if I’m healthy now, I can still go 300.
But 300 yards doesn’t automatically win tournaments. You still have to get the ball into the hole, and once again that comes down to short game and putting.
Drive for show, putt for dough, et al…
When younger, I had a amazing short game too. My weakness was that I putted like Stevie Wonder. Yes, I could three-putt from four feet. So, for me, the new putter is the difference maker, not the driver.
If they want to roll back the equipment to make things more competitive, do it only for the PGA Tour players, but leave everything else unchanged for amateurs.
The game is supposed to be fun, so let them have fun. — VNS