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The Reconciliation of Facts and Emotion

It is commonplace these days that below the surface of industry prosperity there remain voices who continue to chant that the game is about to experience some form of irreversible catastrophe. The target of these voices is technology, more specifically golf equipment technology. Golf clubs and golf balls. The very same equipment technology that has played a very large role in the game's present day popularity and appeal.

These voices of incipient doom take on a new sense of urgency whenever a new tournament record is established or Tiger Woods reaches a heretofore unreachable par five. What is interesting is that these voices and the forces that they represent seldom present anything other than an emotional appeal to play with persimmon woods, forged muscle back irons and balata golf balls. Maybe that is because when the present day is reconciled with the facts of the past, the apocalypse is hardly imminent.

 

PGA TOUR Scoring Average 1980-1997

If there was to be a trend towards Armageddon, the first place this would be seen would be in the average scores generated by the greatest players in the world. During the period 1980-1997, the average scoring per round has just barely improved by one stroke plus.

Vardon Scoring Average 1980-1997
The winning Vardon Trophy average has only improved marginally, which concurs with that trend reflected by the overall PGA TOUR Scoring Average.

Driving Accuracy 1980-1997
The topic of a past editorial suggested that oversize drivers were responsible for the coming end of the world as we know it. Driving accuracy has, in fact, shown a demonstrable improvement yet this has not carried over into ...

Greens in Regulation 1980-1997
... any significant improvement in the number of greens hit in regulation per round, which has remained fairly constant during the period.

All in all, in an environment which has seen the arrival of bigger and stronger players, the ubiquitous presence of on-site swing doctors and near perfect week to week fairway and green conditions, the FACTS show that the world is hardly coming to an end.

What can be agreed to is that there are more players with exempt status that can win on Tour every week. As the number of golfers in this country has increased from 15 million to 25 million (the U.S. participation growth 1980-1997) so too has the number of quality players who are able to achieve maximum performance. In competitive athletic endeavors where equipment technology is less a factor (long distance running, high jump and long jump) the fact is that performance over this same period has improved two to three percent.

Those that aspire to challenge the incumbent #1 have no choice but to develop skills superior to those they expect to displace. This is sometimes referred to as the Dialectic of Progress with operative word being progress. Imminent end of the world? Hardly. What we do see is the delicate balance between Tradition and Technology being preserved without unnecessary intervention.

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