For the Love of Golf, Bring in the Clowns
Watching the Twitter airwaves during the last year regarding the distance debate has been mildly aggravating.
The basis for most opinions espoused by ‘progressives’ is the game has never been in a better place and, stopping the clock or production line of equipment innovation is akin to denying science in any form.
The only sensible suggestion thus far has been bifurcation.
A division between the amateur game and the professional game (this is true of equipment anyway. Do you think PGA Tour players screw the same heads you find at Dick’s into their shafts as you? No.) makes sense from the first distinction upwards, which is:
‘They are professionals playing for money with equipment that should reflect their talent – amateurs do not play for money and should use equipment that increases enjoyment and the value of the sport’
This distinction is important.
The professional has the time and the single-minded dedication to develop skills that make the probability of successful shot making high.
The non-full time amateur moves from week to week patching up glaring faults without access to 24/7 consultants who refine their mental, technical and physical assets.
The amateur world is full of egoic players with shafts too stiff, lofts too depleted and heads too thin and soft. They play badly and they’re miserable. Bifurcation would help them, even if they didn’t damn well want it.
So, Here’s the Reason
When you watch a movie, you don’t fast forward to see what happens at the end; you watch the drama unfold.
When you listen to a Beethoven symphony, you don’t fast forward to the last clashing sounds of a Bbmaj7th, no, you ride the climax to that note.
When you read a book, you don’t skip the plot to learn the reveal on the last page.
The reason why we enjoy the activities above and many others, is found in the unpredictability of the journey.
Watching golf is no different.
The unpredictability of Jack winning in 86. The showcasing of Tiger in 97. The Ryder Cup of 1985. The two-time collapse of Greg Norman in the 1990 Open and the 96 Masters…. etc. I could go on and on.
The hero, using their skills with equipment that would ruthlessly expose a technical or mental failing. But they don’t, they endure and they win on their own merit.
But you waited didn’t you. You watched and waited with anticipation that the relationship between equipment and player could break down. With compelling TV, it does.
Jean van de Velde 99, Doug Sanders 70, Seve 86, Molinari 2019, Kite and Lyle 86, Palmer 61 were all fascinating dramas where equipment didn’t render the environment impotent.
In the examples of Molinari, Kite and Lyle, you also had the fly trap of a cunning 155-yard par three and not the arid landscape of a 230-yard hole requesting a rescue club to a benign 25 feet.
When equipment merely reflects and not amplifies a player’s skill level, unpredictability is higher and probability essentially lower.
Probability in golf or any other sport for that matter is not your friend from a sports fan perspective or from the networks point of view.
As equipment continues to evolve, golf courses become more defenseless and the professionals who play them, akin to bullies, wield equipment that stabilizes them when nerves and equipment should rightfully unravel them.
‘Like bringing a knife to a gunfight’ Sir Sean Connery said in The Untouchables.
For the golf course, it’s become increasingly: ‘A gun to a knife fight’.
There are less nerves, there are less faux pas and there are less drama’s seen on our screens and mark my words, this will be a problem.
I’m in the business of training world class golfers and champions who I want to see hit 14 fairways and 18 greens a round. That’s my business.
But the stark reality is, what appeals to my curiosity in professional golf, the thing that wants me to lean in and take a look as a fan, is the possibility of drama and not predictiveness.
Don’t miss the point about the equipment debate. It’s not about suffocating innovation, it’s about letting the drama of a sporting event breath. This is achieved when equipment reflects the player and not surpass them.
Forget the distance debate – have the equipment debate. It asks better questions.
For the love of golf, bring in the clowns.
Merry Christmas everybody.