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THE CRYING GAME, Complaints about equipment technology still haunt golf…and it’s getting annoying

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a pretty big golf fan (either that or you’ve already gone through all of your wife’s back copies of Redbook.)


As a golf lover you may have noticed something in the last couple of years – people complaining about golf losing its mystique, its challenge and its toughness.


I still get migraines after three-putting another green, or hitting a perfect tee shot on a par-4, only to find the ball 218 yards from the green. Next time you hear or read someone complaining about the revolutionary technological advances of the game and the changes that must be made to save the integrity of golf, see who’s saying it. There’s a pretty good chance that the person’s name is Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye or Gary Player.


What these guys, and many other like them, don’t understand is that we don’t play the game they’re referring to. Nicklaus is upset that Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els can hit their titanium drivers and three-piece golf balls 330 yards with no effort. In his prime, Nicklaus needed a 20 mph tail wind, hard fairways, and a downhill slope to crank one 330 yards. Therefore, the technology of the game has to slow down; otherwise, it won’t be fair.


All sports evolve. Jeff Gordon doesn’t drive the same car as Richard Petty. Peyton Manning doesn’t throw the same football to the same receivers as Johnny Unitas. Barry Bonds doesn’t …OK, bad example. Athletes today are bigger, faster, better coached and probably smarter than athletes from 30, 40 or 80 years ago. Athletes in 2035 will probably be better than today’s. Nicklaus and others think there should be a cap put on golf ball and driver technology so the game played today will be similar to the one they played. What are they looking at? Do they see the scores of today’s golfers in today’s pro tournaments? Not much different than the scores from the 1950s and ‘60s. Sure Tiger did some amazing things in 2000 and set some pretty impressive records, but it’s not like he’s shooting 57 in the final round of the Masters.


Driving distance has become a huge focal point. The average drive on the PGA TOUR in 1972 was 262 yards. During the next 15 years it only increased by six yards. From 1992 to 2002 the average distance went from 278 yards to 292 yards. Pros are hitting the ball 30 yards further today than 33 years ago, but what difference has it made in scoring? Ben Hogan had a 69.8 scoring average in 1954 with persimmon woods, metal shafts and bumpy greens. Last year, Phil Mickelson had a 69.3 scoring average with a titanium driver, solid core ball, and perfect greens and short fairways.


What about you and me? Do you think the game is that much easier than it was 10 or 15 years ago? I play with brand new Titleist irons and woods. I use the PRO V1 ball. I wear Oakley sunglasses that cut out all the glare (with the exception of the one coming from my wife as I leave the house for another quick 18). My FootJoy golf shoes are as comfortable as the slippers under my bed. I am so much better equipped than I was 15 years ago. And my score? I may be 5-6 shots better, but in truth, the real reason is because I play more today.


Golf is still all the challenge I need. Yet, all we seem to hear is that courses need to be lengthened. New courses in town are competing with D/FW Airport. Fairways are runways. Dallas National is 7,400 from the tips. Gentle Creek stretches to 7,300 yards, as does Vaquero. If I play on and old course, now it’s only 6,800 yards from the tips. I think I’m cheating. But you know what? I’ll shoot about the same score on a good 6,800-yard course as I will on a 7,300-yard course.


The grand Pooh-Bah’s at Augusta National are seriously considering using a standard ball in their upcoming tournament that will limit the length players can hit it. They say they’ve already stretched the course to its limits. Did it seem that Tiger was just taking a stroll a few weeks ago? Remember the 11th hole? Tiger out-drove Chris DiMarco by half a football field. What happened? DiMarco birdied and Tiger made par on the hole. Golf is about shotmaking, not raw power. If power was the main ingredient, John Daly and Hank Kuehne would be on top of the money list instead of fighting to keep their TOUR cards.


Everybody just needs to settle down a bit. The club and ball manufacturers are only doing what all businesses do, making better products. And even though you now have the Triple-Quad adjustable-weight driver in your bag, chances are you’re still selling insurance come Monday morning. The Golden Bears and Tigers of the world aren’t the average golfer. Stop trying to slow the game down for them. The average guy is screaming for the next club that gives him three more yards so he can shoot a 97.


Article reprinted with permission from Timm Matthews, Avid Golfer

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