Off the Tee – Going the Distance

Increased Distance Causing Problems – but for Whom?

 

They just won’t let me have it my way, and no good deed goes unpunished. I bought an electric car to avoid paying gas, so I’ll have to pay it as a road tax instead. So goes doing the right thing. But now, they’re going to put the kibosh on my golf game. I have worked my whole life to develop some distance off the tee, and for an old guy, I’ve done pretty well. Now, the USGA and R&A are telling me that distance has gone far enough, and makes the game unsustainable. Who are they talking about?

It starts with the pro game, the elite game. They hit it too far now. The average male pro hits it 286 yards, courtesy of advanced ball and club technology. Course operators are scrambling for a way to maximize real estate to keep the game hard. Commentators tell us, though, that the recreational player is involved. I can understand that for courses that double as tour venues. However, my childhood courses are relatively unchanged, and I can deal with the familiar distance of each hole.

The rubber core ball is a major culprit, but so what? Limit the pros any way you like, so long as they are limited equally – but leave me alone. If I were thirty, I’d say, “Go ahead. Golf is based on judgment, skill, and ability,” just like the book says. So, increase the distance or limit mine, and I’ll learn to play the game better.” For a senior citizen whose boom it out there days are over, I say “Get off my fairway. I don’t wish to be involved.”

There is some talk of local rules that limit distance, less carry on the ball, less roll. Great – the next time a PGA event comes calling, let’s do that. But what do you care if I can still reach a par 5 in two on a rare occasion? Why do I need to be stopped, and what do you mean by unsustainable? Granted, new courses are coming up with absurd distances, but give me tee locations that are workable. I’m not playing the Open this year. I won’t bother anyone, just go home and say “Guess what I shot?”

How about making extra trouble for those guys who can shave off the dog leg, or sail over the bunkers that used to plague the normal hitter. Grow the rough a little, make that tree bigger, upgrade the difficulty of the green, add water, but don’t make me do something I can no longer do. I remember the day when everyone was afraid that the distance boom would overwhelm old courses. So build new championship tees out in the cornfield. For me, I’m still competing against the dimensions into which I was born. I’m trying to excel, despite diminishing physique, by improving the game.

Incidentally, since we’re talking about not being able to sustain the game, what is it going to do to the club and ball makers that are coming out with one amazing invention after another? For the recreational player, that is part of the aspiration, and part of the fun. Pros and weekenders are going to have to be addressed separately. Fix the pro distance problem through increased or harder real estate, but allow the rest of us to continue competing as best we can among ourselves.

Many of the newer courses feature an extra thousand yards from the ones built a century ago. That’s around fifty yards per hole. For some of us, that’s an extra club or two, or an extra shot. If the business of pro golf needs reining in, go for it. While you’re at it, find a way to ensure that those of my age are left alone

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