A Plan For The Future

Jim Achenbach writes his latest online column a bit like Nuke LaLouche pitches (all over the place). But you have to love that he is writing about the issues, trying trying to generate discussion and attempting to consider all sides of the equation.

He first suggests that a competition ball would be the best way to go:

The answer is for the USGA to create a "condition of competition" that allows tournament officials to impose the use of a shorter ball. This ball would be used in PGA Tour events and any other tournament, professional or amateur, that elects to go with this detuned ball.

Sure, this notion is controversial. Regardless, it provides a workable answer to the distance dilemma.

Golf fans in the big world out there don't give a toot whether J.B. Holmes uses the exact same ball as you and I, but everyday golfers drool over the possibility of hitting some of the same irons into par 4s as Holmes does.

The one-ball rule was established as a condition of competition, and the same could be done with the velocity of the golf ball.

And he seems to be joining the growing chorus that feels the difficulty of relating to the pro game may be stifling the growth of everyday golf.

If we are serious rather than hypocritical, we will do whatever is reasonable to foster the growth of the game. I believe that equalizing the playing field between tour pros and the rest of us would make the game more compelling.
Fine. Now, here's where things start to get interesting...
Because golf is so difficult, we must be conscious of the regulations that are imposed on golfers and their equipment. If I were the czar of golf, I would change the maximum number of clubs from 14 to 15. This would help revitalize the industry and would allow golfers to take advantage of new clubs such as hybrids.

Don't expect a 15-club limit any time soon, but the point remains: We should be encouraging the expansion of all segments of the game, including golf equipment manufacturers.

Really?  Or maybe some pushed for such a rapid product turnover cycle that manufacturers have used up their best stuff?  Or dare I say, maybe they've created weary consumers who might feel like they are being taken advantage of?

My fear is that additional golf equipment regulations will stifle creativity within the golf industry. Too many rules could result in an environment in which golf clubs and balls are sold largely through smoke and mirrors rather than performance.

Lord knows that line has never been crossed!

If design creativity is limited, golf companies are smart enough to compensate with creative marketing. This can lead to greater confusion among golfers and less emphasis on the true sophistication of golf equipment.

I remember mentioning to a very well known equipment maker that he must really enjoy the creative side of designing clubs. His reply? "Nope, it's all about marketing." 

If golf is not healthy and does not grow, there is a trickle-down effect that touches many aspects of the game. We would be wise to consider the many golf jobs created among golf manufacturers, golf professionals, golf shops, golf course maintenance staffs, clubhouse employees and all golf-related businesses.

True, and just think how many more tips a member could hand out if he did not buy that 15th club!

Or...eh, forget it. Here's where things seem to unravel:

Golf is an outdoor sporting phenomenon that is played by all ages. It should not be diminished, thwarted or truncated. It should remain vital, dynamic and spirited.

All things considered, this is why USGA officials are so worried. We (and they) are standing at Ground Zero. We must choose the path to the future.

The final exam for Golf 101 has just one multiple-choice question:

(A) Do we really want golf to grow and prosper? Or . . .

(B) Do we want it to reflect and resemble the game it was 50 years ago?

Think hard, because in all likelihood there is no "all of the above" answer.

The conclusion seems to be: the game as it is now is much better off than 50 years ago, BUT...we need to fix the mess we are in now.