What should we do?
The touring professionals around the world are making a mockery of the game. The best players are reducing some of the most revered courses to a pile of short iron statistics.
This isn’t recent news.
This barrage began with the advent of graphite shafts some 35 years ago and catapulted another few giant steps forward when bred with the modern golf ball at the beginning of the 21st century. That was the time for bifurcation or a separate set of rules for professional players differing from those played by the average player.
Recently, Tiger Woods stated his position supporting a roll back in distance and bifurcation. I guess with his current availability of spare time, he discovered a controversy that has been circulating for close to four decades.
Let’s face it, there will not be a roll back and there will not be a new set of rules for professionals.
Millions of dollars have been spent over the past 20 years building new courses at longer yardages to accommodate the increased distances. Older courses have extended their holes, purchased additional property, redesigned holes, relocated buildings and planted trees all in the name of protecting their scorecards.
A rule change reducing yardage would infuriate these people. In fact, they might even have grounds for a lawsuit against the R&A and/or the USGA. The only roll back will occur at Walmart.
Bifurcation is not going to happen either. People already head to the back tees simply to hit a shot from the same place Jordan Spieth played from. They want to attempt the same challenge Dustin Johnson had during the tournament week.
For example: take the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Ask every person if they could play all 17 holes except 17, or only play one hole (# 17). In my opinion at least half would say, Let me try 17.’
The average player wants to play the same game the pros play. They want the same equipment, the same grass, the same sand and the same rules.
No other sport has a rule book for professionals and a second book for the average player. I admit there are certain rules and regulations set down to protect lesser skilled-players, but not a completely different set of rules. Why should it happen for golf?
The problem created by professional play that has had an adverse effect on the average golfer isn’t in the distance the ball travels. It’s in the thought that the only way to offset distance is by adding length to the golf course.
Two other complicated issues are that the modern ball flies straighter and the top players are not only driving the ball further, they are hitting their irons shots further. Blending all ingredients together is giving the top players a perfect storm to lower scores. It has not transferred into a lowering of the score shot by the average player.
Bifurcation is not the answer. Reining in distance is not the answer. That horse is already out of the barn.
What we have is a classic case of the famous children’s story about the Emperor’s new clothes. Everyone could plainly see the Emperor had paid a lot of money for his suit of invisible clothes, but he wasn’t wearing anything.
Everyone can see the ruling bodies have fumbled the ball by not stopping technology from changing the game before things got out of hand and nobody wants to do anything for fear of making things worse.
The R&A and/or the USGA are not going to roll back yardages and face the issues it would cause and the average person wants to play the same game as the pros. So what is the answer?
First, if the pros are finding ways to shoot lower scores through longer distances, okay then. Let them shoot 54. Who cares? Golf course owners and management needn’t protect their scorecards. Leave courses at their current lengths and let anyone shoot as low as they can.
Next, allow the average player to play the same course and the same rules anytime they wish. They paid for it so let them do it.
Third, establish a new form of golf called “Gawlf.” The game would be played by applying the same rules as golf, but it comes with different equipment restrictions, not in design or manufacturing, but in selection.
The ball would stay the same in shape, size, design and distance, but a player can only carry the equivalent of three hybrid as the driving club. All play would be from a forward set of tees located to provide an overall course length of 5000 yards, which already exists at most clubs.
There would be a maximum limit of nine clubs a player could use. A player may only carry one club with a loft of more than 48 degrees meaning the PW would be 48 and a player can carry any loft on his/her SW, but no clubs in between the PW and the SW.
Gawlf would be a game that would regenerate many of the skills long passed by technology, but could be played on the same course golf is played. Golfers could play golf and Gawlfers could play gawlf.
Other sports have a similar concept. Downhill skiers share the slopes with snow boarders, for example. Why can’t golfers share with gawlfers?
Everyone wants to redesign the game of golf, a wonderful game that allowed technology to change it, making many of the old time attributes and attractiveness disappear.
Bump and run shots would return, the need to position shots to avoid bunkers would return and creating angles to attack pins would return.
People talk about growing the game by adding more fun, playing shorter courses to speed up the time of play and walking more for health reasons. Since caddies are obsolete, people ride carts to help carry a heavy bag of clubs. Gawlfers would have a lighter burden and a shorter course.
We keep trying all kinds of non-golf oriented uses to help fill unused starting times. Why not fill them with gawlfers?