For those who haven't read my 2005 thriller The Future of Golf, or perhaps who have friends needing to understand why the governing bodies are warming up on the distance issue, Golfweek's Alistair Tait sets up the reason for the shift in position as we anticipate a report in the coming days.
Tait gets to the key question many were asking here at Riviera: What’s happened in the last year to change Slumbers’ mind?
“There has been a significant move up across all tours,” he said. “We’re looking at the longest on-record average driving distance. It’s caused us as well as our colleagues at the USGA serious concern. We had talked for a number of years about slow creep. This is a little bit more than slow creep. It’s actually quite a big jump.”
“Our 2002 joint statement of principles put a line in the sand, or purported to put a line in the sand. Our view is when you start to look at this data now, that we have probably crossed that line in the sand and that a serious discussion is now needed.”
The Allan Robertson testing facility seems ideally suited to get on top of hitting distance. A tour of this facility is like entering a new, high-tech world. Clubs and balls can be tested to the limit under the watchful eye of professor Steve Otto, the R&A’s director of equipment standards and chief technology officer. There doesn’t seem to be anything about golf equipment the former NASA employee doesn’t know.
The problem is trying to please all facets of the game. No avid amateur golfer wants to hit the ball shorter. The manufacturers have worked within the governing bodies’ guidelines and will feel miffed if the two bodies take drastic action. Many tour pros obviously won’t welcome a rollback.
It’s a big job, but long overdue. It’ll be interesting to see what the two bodies propose next.