"Why do they want to stop Tiger or Phil [Mickelson] or Ernie [Els] from playing great golf?"

That's Neil Coles talking, subject of John Huggan's Tea On A Sunday In Scotland Scotland On Sunday column this week. Coles not only talks abou this fear of flying, but golf in America, the state of the game and--close your eyes Fairhaven readers--the dreaded ball. Take it away Mr. Coles...

"I have no regrets about not playing more over there. I did three tours in America. The money was no good anywhere else. I didn't really enjoy it much, to be honest. The life wasn't for me. The sameness of the motels and the courses was boring. And there was no prospect of taking a week off to go home for a break. My best finish over there was third place in Palm Springs. I won $1,500 for that. My game was reasonably well suited to the courses, and I enjoyed the big ball."

Ah, the ball. Like so many of his contemporaries, Coles has watched the evolution of golf at the highest level over the past decade or so with something akin to horror. The modern game, all crash-bang-wallop, is a long way from the subtle, nuanced sport that he played at his peak.

"There is no doubt that shaping shots is a lot more difficult these days," he sighs. "The ball doesn't curve like it used to. The small ball had to be shaped in order to get any sort of control. You had to hold it up in crosswinds. It was so lively. If these guys played with a small ball today, they wouldn't know what had hit them.

"The arrival of the big ball in Europe had an effect on the type of player who could be successful. I remember little guys like Dai Rees, Sid Scott, Charlie Ward and Ken Bousfield being successful. They would have no chance today. So the big ball changed the face of golfers. They got bigger and stronger. The little guy is very much the exception nowadays.

"Now, is that for the better? I don't know, but it is certainly different. It's my contention that we can't go on improving the ball. The golf courses are going to have to be 8,000 yards to challenge the top players, and they will be unplayable for everyone else."

Putting on his course architect's hat for a moment, Coles is as close to animated as he can get, and his fear for the future of the sport in which he has spent his life is obvious.

"I think if we got the R&A and the USGA around this table, they would agree about the ball going too far. But they are scared of lawsuits. And the problem is that, in order to keep the scores up, major championship courses are being set up in ever more extreme ways.

"I shudder when thinking of Carnoustie in 1999 or the US Open at Shinnecock in 2004. And the Masters this year was borderline. I do wonder if the punter wants to pay good money to watch top players scuffing around like they did at those three events. The very best players were embarrassed. I don't want to see that. I want to see people going round in the 60s, and making birdies and eagles. That's entertainment to me.

"I subscribe to the view that a great golf course should yield low scores to a great player playing well. If it doesn't, there is something wrong with that course. If someone as good as Tiger [Woods] shoots 20 under par to win, it is a compliment to the golf course. That's my philosophy, but it isn't everyone's.

"Clearly, the USGA want par to win the US Open every year. They don't seem to care that they are putting on a show for millions of people. I don't understand where they are coming from. Why do they want to stop Tiger or Phil [Mickelson] or Ernie [Els] from playing great golf?"