Why do golf’s ruling bodies keep making the game more difficult?

by   |   November 29, 2012
frustrated golfer

Golf is one of the most difficult games on the planet. So why is it that golf’s ruling bodies, the USGA and R&A, continue to establish new rules that make the game more difficult?

The argument is often made that we need to protect the integrity of the game. If that is the case, we need to all immediately go back to using all wooden clubs and feathery golf balls. And let’s go back to letting sheep maintain our golf courses, too.

Innovation is good for the game. Lower scores are more entertaining at the professional level, and much more fun for the amateur golfer. They bring more fans, more revenue, more players and a generally healthier industry.

Let’s look at the last three major decisions with respect to the rules of golf:

  • Limiting the spring-like effect (COR) of drivers

Limiting the coefficient of restitution (COR) in a driver limits the distance that golfers will hit a golf ball. Longer drives bring crowds to PGA Tour events. Bubba Watson is one of the hottest players on the PGA Tour and John Daly is still popular for this very reason.  Amateur players benefit from hitting shorter clubs into every hole with a hotter driver.

  • Dulling grooves in wedges and irons

Controlling a groove’s volume and sharpness limits the amount of backspin that can be generated, particularly out of lies in the rough. This will lessen the ability of golfers to hold greens, and depending on conditions it can lead to higher scores — players will have to either pitch or chip instead of putt.

Again, lower scores lead to a more entertaining product and less enjoyment at the amateur level. If you look at scoring at the highest level, one could argue that this ruling really hasn’t affected touring pros – if it has, the changes are minimal. Amateur golfers were the one who lost in this scenario, especially the ones who like to play by the same rules as the pros and were forced to buy new wedges.

  • Anchoring of the putter

Anchoring the putter will allow some players to get more enjoyment out of the game, and for some it will allow them to play at a higher level. Some use the technique to escape the yips, while others use anchoring for health reasons. Regardless of why a player decides to use an anchoring technique, it will immediately make the game more difficult for some by not allowing all to give the technique a try.

The bottom line is that the governing bodies should not be focusing on making the game more difficult for the less than 1 percent of the golfing population that make a living playing the game. They should allow innovation to make the game more fun for us all.  Making the game more fun for most of us will also allow for a more entertaining product with lower scores. If you want to protect par in your championships, don’t make the game more difficult by changing the rules and stifling innovation. Make the rough higher, the fairways narrower and greens smaller in your course setups. Yes, I’m talking to you Mike Davis.

Click here for more discussion in the “Golf Talk” forum. 

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10 Comments

  1. butch

    December 1, 2012 at 8:41 am

    For whatever it is worth I don’t think any of these “improvements” made the game any easier for the average golfer. The average golfer can’t compress the spring on a high COR driver, doesn’t hit the ball cleanly enough in the rough to benefit from square grooves and in my group of golfers I have not seen anyone improve their putting stats from using a long putter. So the real game that is being “protected” is the professional game and very high level (future pros) amateur golf game.

    But having said that the point is well taken that we don’t want to go back to wooden clubs and feather balls. I don’t even want to go back to wooden headed, steel shafted driver. So advancing technology has kept some of us in the game by giving us a chance to play well.

  2. mpierce

    November 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Poorly thought out article…written to stir the kettle. Why not just keeping letting manufacturers make the equipment hit it farther, make the ball go longer and keep obsoleting more and more great courses? The game can always benefit from developers building more courses on bigger parcels of land that go bankrupt or existing courses can always find more land. Oversized drivers, long distance balls and anchoring the putter should have been banned on day one. They stopped Sam Snead from putting side saddle and deemed the stroke illegal. 13 clubs you swing and one you don’t. I think it is time for the governing bodies to govern by simplifying and purifying the rules. The threat of litigation from manufacturers and players has reduced ability to act decisively for the good of the game!

  3. stu

    November 30, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Its a game of skill, talent, control of spin, flight, distance…………..get a grip.
    Anchoring is not part of the game, its not a swing, not like the game was intended to be played.
    The only part of your body to touch the club should be your hands, two points. Not your chin and two hands, not your belly and two hands which are three points. The r and a and the pgatour should have also banned Kuchars grip also.
    Play a different sport if you cant stick to the rules

    • Scott

      November 30, 2012 at 11:35 pm

      Putters have been anchored for over 100 years. Stu, you have some anger issues you need worked out.

      • stu

        December 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

        you are right Scott, I do have anger issues, only with those who dont care about the values of the game. Think about the title “why do they keep making the game harder”…going by the way that idiot thinks we should play every hole with driver then lob wedge. Technology has made golf as easy as its ever been, but rather than work on their game or get some lessons, these bozos think they can just buy the latest driver and it will solve everything.
        We have a generation that have not hit and cannot hit 2,3, 4 or 5 irons because they would rather hit a hybrid!!!
        same with the long putters!!
        Those Bodies are just preserving the game.

        • Scott

          December 3, 2012 at 1:33 am

          I look forward to seeing you play some day with your hickory shafts and gutta-percha balls. Oh, and shoot your 130 score. However, I agree that people need to spend more money on lessons than equipment and they should focus on a quicker pace of play, while they are at it. See, these are two issues that should be addressed before worrying about long putters (or hybrids). Almost every sport has specialized equipment for different situations e.g. catcher’s mitt in baseball, or a kicker in football, goalie equipment in hockey, (not really a sport but NASCAR tunes each car differently for each track – and the cars are hardly “stock”). If they allow “claw” grips why not anchoring? As soon as I see players clear their hips and have a full shoulder turn on the putting green, I will agree with those who like the ban of the long putter. The proposed ban is very inconsistent and a horrible ruling. Look for the USGA and R&A to see the error of their ways and overturn the ruling during the 90 day review period.

          • stu

            December 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm

            Scott , the only reason I may shoot 130, is because the length of courses we have today as a direct result of the technology. I’ll play the old gear , on an old course length , no probs. There will be no 130.!
            I play a European handicap system, single figure golfer, and all through practice and effort.
            Same mizuno mp-33 irons for the last 8/9 years.
            2 iron and all, no hybrids.
            My rant was not for the sake of nothing. The article is poorly thought out. I stand by my point that it has never been easier to play the game because of the equipment.
            As for the specialized equipment, I have no probs with any of them, as long as its with a swing and in keeping with the game. Two hands only on the club no matter what the length and as long as the stance and stroke are within the rules. And you are right the rule is a little vague, (I would rather they banned Kuchars stroke too), but it is a step in the right direction, for the good of the sport. The main bone of contention for me is that they were irresponsible to have left it this long. I feel for the likes of Tom Kite and Bernhard Langer who have been using it for prob 20 yrs.
            Next step is the ball, change how far the ball travels and watch the shot makers rise to the top. Its been fun and thanks for taking the time to comment. If you ever come to Ireland, bring the hickory and persimmon and we’ll play a few……

  4. stu

    November 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Stop whining,
    Why cant we change balls from distance balls for your drive and to a soft ball for wedges and putts.
    Why cant we have 20+ clubs in the bag.
    Why cant we tee it up in the fairway too or have placing all year round.
    Why cant we have mulligans and gimmies in a comp.
    Stop whining, we have titanium drivers, balls that dont spin off the driver but dont roll away on approach shots, hybrids, lighter shafts, adjustable clubs, basically every imaginable technology to make the game easy and you complain about making the game hard?

  5. Eric

    November 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Forget integrity of the game.

    Let’s focus on what makes this game fun- it’s the challenge.

    If you want easy, go tee off the ladies tee.

    If you want a rewarding round of golf, find the appropriate tee for your driving distance, and then play.

    Do the best you can with the equipment you have. If you want to shoot lower, find someone better than you, and let him hit the shot for you. It’s called a scramble – then you can have “fun”. If you want true enjoyment, then simply play well.

  6. alexander park

    November 29, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    amen

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