If I Was…In Charge Of The USGA And R&A
By Jim McNaney
OK… this could become an annual column.
About this time last year, golf’s governing bodies unveiled a brand-new Rules of Golf. While some of the rule changes made sense, many were roundly criticized and even ridiculed.
So, I took it upon myself to try and offer a more common sense, if not semi-humorous approach to rule changes.
New year… same column…sort of.
The boys in the blue blazers, along with their allies across the pond, are at it again. In early February, the USGA and R&A released a 99-page report along with a 15-page “summary” decrying the evils of distance and all that hitting the ball farther brings to the game.
After all, they describe themselves as “the governing bodies overseeing the single set of playing and equipment rules that apply worldwide, the USGA and the R&A are responsible for defining and protecting the essential challenge and character of golf so that it can thrive long into the future.” Obviously they would see it as their responsibility to save us from the dangers of distance.
They embarked on a years-long study on the adverse effects of golfers (mostly the elite male golfer – translation: PGA TOUR Professionals) hitting the ball farther, particularly off the tee.
This is not the first time the bodies have looked into this heinous problem. In 2002 they released a Joint Statement of Principle on Distance. In that report, they “warned” the golfing public of the ruinous effects hitting the ball farther would eventually have on our great game.
“Any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable. Whether these increases in distance emanate from advancing equipment technology, greater athleticism of players, improved player coaching, golf course conditioning or a combination of these or other factors, they will have the impact of seriously reducing the challenge of the game…”
See… they are merely trying to save us from ourselves.
According to their findings, the average distance increase off the tee for “elite” golfers increased 1 yard per year since 2013. Even though both governing bodies admitted that a substantial increase in distance occurred from 1900 to 1930 due to the introduction of the new rubber-core ball, the recent trend is too much for the game to withstand.
Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. They are using data from between 1900 and 1930 to look at the state of the modern game.
According to the 15-page summary, this one-yard per year, if left unfettered, would seriously jeopardize the future of the game itself.
By their logic, if we let this trend continue, the average PGA TOUR 300-yard drive today would be 325 yards in 25 years and 350 yards in 50 years.
Forget the fact that in my 25 plus years of teaching golf, not a single player has ever come to me and said, “Hey… can you help me hit the driver shorter? I hit it way too far now.”
The so-called “caretakers of the game” feel we all need to get used to the fact that they will not allow this increase in distance to continue.
They did acknowledge that it was not one single factor that caused this epidemic. They recognize that factors such as better athletes; better instruction and better/different agronomic conditions were just as guilty as the much-maligned advances in equipment technology.
But make no mistake. This report was a shot across the bow to the manufacturers. The USGA and R&A will find a way to stop you.
A possible solution is the use of a “local rule” to make certain tournament participants use dialed-down equipment without the admission that the game may, in fact, need bi-furcated rules.
Any way you spin this, it is all about who controls the game. Think about who really comprises the USGA and R&A. Sure, there are individuals who unselfishly give their time for the betterment of the game in their communities; but mostly, they are made up (and controlled) by powerful golf clubs. These clubs are embarrassed that the best players in the world are making their game and courses look easy. They are afraid that the professional game will leave them and find non-traditional venues to host their events.
In summary… they are covering their own assets.
So, if I was in charge of the USGA and R&A, I would stop worrying about what the “elite” golfer does and how that might “ruin” your game. They don’t play the same game you do anymore and it’s time you got used to it. Let the professional game be run by professionals as many like Phil Mickelson have suggested.
And stop telling the consumers of the game that the USGA and R&A know what is best for us.