Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Have Technological Advancements in Golf Equipment Spoiled the Charm of Golf?

Technological Advancements in Golf Equipment

The modern game of golf is far removed from the one that was invented in Scotland in the 15th Century. Advancements in Physics and science have led to immense changes in golf equipment. This presents golf its biggest challenge yet, to resolve and regulate the immense distances that professional golfers are now able to hit the golf ball. Many of the world’s greats such as Jack Nicklaus also feel this challenge needs to be urgently addressed.

Golf’s governing bodies, however, have do very little to change the current situation. The facts are telling the truth they do not see. For example 85% of players hit drives of less than 280 yards in 2000, and in 2011, this figure had been completely reversed, with 85% of players hitting drives of over 280 yards. The USGA (United States Golfers Association) argues that golf distances are plateauing out, and have been for the past few years. However this is not a solution to the problem, and simply delays its resolution. In reality, governing bodies will inevitably continue to deny a problem exists. The excitement of the modern game is generated by the jaw-dropping distances that professional golfers consistently drive – the sight of a huge hitter such as Dustin Johnson smashing 300+ yard drives is what attracts more fans and revenue at tournaments.

What is the problem?

The fault lies with the equipment golfers use. Yes, people argue that modern golfers are stronger and fitter than golfers in the 1980s, but there is a limit to the human body. The golf ball is a key component of this. Whilst the USGA places limitations on the features of the golf ball that control distance, such as number of dimples and ball weight, they have done very little to control new developments in golf ball material technology. Clubs are regulated and restricted in a much stricter way than balls, mainly with two main factors, grooves and club heads. Despite the advancements of clubs, the ball remains a problem, and as Jack Nicklaus said, we must ‘change the frigging golf ball’ before its too late.

What could the affect of long driving distances be on the game in the future?

We are already seeing the consequences of longer driving distances, as the number of golfers around the world has slowly dropped off. The main consequences on the modern game have mainly been reflected in re-design of golf courses around the world. Similar to the phrase ‘Tiger proofing’ a golf course, golf courses are now having to lengthen and expand holes to make them challenging enough for modern big hitters such as JB Holmes and Rory McIlory.

This has a serious knock on effect, and may even be the cause for the ever reducing number of golfers around the world, as longer courses means longer playing times and more expensive fees. This discourages more people than it attracts, as courses are forced to spend millions on lengthening their courses. Another important problem, although less trumpeted than the decreasing number of golfers, is the redesign of classic courses. Courses such as St Andrews, which have to move its tees out of the premises of the course, are forced to change iconic holes that have not changed for centuries.

At the rate distance hitting in the game is increasing, holes could soon be over 600 yards long! If governing bodies don’t do something soon, the ‘classically difficult’ game of golf that we know could be lost in the distance race of the modern game.

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