Can we all just get along and play golf by the same rules?
HOUSTON – The big issue in golf lately has been the proliferation of the belly putter and how many PGA Tour players seem to be thriving with what some are calling an unfair advantage. Even Phil Mickelson’s using one right now, which begs the question: should it be legal?
We’ve heard this argument before, when it comes to balls and golf equipment. Elite players are making courses obsolete, blah, blah, and blah.
So do golf’s governing bodies need to step in and take away the belly putter and dial back the equipment? The thoughts of former USGA Executive Director David Fay might surprise you. At a dinner here in Houston this week, he basically said no, and had some pretty good reasons.
Stepping aside from the putter issue, yes, scaling back the golf ball and having players use a more conservative driver (say 250cc) would mean they might not have to keep lengthening courses, but it could also create other problems.
First of all, good amateur players are going to want to measure their skills against the pros. So if we scale back equipment, they’re going to want to play that equipment as well. How far will that trickle down?
Secondly, golf is a game steeped in history. Do we put an asterisk next to the scores and records of tournaments after we scale back equipment. Would the last 20 years be known as the “Live Ball Era"?
And does the fact that tour players hit the ball so far and score so low hurt the game? In fact, if you scaled back equipment, “would more people start watching golf?” Fay asks. “Would more people start playing golf?”
“I don’t think so,” he said.
So what would be the point? So a handful of golf courses, most notably Augusta National, wouldn’t feel compelled to add more length. So what if the pros are tearing it up? They’re just that good, and spectators and viewers, deep down, really like that.
Besides, when it comes to the majors, especially the U.S. Open, it’s amazing what tight fairways, high rough and firm, fast conditions can do to scores.
The game is fine. Let’s just leave it alone. And let’s all play by the same rules.
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