OPINION: Change is Not Always a Good Thing
At least, as change pertains to golf technology and golf courses on steroids.
At the start of the 2010 golf season, most golf club technology focused around the new wedge groove specifications implemented across professional golf. Supporters of the rule change were hopeful that this would make the game more difficult for the touring professionals while skeptics believed either nothing would change of the game would become laughable. As the season went on, however, the golfing world saw more sub-60 rounds than ever before, and scoring seems to have lowered significantly among all pro-ranks. In essence, the skeptics were right; however the joke had nothing to do with wedge grooves.
Golf technology, for the most part, has continued to throw new products, training aids, and equipment into the face of the consumer on an annual basis. Whether a new driver composite promises to launch your golf ball 300 yards or a new putter promises a more true roll, gimmicks and equipment adjustments teeter on the line of legality each and every year. Ball technology continues to improve as well, almost negating the effects "duller" grooves have had on the player by allowing for more spin on almost every shot. Even if the golf ball isn't to blame for this low scoring, players have a plethora of technology to use when dismantling historic courses into putt-putt minigames.
Course designers have responded, so to speak, in an effort to maintain golf course integrity during this Industrial Golf Revolution. Courses are reaching obscene yardages, pushing ever-so-closely to the 8000 yard mark, taking the "if you can't beat'm, join'm" approach. For example, next year's US Amateur is to be played on a 7700 yard monstrosity, presumably to determine the best amateur in the country.
The key word in that phrase? "Amateur".
Amateurs need not play on 7700+ yard courses. Amateurs should not have to play on courses longer than most which professionals compete on for huge purses. What exactly are we trying to prove here, anyway?
However, who can blame golf course architects and tournament officials? Professionals and the best amateurs in the world are minimizing once-hallowed grounds to anthills. The very fact that tees needed to be added to a masterpiece like Augusta National is criminal. Not even the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews, was safe from a bulldozer this past season.
When will clubmakers and the golf industry realize that enough is enough? When will industry leaders lose the big-business mentality that is plaguing golf and return to a methodology to preserve the sport itself? Do the powers-that-be not realize the accomplishments of yore are becoming obsolete?
You know what I would like to see? I want to see Bubba Watson hit a 340-yard drive with a steel RAM driver. I want to see Tiger Woods land a soft 5-wood from 260 from under a tree using a persimmon face. I want to see Stuart Appleby shoot a 59 using a Maxfli Noodle.
Don't get me wrong; these guys are the best in the world and would probably have no problem proving that fact daily with any piece of equipment we give them. However, at least we can say that they are doing so on courses that were the same when the game's greats did it decades ago.