The clubs : getting the balance right
Golf's best traditions
This Rule has been unchanged for decades, and can be used to ban or welcome almost any development in golf clubs. Or neither, which has left a legacy of problems today!
Its rather relaxed wording is now reinforced by the many detailed specifications which The R&A and the USGA include with the Rule. As they rightly proclaim : “the purpose of the Rules is to protect golf’s best traditions, to prevent an over-reliance on technological advances rather than skill, and to ensure that skill is the dominant element of success throughout the game.”
They would say that...
But : as the equipment makers never cease to point out, one of golf’s “traditions” is that technology advances have always helped to make the game more enjoyable. Metal woods are one recent example; steel shafts replacing hickory would be a more distant reminder.
It’s a good point, but then they would say that, wouldn’t they? Their objective is, obviously, to shift more product more often; the alleged benefit of “more enjoyment” via advancing technology sounds like a powerful selling point.
Questions to be asked
But let’s look behind this cosy assertion and ask three simple questions. These are the questions which need to be considered more often by the golfing press, even if part of their advertising budgets do lie in the hands of…the club makers :
Will more 'advanced' clubs allow the game to be played any quicker?
They might, if they achieved greater accuracy for a player – but since this would amount to ‘buying skill’ it’s hard to see why the Rules would allow them.
Likewise, if clubs achieve even greater length for the player, then theoretically that might speed up the game. Problem is that such increases are shared by everyone ( think metal woods ) and the net result is that the course gets lengthened. Back to square one.
Will 'better' clubs make the game any cheaper?
Well, many of the clubs are not cheap now, so we think that very unlikely. In fact, it’s a double-whammy : if more advanced clubs play a part in lengthening courses then they also make the game more expensive.
Will 'developments' in clubs make the game less difficult?
Now, this is the big one. REAL golf is very keen to see more suitable golfing challenges, which encourage more people to play. Fact is, we think that improving the enjoyability of the challenge rests with the golf course design and set-up - and the golf ball. And the golf ball is the controlling factor, not the golf club. Get the essence of the challenge back into balance first, and keep technology in its proper perspective. Technology is a component of the game, not a dictator of its direction. Simply promoting more power/length ( self-defeating ) or selling skill ( self-defeating ) is not helpful to REAL golf. Or even to TOP golf.
The balance of the game
However, we are not suggesting for one minute that we want to see technology put back in the box. For many golfers, new technology is part of the game – they enjoy experimenting with it and that pleasure was no different 50 or 100 years ago. It is the task of The R&A and the USGA to ensure that it does not disturb the balance of the game between skill and power. But there is also a balance to be struck between enjoyability and affordability if the best interests of the game are to be served. Ignore that and the game's future is in grave danger, as we are now finding out.
Questions for equipment makers :
- Surely you have an interest in growing your markets?
- Has it not become obvious that much of the established golfing world is turning its thumbs down on a game that is too slow, too expensive and too difficult? And that your incessant and obsessive chase for length has played a major part in this decline?
- Why not apply technology to the game so that it again becomes fit for purpose, whilst retaining its essential challenge, features and values? Joined-up thinking in the matter of the ball – and clubs - would surely do REAL golf a great service.
If technology can manage that, markets will have a much better chance of growing - and more golfers will want more products.
Not exactly rocket science?