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Golf Australia Express : March 2013
Greg Norman called for two levels of regulation on golf ball technology. He suggested professionals play with balls designed to limit distance, while amateurs continue to enjoy the long driven fruits of technology developed under current guidelines. “Not only are classic courses being made obsolete, but strategy and skill are also being taken out of golf,” he said at the time. Norman’s point seems logical, but his solution is centred entirely on the ball, where it might be interesting to consider the whole game in a similar fashion. Formula Two was a form of motor racing where every contestant raced the same kind of car, with pit teams that rotated daily. Everything came down to the driver of the car. Why don’t we have a golf tournament based on the same philosophy? Give every player the same ball, same clubs and same clothes and see who plays the best in the same conditions on the same course over 72 holes. It would be the ultimate test of golfing skill. Wouldn’t you love to see that? But Formula Two has been dropped for 2013. Why? Because it’s not the big game—the crowds come to watch the big boys in F1 and that’s what it’s all about. A regulated major is an interesting idea, but it is difficult to imagine it garnering much attention compared to the big-hitting ball games where technological advancements are let rip by the best players in the world. It’s impossible to control evolution, to stifle development and innovation. They can be harnessed, but not halted. Our game is changing in the inevitable digital tide, bringing with it club design and material technology, sports science and specific programs to develop precise musculature. This change is upon us—how the game’s authorities deal with it will define the future success of our sport on both the local level and the world stage. After all, the game needs to continue to attract new, young players, and defining traditions through rules risks stifling the kind of innovation that has driven the game to be what it is today. Having said as much, it is worth noting that the longest drive in a competition sanctioned by the USGA was played by Mike Austin in the 1974 US National Seniors Tournament. Granted, there was a strong tail wind, but he was hitting over level ground, using a persimmon wood driver and was 64 years old. The ball went 470 metres, or 515 yards. The hole was only 455 yards long. There is room, then, for hope. No matter how good the latest driver may become, no matter the fancy materials, gases and design features presented to absorb our golfing dollar, there is and will always be more to golf than the gizmos and gadgets of the world’s great designers combined. Hopefully, the R&A and USGA’s future decisions reflect this through their confidence that golf will always present a challenge, no matter how the equipment may develop. After all, there is no gadget for nerves...yet. OTG COVER the COVER the TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS It’s impossible to control evolution, to stifle development and innovation. They can be harnessed, but not halted.
April 2013-The Masters