Golf as we know it is under threat.
Technology advances are transforming every golfer into a big hitter, and risk fundamentally changing the dynamic of the game we know and love.
It’s a time when strong leadership is needed but the R&A and USGA’s recent handling of the long putter ban has proved beyond doubt that they have totally lost touch with the game.
The hierarchy must change.
The Problem with the Long Putter Ban
I’m certainly no fan of the long putter, but by deciding to delay the ban until 2016, the R&A and USGA have missed a huge opportunity to give players a fresh slate now.
Let’s face it; tensions are already building between players and fans.
At December’s Tiger World Challenge a fan yelled, “You’re a cheat!” to Keegan Bradley, and incidents like this are only likely to increase. So why wait until 2016?
The long putter ban has become an unnecessary distraction. Instead of focusing on a piece of equipment used only by the minority of golfers, the R&A and USGA needs to put its energy into tackling the wider issue.
The Real Threat in Professional Golf
It’s no secret that technology in golf is changing the very way we play the game compared to 20 years ago.
Golf courses once feared for their length are changing to accommodate the ever increasing distances professional golfers are hitting. Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the US Masters has progressively moved its tee blocks back over the last 10 years to combat the issue.
Technology in golf balls and driver heads are at the centre of the biggest technology improvements in recent years. No fewer than 16 players on the US PGA tour in 2013 are averaging over 300 yards compared with just one in the year 2000.
Technology Out of Control
No question a lot of today’s professional golfers are great athletes. Players like Dustin Johnson are so gifted that he could have played either professional basketball or golf. However, the improvements made in driver heads and golf balls have had more of a significant impact on golfer’s scores than the physical attributes of the players.
Golf manufacturers are producing driver heads that seem to be getting bigger and bigger every year. The R&A and USGA have at least capped it at 460cc which is a positive … but is this enough? In the last few years we’ve seen the introduction of adjustable drivers that golfer’s can set up to manipulate the club head to help promote a desired ball flight every time.
It doesn’t end there.
Golf balls have advanced far beyond where they were 20 years ago. Yes, a certain amount of advancement was necessary to improve ball longevity, but distance-wise it is out of control. Every new model golf ball out today goes farther than its predecessor.
When will it stop?
The R&A and USGA need to stand up and tackle the real issue with professional golf — technology.
While advancements in certain aspects of golf are good for the game, we can’t have players continually hitting farther and farther every year, forcing golf courses to change their layouts to keep up.
Golf has always been a game of shot making where only the very best golfers would prevail over four championship rounds. The people in control of our game need to get golf back to these days.
Stronger leadership is needed to tackle technology head on to help provide a fair and equal playing field for all to enjoy – now and in the future.
Over to you:
– Do you think technology in golf has gone too far?
– What do you think the R&A and USGA should be focusing on to improve the game of golf?