For the first time and in my view, at long last, golf’s governing bodies appear fully intent on introducing new rules governing the game’s equipment and balls in order to combat the huge gains in hitting distance the sport has seen due to the scientific advancement of technology since 1995.
To be frank and somewhat euphoric, I’m a happy Bifurcation campaigner as I write this, EXCEPT I do not know exactly how happy I should be just yet that the professional tours and elite amateur competitions will soon require their participants to use equipment that is restricted while allowing everyday golfers the benefits of saucepan-size driver heads with thin, spring-like effect clubfaces and the gains that science has already brought them.
For my part, I hope there will be agreement to use a ball that is significantly “spinnier” and harder to control and hit straight. Controlling a ball that spins a lot has become a lost art. If there had been a spinnier ball that did not fly as far during the last 20-years, I can guarantee that Tiger Woods would have won 25+ majors by now and probably not have suffered as many injuries along the way too.
I am not concerned about objections by the pros. They’ll adapt to anything because it is their living and it will be fun watching them having to do so. Also, haven’t pros always claimed that they will play anywhere if the purse is satisfactory? Why should they complain about playing on shorter golf courses? Distance is relative. The longest hitter will still have his (entitled) advantage, but sustainability and cost of upkeeping golf courses won’t be under the same threat. Golf doesn’t need 300 yard drives. Power should have its reward but not without accuracy.
It seems the USGA/R&A vis-a-vis the ball believe optimising launch conditions is at the heart of the distance problem. Easily solved! Reduce the legal length of the tee peg to one inch. It will save trees and not cost as much unless you are a tee manufacturer.
One year ago, the USGA and R&A released their “Distance Insights Project,” in which they stated that the continuing increase in length was detrimental. Their research clearly showed that hitting distances have consistently increased and if left unchecked, could threaten the long-term future of the game at every level and, most critically, every golf course on which the game is played. The USGA and R&A want to see the traditional skills that have been part of a game that is 600-years old continue into posterity because they were rapidly disappearing in the 21st century.
There will be a further short delay and more consultations with disgruntled, foot-dragging, manufacturers regarding the exact details for another few months. So, I do not yet know how significant any change in the rules will be? It will depend on how far the ruling bodies are willing to go. But, it’s a gimme that the B-word is coming! Ignore the word ‘might’ that appears in the press releases today. It has already been decided in principle.