by Robert Bicknell
This has long been a problem for the USGA / R&A, but it’s not the average players making the complaint, nor is it the Tour professionals. Rolling back the ball seems more like a solution in search of a problem than anything else.
When queried, the overwhelming response by the average recreational player in general is that they are happy with things the way they are and the USGA / R&A should leave it the hell alone.
In a recent study, MyGolfSpy asked players a lot of questions and the overwhelming answer was what was just reported above. In fact, what surprised me was that most players attributed to increased distance to “improved fitness” as well as “improved techniques” rather than equipment modifications and that got me to thinking… which is dangerous.
As I have mentioned in previous columns, I will use my own experiences for reference…
First of all, I am now 60-years old, and when I was young (read: 16-26 years old) I drove the ball 300 yards. This was very uncommon back then, especially due to persimmon headed drivers and balata balls.
However, I have always been a bit of a freak of nature when it came to power and speed. For example, when I was 16 years old I weighed 125 lbs (56.6 kg) soaking wet with sand in my pockets, but in the weight room I could bench 225 lbs (102 kg) and curl 50 lbs (22.5 kg) all day long.
I had a ice hockey slap shot of 95 mph (152 kmph) and in baseball I basically blasted balls over the outfield fence. Like I said, not normal. A freak of nature…
As I aged, my driving distance actually improved in the late 1980’s, before peaking a few years ago at 340 yards. Now, I drive roughly 302. But I no longer hit 150 yard pitching wedges. Nowdays, I am content to use a 9-iron. But still, not bad for an old man…
To be honest, I’d have to say that physical fitness and technique have also contributed to it as well as improved golf equipment technology. It’ s not just one thing or another, but a combination of all.
Despite my age and limitations on what I can and cannot do now, I feel that I am in better all-around physical shape (I think) then when I was younger. Of course, a lot of that credit goes to my wife who insists on feeding me well-balanced meals and not letting me gobble KFC every day, as well as hanging around the gym on my days off.
Spending more time teaching gives me time to refine my own technique, and as some folks drop by occasionally with Trackman, I have the opportunity to see exactly where my swing stands in comparison to previous years. Strangely enough, my swing speed remains roughly the same.
Having said that, I don’t really feel that the added distance has made any courses which I know of “obsolete” because length of a course isn’t the sole determining factor. Sure, size matters, but not if you don’t know what to do with it. The bottom line of any golf course is how many strokes it takes to get the ball in the hole and, for that, we need to consider putting.
In my opinion, putting is the true determining factor in regards to toughness of a course. Any course which has fair, but challenging greens will never be obsolete.
OK sure, you’re saying that even Augusta National caved in and “Tiger proofed” the legendary course by adding length, but what most people really don’t understand is that Augusta National change parts of the course almost every year and sometimes they even reshape a green or two. Not much mind you, but just enough to drive the Tour Pros crazy when they come for their practice rounds. With that type of attitude by the owners, Augusta National will never be obsolete regardless how far people hit the ball.
The bottom line is that golf remains a “game” and games are to be enjoyed. If hitting the ball further makes the average player happy, so be it. I’m one of those people who think Jack Nicklaus is wrong when he gripes constantly about how far the ball goes.
Let people have fun. VNS