Changes in Golf
Golf is a game of friendly competition for the majority of golfers. It must be a fun activity; otherwise golfers will choose another way to spend their time and money. The resurgence in golf will be in recreational play. The impending changes are not a threat to the USGA and R&A grand tradition of golf – they are a necessity.
The history of golf is the history of change. The evolution of golf is one of the strongest traditions of the game. Virtually everything in golf has evolved over time. Golf started with a wooden ball and club and has evolved into today’s high tech equipment made with space-age materials. The number of rules has almost tripled. The average winning score for The Open has dropped nearly 20 strokes per 18 holes over time. Golfer attire has continually evolved. Ben Hogan’s 1950 US Open win was worth $4,000; today’s winner gets $1,440,000. The golf handicap system has improved and now the USGA system includes a Course Rating™ and Slope Rating™. Caddies are a rare sight these days, while laser-range finders are not. Electric golf carts have replaced walking on most courses. In the earliest days of golf, the courses were “discovered” in locations that had the right topography and grass conditions. Now courses are designed and built in such “undiscoverable locations” as deserts.
One thing that hasn’t changed over time is the recreational golfer’s desire to have fun. Golf is still a game that is played in a beautiful setting and enjoyed with friends and family. Unfortunately, a few of the changes in golf have taken some of the fun out of the game and that is, in part, why enrollment is declining. The courses have gotten considerably longer, greens are faster and there are more hazards to deal with. Many courses have become so difficult for recreational golfers that a formal program was created to encourage golfers to play the forward tees so they have a better chance of reaching the green in regulation – Tee it Forward, which is a good thing. The direction course design has taken needs some correction.
Another positive development is the creation of USRGA Rules of Golf which reflect and validate how recreational golf has been played for many years. The USRGA rules do not place performance limits on any equipment. Wedges with deep square grooves that enable a golfer to more easily stop the ball on the green are allowed. Drivers with a high coefficient of restitution that deliver longer drivers are allowed. Anchoring a long putter or any other club is allowed. Golf balls that are designed to be longer and correct hooks & slices are allowed. Mulligans and gimme putts are allowed by the USRGA rules, as they have long been part of the tradition of recreational golf. With the right rules and equipment technology, the game is easier to learn and more fun to play. With these changes, a recreational golfer can easily cut 5-15 strokes from his or her game and, more importantly, drastically reduce frustration levels, speed up play and have a lot more fun.
Change in golf will continue… for the better.
David Felker – reprinted from Asia Golf Monthly, July 2014