When, not if, is the question after reading Mike Johnson's excellent Golf World cover story on the possibility of a major manufacturer (finally) putting out non-conforming equipment. And not just the beginner set stuff that Taylor Made has been working on, but something likely to be used by more serious players.
Johnson considers the ramifications for all involved--the golfers who use such clubs, the company that breaks this mysterious dense barrier, the health of the sport--and it's clear from the story quotes that Taylor Made is the frontrunner to do so. And while the ERC stigma is still on the minds of some, times have changed and it seems that the golf demographic is less likely to hold non-conforming clubs against a company. Especially if the spirit is to attract new players.
Bob Philion, president of Cobra-Puma Golf, also feels nonconforming equipment is on the horizon. "There is a sense of urgency in the industry, whether from our competitors or the PGA of America, to be less intimidating and more fun," says Philion. "Do I think nonconforming drivers will be out there in 10 years? I do. Three years? I do. I think the street signs for the game aren't positive enough for someone not to try it."
Of course, the view of USGA equipment standards managing director John Spitzer is the one I share: we've seen better technology than ever and it hasn't solved the cost, image and time factors that seem to be bigger issues.
"Multilayer balls and adjustability were a big benefit to golfers, but we didn't see a boost in participation," says Spitzer, who also said the USGA has regular communications with the major manufacturers but none has indicated an imminent launch of illegal equipment. "To think nonconforming clubs would somehow increase participation, I don't see that. It's not 1,000cc drivers or a ball that goes 30 yards farther that's going to grow the game."