Periodically, which seems to be early in the year when manufacturers release their new equipment, there is an outcry around professional golf that the ball is going too far. Maybe it has to do with the constant claims from the manufacturers that EVERY aspect of their equipment is new and improved, like never before. BALL SPEED serves its purpose as a perfect “catch phrase.”

First of all, no manufacturer will ever slow down in their pursuit of excellence. If equipment can be made better, then it will be the mission statement of any manufacturing business, not just golf equipment. And now AI (artificial intelligence) lends its imaginary hand to further thicken the plot. Am I the only person who see’s an irony in “artificial intelligence?”

I have read enough Shakespeare to expect the wisdom of the fool. At this point, I have come to believe the “game improvement clubs” just provide a gray area, where clarity is essential to lasting improvement. I/we don’t want a club that I can’t feel where the ball struck the clubface. I do not want a club that won’t allow me to curve the ball if I need to. Bringing a generic aspect to our game is not a step in the right direction.

I have certainly tried it. You can be sure, if I feel qualified to report on some aspect of failure, it is because I experienced it first and became well-qualified. It may seem like a genius move but, in retrospect, I just blew my foot off, again. That explains my foray into game improvement clubs.

But there are two distinctly different groups of golfers. The vast majority, people who will never play professional golf and therefore play for FUN, is who golf equipment, and all its advances, is truly designed for. The prospect of more distance or “forgiveness” is too good to pass up. These golfers deserve to make the revolving door of equipment change a part of their fun.

It has long been proposed that the professionals play a uniform golf ball. Jack Nicklaus proposed this idea in the late 1980’s. Just about every sport that uses a ball, has a standard that is used in competition. Not golf, obviously. In fact, each company that produces a ball, claims it to be better than the others.

I know for a fact the changing equipment can be catastrophic for a professional golf career. And that includes the golf ball. You hear people say that Greg Norman would have had many more victories, and majors, if he just would have used a ball that spun less. Corey Pavin was a shot-making virtuoso until he accepted a huge endorsement to play different equipment. Think of the ego of the tour pro. “Heck, I can play with anything. If they want to give me millions, I will take their money.” 

When the pursuit of distance is sweetened by the smell of millions of dollars, the gunslinger is going to take the money. He sees it as a classic WIN-WIN.

Last week at Riviera the conditions became very hard, aided by high winds and firm, quick greens. It made for a very enjoyable tournament.

In our book I spoke about the distance debate and how I believed it should be handled. There is no sense to hope for things that will never happen. Equipment will get better and athletes will get stronger. Expect advancements in instruction as well. 

The PGA tour can create any product they want, to a degree. 

On any given day, on even the hardest golf course imaginable, a tour pro can shoot 66. That day he won’t miss a shot, will make almost every putt and won’t make a single mistake. That is why tournaments are 4 rounds. You notice how many times a player follows a 62 with a 73. Whether it is the law of averages or Murphy’s law or just Karma, it happens over and over.

If the PGA tour forced decision making, by growing high rough, the game would change quickly. If a player knows, while standing on the tee, that if they don’t put this tee shot in the fairway, they have little chance of making par, then the game changes quickly. The ability to fall into a comfort zone becomes harder and harder. Momentum plays much less of a factor.

A ball in the rough makes the decision for you. Your short game then becomes even more of a premium. Tournament golf now becomes exhausting both physically and mentally. 

True strength now rises to the top. Your game plan will become- swing hard at the longest club in your bag that you are confident you can hit the fairway.

Long, straight driving will still be rewarded. As it should always be. But not by hitting it miles into the rough, but by managing the course with an array of clubs that are appropriate to each hole.

I called the PGA tournament golf a “product” because the players do not want this type of golf. The “examination” is to let the horses run, the majority of events, and tie their hands a little bit in the events that seem to define the careers of the best players. People still talk about the 63 Johnny Miller shot the last day of the US Open at Oakmont in 1973 because the course was so hard. It has defined his career (along with his British Open win.) Nobody really cares of all the 62’s and 63’s he shot in the desert events when he shot 27 under par and dominated the field. 

If the rough was really a deterrent, the average driving distance would have to go down, or the bombers would disappear from the leader board. 

Over the course of time, the level of play would go up, as the players would be forced to sharpen all their skills. In my opinion, we are now seeing a gradual mediocrity brought about by the type of test given each week on tour. It shows up in Ryder Cups and events where pressure is the highest.

Again, though, does it help to wish for things that will never happen? Hoping for a course each week, with teeth that will bite, probably will not happen. And to us, the courses they play look very hard. But for elite level players, they can get used to anything, especially if they see the same thing over and over.

The distance debate will always be there. But the outcry could be all but eliminated with the right kind of course conditions. 

So back to the wisdom of the fool, in the literary sense. A professional golfer would like to win majors, the events people take note of. He works hard on his strength level, until he can swing a golf club 125 miles an hour. He patterns himself after those he watches on TV. He jumps at the chance to try every new piece of equipment that a company rep puts in front of him. On a local level he can shoot low on courses he plays a lot. He dominates them and cuts every corner.

Food is a nutritional masterpiece, with a complete balanced diet. 

This plan makes best use of everything and then ADDS AI to the program. Again, artificial intelligence makes a visit on the scene. 

We know so much about everything these days. But that is how this becomes a cautionary tale.

Even with a clear view of how the game is played, the player doesn’t see how the “game” is played. So, despite his best efforts to use distance as his strength, he never got closer to winning the events he dreamed about and we all remember. 

This video is an illustration of how we can use our shadow to learn . It is a ready made video camera. You can watch for movement in your head and what causes it. Also, we can check shoulder turn and if there is symmetry on both sides of our golf swing.

This video and illustrations show how  to set up a practice station on a mat. This time of year, we can take advantage of the same perfect lie and focus on limiting our head movement.

About Me

Michael Wolf, Certified Master Teaching Professional, has been playing golf for 46 years and teaching professionally for over 34 years. He has given over 30,000 golf lessons. Author of The Driven Golfer: Building Your Method For Scratch Golf. Harvey Penick Award Winner- 2016 (Top Instructor U.S./World Golf Teachers Federation)

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