Not the most exciting topic you could cuddle up in front of the fire with, however, it has the world of golf talking about the report. For the golfer who struggles to compress the ball with more than 100mph of speed, it really has no bearing. But for the future of the game - it really does.
How many times over the past few years have you heard the commentator say such and such has 245 yards to the hole and has a four iron, or that the player is hitting a seven iron into the green on a par five? You are quite rightly thinking ‘did I hear that right?’, then see the player dispatch the ball hole side without bursting a blood vessel. Well, you did hear it right and they are hitting it that far. It’s the ‘how’ which is the problem and the “bodies” are looking closely at the manufacturers who are using all of the resources available to them to get the ball travelling further.
Club distance is probably the only area where some regulation is possible, if not perilous, due to the resistance incurred by the top manufacturers protecting their business. If regulated, the manufacturers would not be able to say that their clubs are hitting the ball further – a marketing nightmare which would be akin to the US gun industry saying, ‘actually new research shows that our products may have something to do with increased domestic mortality.’
There is a definite conflict here mainly because the distance increase seen over the past twenty years is having an effect on the game, and the manufacturers have helped this happen. Golf courses are having to be made longer, which means that the courses have to take up a larger footprint. This leads to extra costs for the club; more water to irrigate, bigger bills for the greenkeepers and slower rounds for the player. Not a very green approach to get your approaches green you might say.
There are three real contributors to the increase in distance seen over recent times, these are better performance between the ball and the club, more power being generated by the player from his/her body and better technical coaching.
Everybody sees on the racetrack that the 100m time is getting lower and that is purely down to the athlete becoming more athletic, faster and stronger, better prepared and mentally more focused, with only their shoes to help propel them. The human physical improvement also has a part to play in the golf distance conundrum but only a small part.
So the golf manufacturers have to take some regulatory steps in the fairness of the game and the spirit of the game. Right? That’s why the conundrum is so difficult to navigate because the profit of a company that spends around fifty million a year in research and development does not want to be regulated. You can almost hear the shuffling of legal papers and the phrase, ‘I object your honour’ being prepared.
As I said earlier, this really has no bearing on the amateur who has been mesmerised by the same manufacturers’ marketing departments into believing that there is extra distance at the end of the shaft, year in year out.
What would be a shame though would be for the back nine at Augusta (only in a couple of months’ time!) to become easier for everybody. There was a time when the thirteenth and fifteenth were only able to be boarded in two by the very longest players. Now it is almost a given, perhaps growing the rough might be an option?