Technology hurting grand game of golf

Technology and time has taken its toll on the grand game of golf. Golf manufacturers have designed today’s equipment and golf balls to make older courses obsolete.

Touring professional would only drive the ball 220-230 yards in the early 1980s, but now pros and some amateurs have broken the 300 yard barrier. Increasing the difficulty of the course is not economically feasible. So lets venture into some areas of the game that can be changed with minimal dollars.

One area is returning to the older style golf ball. The smaller version is mandated on the European Tour today. It decreases the distance and increases the spin on the ball. This retains the viability of the older links courses. Newly designed links are challenged not by distance but the golfer’s ability to craft shots. Using this design on American soil would bring back the majestic courses no longer used by the PGA Tour. Merion Golf Club was the host of the 2013 U.S. Open. It is short, tight and difficult to navigate by other course standards, but the winning score was 1-over par shot by winner Justin Rose.

The clubs used by top professionals creates launch angles into the stratosphere. Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and a host of others are averaging more than 305 yards per drive this year. Technology has developed ways to position weight, head-angle, draw-spin and slice-spin on the driver to maximize a golfer’s power. Cutting doglegs and flying fairway bunkers was a deterrent but now they are mere whim. Parity is the answer to this issue. Manufacturers should follow one design set fourth by the United States Golf Association. The USGA could mandated a distance variable that could be exceeded and spin ratio that must be maintained. These factors would control the distance a top professional or advance amateur hits the ball.

The grand ole game once was a realm for the rich, but now it is a place for kids to learn. Jack Nicklaus is known for many facets of the game, but he has stated “the game needs to be reeled in or the old courses will become obsolete.” The game has become too expensive, too long to play and difficult courses are not the future. Sometimes it is better to learn and relive from the past to see a brighter path. Innovation is the wave, but it has capsized the game of golf.

* CENTURY-OLD: The Old White Course at the Greenbrier Resort is the home of the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic in recent years but it has a rich history. The 100th year anniversary of the course will be celebrated Saturday. Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice, PGA Tour officials and others will be on hand to recognize the Charles Blair MacDonald-designed course. The Old White first opened in 1914. Justice will strike the ceremonial first ball from the first tee at 11:30 a.m. He’ll be using an historical driver and replica ball from the 1914 era.

* TOUCHING TRIBUTE: One of the stories to come out of Masters week was the tidbit on Tom Watson leaving an egg salad sandwich at the 13th tee during Thursday’s first round in memory of Bruce Edwards, Watson’s former longtime caddie who died on the eve of the Masters 10 years ago. Edwards loved the egg salad sandwiches served at the Masters, and always ate one on the 13th tee. So for most of the years since Edwards’s death, Watson has left one on the tee box, in memory of his friend.

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