"The ball got away from everybody."

Yes, add Michael Bonallack to the list of rehabilitating golf executives who wish they'd done more then so we would have the game we have now. It's touching I tell you to hear this kind of remorse, documented by John Huggan in his Sunday column:

"The most fun I've ever had was being secretary of the R&A. I was there when the Open was really starting to take off, in financial terms. We were able to use that money to aid the development of the game."

However, representing the public face of golf's rules-making body outside the United States and Mexico could prove uncomfortable. During Bonallack's tenure, the battle between administrators and equipment companies was joined in earnest, and it rages on to this day.

"The biggest problem was with Ping and the grooves on their irons. That was very unpleasant. I remember sitting at dinner after watching the Walker Cup matches at Peach Tree in 1989 and being tapped on the shoulder. It was a sheriff telling me I was served.

"The writ said they were suing for $100m tripled. They have what they call punitive damages in the United States, and it wasn't only the R&A they were suing, but me personally. That got my attention!

"We had good lawyers, though. They showed that the US courts had no jurisdiction over us. We were making rules for golfers outside America.

"The wider equipment issue was a problem then, and continues to be so today, at the top level of the game anyway. There are a number of things I wish we had done, but obviously we didn't do.

"The ball got away from everybody. The scientists said the ball could go only ten more yards, but they were wrong. New materials kept on coming out, and then along came metal woods. They have taken a lot of the skill out of the game for the leading players. As have the new wedges.

"The shots only Seve used to be able to play with a 50-degree wedge are now routine for everyone who buys a 63-degree wedge. All of that crept into the game without anyone really realising the significance. I wish we could go back, but we can't."

Perhaps sensing that he has already said too much about the one subject that golf administrators tend not to enjoy discussing, Bonallack pre-empts the next question.

"There is no use asking me what I'd do if I was in charge today. When I retired I said I wasn't going to get involved in any of these controversial things. Besides, if I started announcing what I would do, people could quite rightly ask why I didn't do those things when I was in charge. Certainly, we missed some opportunities with the ball and the metal woods, but they crept up on us."
One other sadness for Bonallack is the knock-on effect modern equipment has had on course set-ups. As so many did at last year's Open, he looked on askance at the amount of rough growing on the Old Course at St Andrews.

"It does upset me to see what they have to do to golf courses nowadays. There is no doubt that the modern equipment has caused many good courses to be altered. I hate to see long grass around greens on any course. I like the ball to run off to where players can hit all kinds of recovery shots.

"It is fascinating to watch someone like Tiger working out what shot will work best after he has missed a green. Long grass eliminates all of that, and takes a lot of the skill out of the game."