Rory: "It's not the ball, it's not the equipment, it's the people that have got more athletic and have more speed."

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A Sky Sports roundup at the Valspar Championship talks to European players commenting on the distance debate includes Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter.

All downplay any issues for different reasons, but McIlroy's comments were of note given his views on equipment influences. 

"For me there's no concern. It's not the ball, it's not the equipment, it's the people that have got more athletic and have more speed.

"The guys train better, they know what they're doing more, they have Trackmans so they can figure out how to swing it fasters and be more efficient. It's not the golf balls, it's not the golf clubs, I think it's just fine the way it is."

So if the equipment is not a factor--a farcical statement but let's work with the theory--then what's the harm in tweaks to the rules for elite players to keep courses a sustainable distance?  

I'm not sure I understand the line of rhetorical questions posed by Rose:

"Is the golf ball going further? Yes. Are we stronger? Yes. Is it a problem? Golf isn't getting any easier for the amateur and it isn't getting much easier for the pro.

"Are we getting make some courses obsolete by the distances we're hitting? Yes, but then again great designed golf courses don't need to be long."

So they're obsolete, but the courses do not need to respond to a changing game?

Obsolete would imply they are outmoded and in need of replacement. 

Onward...

Veteran Looper Explains How A Masters Ball Could Work

When we talk bifurcation and a Masters ball, incredulous golfers always ask, "but how could it ever work?" This, despite living in a country that put men on the moon nearly five decades ago and solving to all but the most basic problems.

Nonetheless, I understand the concerns with multiple manufacturers and the propensity for cheating in today's sports. So I give you John Wood, caddie for Matt Kuchar, keen observer of the game and regular contributor to Golf.com's weekly roundtable.

The gang was kicking around Tiger's distance comments and as most of us bifurcation talkers are prone to do, looked toward Augusta, Georgia for guidance. Here's how Wood thinks it would work:

I’ve been saying this about Augusta for years. "Gentleman, you are cordially invited to participate in the Masters Invitational for the year ____. Under a new Invitational requirement, we have forwarded our specifications for a legal golf ball for our tournament to your equipment companies. Should they like to design a ball for you under these specifications, we would be more than pleased for you to play it. If they choose not to, we will provide you with three options of a ball meeting our requirements. One will launch high, one will launch low, and one will launch in the middle of those two. We wish you the best of luck." The long ball, for lack of a better word, is sexy...to the USGA, to the R&A, to the PGA Tour...and to be honest, it sells tickets, so they aren’t about to do anything about it. Last year, the statistics say the driving distance leader on the PGA Tour averaged 317 yards. That sounds out of control. But anyone who has spent any time at all out here knows that, weather depending, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau and countless others hit their driver 330-plus every time they bring it out of the bag. That’s the truth that statistics don’t show. When Tiger was one of the longest on Tour, averaging around 300 yards per drive, he was way out front, AND he was using a 43-inch steel-shafted driver and what was known to be one of the softest and spinniest balls on Tour. So, yes, hopefully Tiger’s words now will have some impact on the future.

I just hope we can buy them in the shop to show the doubting manufacturers that there can be other markets besides longer and straighter. Some people actually want to play courses as they were meant to be played.

Flashback: Tiger's Been Pro-Rollback For Over A Decade

There has been healthy debate about Tiger's suggestion that "we need to do something about the ball", with many suggesting that an older, shorter Woods is merely hoping to negate the distance edge of younger peers.

While that's a reasonable kneejerk reaction, Wood has been on the record for over a decade that the ball doesn't spin as much and that classic courses are in danger. While he generally tip-toed around the topic, it was fairly clear how he felt: the pro game is less interesting with less spin.

I often felt he shied away from the topic in fear of sounding like someone who saw some of his skill advantage stripped away from the modern ball--though he would have been correct.

Anyway, sadly some of the links I posted on The List are no longer functional a decade past, but that's why we transcribe! From September 2005:

Hey, I am one of the guys that if they did roll the ball back, it would help me out a little bit. I would have an advantage. Any long guy who hits the ball long and high would have more of an advantage because now we're having to hit longer irons in the greens, other guys are having to hit hybrids and woods, so you have an advantage.

From a personal standpoint and competitive standpoint, I won't mind them rolling the ball back because I would have an advantage.

Also, Woods included a lengthy and illuminating chapter in his 1997 Masters book earlier this year that goes into great depth about why he sees the situation not helping the sport. It is not a coincidence that he's reached a stronger conclusion than a decade ago since he's gone into golf course design.

Add Campbell To the List

U.S. Open winner Michael Campbell is another one who just doesn't get it. A liberal technophobe not only living among us, but winning a major .

"It's going the wrong way by toughening the golf courses up through length," said Campbell.

"They should put a stop to something because it's getting ridiculous now. There's no controlled shot now. Technology has really helped players with a lot of clubhead speed, Ernie (Els), Tiger (Woods), John (Daly), rather than the average guy like myself."

Wait, you mean the average golfer isn't getting the benefits that the pros are? I'm stunned.

The rest of the quotes in the story are painful, but should be read to be believed. Darren Clarke and Luke Donald want more rough. Tall, nasty stuff.  No mention of more narrowing from any of them, perhaps because they realize that hasn't done a bit of good.

I wonder what makes them think that taller, thicker rough will be a positive?

It's also fascinating that yet again, it's the courses that have the burden to address the situation, not the governing bodies.

Hit A 1-Iron By the Plaque and Still Not Get There

E. Michael Johnson in Golf World writes that technology has not rendered Baltusrol obsolete because, well, the scores were higher than '93 and because Davis Love says so.

"Technology has not changed as much as everyone makes it out to," said Love."We can hit 1-irons by the [Nicklaus] plaque and still not get there."

We can hit 1-irons by the [Nicklaus] plaque and still not get there?

Did Davis mean to say that the players can hit a drive by the plaque with a 1-iron and still not get home in two? Or did Love mean that you would hit driver past the plaque but still not reach the green in two with a 1 iron? 

I think it was the latter of the two based on what Johnson wrote:

Love wasn't speaking hypothetically. During a practice round last week, he hit a number of 1-irons from where the Golden Bear famously knocked a 238-yard 1-iron onto Baltusrol's 18th on the 72nd hole in '67--and failed to reach the green with any of them.
First, who carries a 1-iron anymore? Second, Tiger's hitting 7 iron from 190 into 18, so he would go at the green from the plaque with what, 4 iron from 238? Now he is working out! Goosen hit 5-iron from not far in front of the plaque, so a key fact seems to have been left out here: what kind of wind was Love hitting into.

Or Davis really needs to have his lofts checked.

Johnson sees technology has not having an impact by pointing out that the winning scorewas higher than it was for the 1993 Open, and he writes:

As for those claiming it's because they lengthened the track by 300-plus yards and grew rough, well, the cost of rough was fair: 0.489 of a stroke--hardly excessive.
No mention that the fairway widths were 10-15 yards narrower than the '93 Open, as reported by Golf Digest's Ron Whitten. The fairway is oh, 20-40% narrower this time around. What will they be next time, 10-15 yards wide? Is there a concern at that width as opposed to 25 yards on a sloping fairway?  Apparently not.

Finally, this:
As for the added length, [Kenny] Perry says it equals out. "You're hitting your driver farther so the holes are playing about where we played from in 1993," said Perry. "I'm playing my approaches from about the same spots." Added Janzen, "Even though technology has advanced how far we hit the ball, I hit a lot longer clubs to the greens today than I [did then]."
Huh? So for some, the course is lengthened and it balances out to play the same. But Janzen hits longer clubs to the greens than he did in 93, even though technology has helped him advance his ball?

Maybe someone else needs to get their lofts checked.

Architects on Technology, Vol. 9038

Alan Tays in the Palm Beach Post talks to architects about the impact of technology and wonders when we'll see a 700 yard par-5.

"The Walker Cup was a joke," said Alice Dye, wife of fellow architect Pete Dye.

"I know that Tiger is strong and I know Vijay is strong, but those 21- and 22-year-olds carried a par-4 up there that was 354 yards."

Not all architects feel this way. Just most of them.

"There's a lot of people who believe the game is being ruined by the distance," Tom Fazio said. "I'm not so sure that I fit in that camp. It's really just following the way it always has been. I don't see it being bad for golf, myself.

"Jack Nicklaus used to hit it 300 yards. Now there's just more of them (who can)."

Asked if 700-yard holes could be in the future: "I'm not sure that that will happen. The scientists say the golf ball can't go much farther than it goes now. Of course, I heard them say that back eight years ago."

Regarding Merion at the U.S. Amateur: "They won't be hitting the famous 1-iron," Fazio said. "They'll probably hit 5-iron or 6-iron or 4-iron."

Tays writes that a 700-yard par-5 is nothing new. Just see The International in Bolton, Massachusetts.

"You stand on that back tee," said head pro Kevin Burnsworth, "you've got to kill it 250 yards to get it to the fairway, and then 20 yards ahead of that is the ladies' tee. So if you don't hit it 275, you're behind the ladies' tee, which is a little embarrassing."


Golf in the Year 2014: 15 hole courses

Golfweek's Jim Achenbach looks into the future and sees a game dramatically changing to accomodate technology. Tongue planted in cheek, sort of.

Why 15 holes?

  • Because so many existing golf courses literally were bursting at the seams. Many of these courses wanted to expand to confront the challenge of long-hitting golfers, but expansion often was impossible because no more land was available.
  • Because golf at most courses had become a five-hour ordeal. In an effort to speed up the game, the number of holes was shortened by one-sixth.
  • Because everyday life had become busier and more hectic, and many golfers wanted to devote more time to their families and less time to golf.

Joy To The Measuring Devices

Golfweek's Jim Achenbach is “overjoyed” that the USGA and R&A are going to approve distance measuring devices for tournaments that wish to allow them.

The time it takes to play a round should improve because of this decision. Competitors who carry rangefinders or other distance measuring products will play faster because they will have immediate access to distance information. No more searching for sprinkler heads with distances on them. No more pacing forward or backward from the 150-yard markers.

Uh huh.

Rangefinders are all about faster play. This is one of the reasons the USGA and R&A have decided to change the rules. Like golf cars, distance measuring devices will be considered a "condition of play" and can be declared acceptable by any tournament (but don't expect the PGA Tour to allow their use).

And now a word our sponsors:

Who are the major companies in the distance measuring field? Who will benefit from this announcement by the USGA and R&A, expected to be made next week in conjunction with the Walker Cup at Chicago Golf Club? The 800-pound gorillas of the golf rangefinder business are Laser Link Golf and Bushnell Golf. Laser Link president Rob O'Loughlin has been the loudest cheerleader for distance measuring devices and has lobbied both the USGA and R&A for a rules change. Laser Link sells the popular Quicksilver line of rangefinders.

It would have been nice if Achenbach diclosed at this point that LaserLink is a steady Golfweek advertiser. But he doesn’t. He goes on to plug a few other distances devices and the wonders of speedy desert golf, then sums it all up:

To the USGA and R&A, I say bravo. This is a rules change that reflects what is happening in modern golf and makes absolute sense.

Now I hate to be picky, but today 2005's third plea for USGA membership came in the mail (thanks, I was running low on labels!). Membership is down to $15, so in essence, the USGA loses money if I sign up.
Anyhow, on the back of the form they mention their line about governing the game to “ensure that skill, not technology, determines your score.” How do handheld measuring devices fit into that concept?