Somehow, we seem to have evolved into believing that driving the ball a long way is a “right” and needs to be protected. Yes, it is a skill developed from hard work on the range and being blessed with the ability to coordinate all the moving parts. This skill combined with accuracy is one of many – not the only skill — which defines a good golfer.
As I recalled in Just Hit It, Jack Nicklaus once told me that golfers today are hitting the ball too far and something must be done about it. Jack has a selectively short memory, which I had to point out to him about 18 years ago, reminding him that he won the long drive contest in 1963 with a distance of 341 yards. He insisted that it was not 341 yards but 341-yards and 17-inches. This, using a steel-shafted persimmon 42.625 inch driver and a balata covered wound ball.
About six days later his drive on the first hole of the final round of the PGA Championship he estimated to be 350 yards. He went on to win.
Yes, today’s equipment has made the game a little easier for the average golfer as well as the tour professional. The USGA, by permitting spring like effect in clubs combined with the multi-layered ball, and the optimization of launch conditions – now maxed-out — gave the tour players about 28 – 30 yards free. So, a reborn Jack would be right up there with the longest drivers on tour and the subject of his own concern.
Not only is Jack the greatest golfer the game has seen, but if he had used a better ball in his prime — based on rigorous golf ball tests I conducted — I am confident in saying that he would have won several more majors.
We need to be reminded that it is not the equipment that is affecting the TV ratings nor the general decline in participation but other factors which need to be seriously studied as a whole, not in bits and pieces, if there is any hope to reverse the trend.
What are your thoughts about course length for the majors? Did you enjoy this year’s U.S. Open? Is distance sacrosanct? Please reply below to share your thoughts.