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.