This may be dreaming the impossible dream, but golf’s governing bodies are going to have to dispose of their obsession with tour players.
It can be done.
After all, talk about reeling in the distance of golf balls has reached a fever pitch and it may well happen when in the not-too-distant past, that seemed like a good idea that always seemed to run out of steam, only to be revived again at a later date.
This time around, everybody from Tiger Woods to Jack Nicklaus to Gary Player to USGA executive director Mike Davis are chiming in and while the argument could be made that that’s nothing new, there seems to be a sense of purpose to the discussion this time around.
At least, that’s what the proponents of limiting the golf ball are hoping for and there are few who would argue, but getting it done is always the biggest obstacle. There is no longer distance than between theory and reality, so commitment is critical.
If this is, indeed, the time to go beyond talk just being cheap, there needs to be serious discussion, planning and the willingness to break through golf’s censorship of that nasty word “bifurcation.”
As Bridgestone Golf president and CEO Angel Ilagan pointed out recently, tour players represent a very small percentage of players, so does everyone need to pay the price, even if they’re not getting close to the distance as the bombers on the PGA Tour?
Logic would say no, especially in a game that can use all the participation possible these days, but it’s a game that has treated bifurcation as a four-letter word in previous equipment debates about clubs. Do the powers-that-be really want to reel in distance for the people struggling to break 100, or even those who play, and belong, in club championships?
Those aren’t the people causing the problem, but golf in the past has traditionally gone with one-size-fits-all solutions and it will be tempting to do it again in the ball debate considering the potential landmines ahead.
A reined-in golf ball should be limited to professional tours, but which tours? Should it strictly be the PGA and European Tours or should it apply to development tours, as well, and where does the LPGA Tour and other women’s circuits fit in?
Expect debate on those questions.
Should high-level amateur events also be using a “tour” ball if it’s reined in? As it is with women’s golf, there will be big hitters, but are these players generally part of the problem, or should they be allowed to continue using what’s already in their bags?
How far do you take it and at what point have you gone from trying to solve a problem to taking the easy way out by forcing others who aren’t the problem to pay the price?
How far you take it will determine the response of golf ball manufacturers who have a big stake in this debate. Even if it’s just a tour ball, some might wonder how you use a marquee player to promote a ball when everybody knows he’s using a different ball than the one they’re using.
Then again, the clubs the marquee players are using are usually to their own specs, making them different from the ones they promote, and the general public still buys into it.
The point is that this debate is still in its beginning stages and, along the way, there are potential landmines that would make going for a one-size-fits-all solution the easy way out.
However, the number of bombers who they’re trying to rein in are a small percentage of those who play the game and do doing that would be a mistake.