In a week where Padraig Harrington revealed he was opening a public putting green in Marlay Park, the three-time Major winner also shared his thoughts about the longest club in the golf bag, the driver.
Harrington was commenting on the new rule set to come into play next year that will put a 46 inch limit on the length of golf clubs, excluding putters, and although he was in favour of the proposal, the 50-year old only believes it only scratches the surface of a much larger issue at play in the distance debate.
“It’s only a tiny, small step. You might call it a gesture,” Harrington said at a Wilson media day this week.
“It is difficult to swing a 48 inch driver. You supposedly gain two miles an hour of club head speed for every inch longer the shaft is presuming all things remain equal, but it doesn’t [remain equal] when you go longer.
“So look, I think it’s a small gesture but not the one that’s really needed for the environment, for the cost of building golf courses, cost of maintaining golf courses and for the ability to use some of the great old golf courses, I really do think there needs to be a rollback in the equipment to stop the ball going so far.”
“I do understand that the ball really only goes far in the heat. This is not a problem we have in Ireland. I played on Tuesday in Royal St. George’s. The 16th hole was 154-yards into a moderate wind. I hit a little three-quarter wedge in there in the Open. I couldn’t get a 7 iron there before of the temperature. In the States in the same conditions, I would’ve hit nine iron. The golf balls perform unbelievably in the heat.”
“Players now understand at a younger age to swing harder no matter what they do with technology,” Harrington added.
“Players are going to hit it harder going forward and even if it’s got a small head on it, they’ll learn how to hit it hard. But certainly dialling it back [is needed], just for the environment and for the cost of construction, for maintenance costs and for safety.
“If you go to most golf courses, especially here around Dublin, the doglegs on all these courses are at 240 yards and you get most 25-year-olds in those golf courses – they don’t know where they’re hitting it, but they’re hitting it 300 yards through the air.
“So instead of clattering into the trees in the dogleg, they are carrying it into the middle of the next fairway, so even for safety reasons, it would be best to have equipment that doesn’t go as far.
“They’ll still hit it far on the tour because look, everybody is going to swing at it. That’s just the nature of it now – everybody knows you have to give it a good hit because it’s in your favour and it’s an advantage.
“But definitely dialling back the equipment will help, we can go to some great golf courses and it won’t change the fun. At the end of the day, when it comes to distance for me, if I play with somebody who hits the ball the same distance as me, whether it’s 270 or 300 yards, if I hit it five yards past him, I feel good, and if I hit it five yards shorter than them, I feel bad at whatever yardage I’m expecting.
“It’s not how far you hit it; it’s how far you hit it compared with expectations, so the pleasure and enjoyment of hitting the ball long is compared to how you expect to hit it. So it doesn’t matter if a limit was put on it and you hit it five yards past your limit, you’ll feel good. So I don’t see a changing the enjoyment of the game.”