A case for a different kind of bifurcation
As most you know, I am a full time teaching professional and regularly write about instruction. But after watching the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this weekend, I couldn’t help but think of the case some are making for bifurcation.
When golfers watch an event like the AT&T at Pebble Beach, the most celebrated pro-am in the world, they can clearly see the differences between amateur and professional golfers. There was one instance I saw where, because of the difference in the front and back tees, a drive of the pro and amateur came to rest very near each other. From there, the pro hit a 7 iron while the amateur was stuck with a 5 wood. In another case, the professional drove the ball 60 yards past his amateur partner who was a 7 handicap.
The pros are clearly playing a different game — no question about that. So the bifurcation debate, which is mostly about potential changes to the golf ball, rages on. Should the pros play a shorter-flying golf ball than amateurs to protect par and keep classic courses from becoming obsolete? Many say yes, and the fact that courses like Merion don’t play as tough as they used to for professionals makes me want to agree with them. But I’d like to offer a different strategy: let’s make the golf ball and the clubs that amateurs play more lively.
Let’s take 0.83 COR limit off for the amatuers, and let’s make a golf ball that flies further. We know we have the technology to do this, so let’s open it up. I mean, we have aluminum bats in baseball. We just don’t let the best baseball players in the world use them. Sound familiar?
With hot golf balls and hot drivers, the sky is the limit for how much fun golfers can have. Wouldn’t it be fun for the 240 hitter to hit it 280, maybe 300 yards, just to see how the pros play the course? Sure, 15 handicaps will still struggle with direction and distance control, but it seems we might interest a LOT of people in playing the game when they have the chance to reach a par 5 in two.
The other two options are not so good:
- Rolling back the distance the ball flies for pros, which does nothing to enhance the amateur game, or
- Accepting that the pros are the only ones who can play the course the way they do. After all, the pros already play a course that is maybe 500 yards longer, isn’t that enough?
I’m not so sure it is enough. We know the game is much less appealing when we ask most golfers to play shorter courses, but perhaps they equipment itself would allow for this to happen.
Golf needs more players. To do this, the game has to be more fun. I, for one, would like to see a golf ball and a driver that goes as far as is technologically possible. This is a win/win situation. As a teaching pro, one of my responsibilities is growing the game. I can think of no way better way to do that than to giving the average golfer more distance. At the same time, manufacturers would probably sell more balls and drivers each year since they would be free to make clubs that significantly boosted performance. We all would win.
Of course the State Golf associations, the local arms of the USGA and other governing bodies can make whatever rules they want for state, regional or national competitions. I can tell you from years of experience, however, that it is difficult to get non-competitive players to move up to the front tees when their group plays “the tips.” So let’s allow everyone to go back there and still have reasonable length approach shots into the green.