It's not just about limiting the clubs, golf will have to keep its eye on the ball
Thursday 08 May 2008
When it comes to technology even Formula One has struggled to keep up with the advances in golf. It is fair to say the equipment now would be unrecognisable to the pioneers who invented the game in the 1500s. Indeed, it would be unrecognisable to many players from the 1980s.
Yet while the cricketing authorities have moved to limit the effects of the new supercharged handles, the golfing bigwigs have a battle on a new front: balls. And it is one they are, to be frank, ballsing up at the moment.
That may just be because the Royal and Ancient and the US Golfing Association, the game's two governing bodies, took their eye off the ball in their desire to rein back on the mammoth drivers that flooded the market in the Eighties. First the shafts had changed from hickory to steel to graphite, and then some bright spark decided the heads of the "woods" should be metal as well. Titanium became the favoured material and, powered by the graphite shafts, obviously lighter and allowing for quicker head speed, driving distances started to leap dramatically.
They were not only longer as, with these bigger heads came bigger sweet spots and so, almost overnight, inveterate slicers and hookers could find the fairways. With the old courses suddenly starting to look ever so short to the grip-it-and-hit-it brigade, led by John Daly, the powers that be felt they had to act and did so by limiting the head sizes and also the spring-like effect quaintly known as "coefficient of restitution". They did give the world some time to chuck away their illegal hot models, but from 1 January, 2008 that was it. Bins at golf clubs were full of the damned things at the turn of the year.
So why was there no great outcry about all those yards lost and those hooks rediscovered? One reason is because the equipment makers found new ways to produce head speed and keep the clubs forgiving, but the main factor is all down to the development of that little round white thing. Basically, the Titleist Pro V1 – to give the example of the world's most popular ball – travels much, much further than any of its predecessors, is easier to control and, since being introduced in 2000, has unarguably revolutionised golf.
And so once-great courses have been rendered obsolete and desperate course designers scan every yard of the surrounding areas for more length. No fewer than 16 of the 18 holes have been changed at this year's Open venue, Royal Birkdale, since the last time it was held there, way back in 1998.
Wouldn't it have been far simpler to have told the ball-makers to produce shorter balls and for the authorities to have introduced stringent measures to protect the great layouts such as the Augusta National? Of course, it would.
Yet it appears the chance has been lost as the ball industry mushrooms and the lawyers hover. Cricket is wise to beware.
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Best memes as Twitter reacts to imminent £16m transfer
Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal joins Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Sami Khedira
Mario Balotelli takes 50 per cent pay cut to join Liverpool as Samuel as Eto’o waits in the wings if deal falls through
Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
Click here for the full story." title="When a youngster asked for an autograph outside Manchester City's training ground, Balotelli demanded to know why the boy was playing truant. After the child revealed he was being bullied, Balotelli drove the boy and his mother to the school in question so he could tackle the bully himself. He demanded to see the headmaster to make him aware of the issue and then mediated between the two boys to resolve the problem. A source said: 'Mario feels strongly about bullying.' Click here for the full story." width="88" height="52" />Mario Balotelli: The funniest stories
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 4 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 5 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile