Fuzzy Think­ing

Golf Today Northwest - - News - CLICK HERE TO CON­TACT ED By ED TRAVIS

Fuzzy think­ing, even by well-known and re­spected peo­ple is still fuzzy think­ing and when the topic is the dis­tance the golf ball goes, fuzzy think­ing eas­ily re­sults in a call to “do­ing some­thing be­fore the game is ru­ined.” Re­spected icons of the game such as Jack Nick­laus and Hale Ir­win have said more than once the prob­lem with golf is the ball goes too far. Maybe by tak­ing a look at the facts we can sweep away the fuzzi­ness con­cern­ing golf ball dis­tance be­cause if we don't, sure as heck, the fuzzy think­ing will even­tu­ally pre­vail. First, this con­tro­versy over tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment is not new. It was es­sen­tially the same in the nine­teen cen­tury and rears its head with ev­ery ma­jor ad­vance­ment in balls and clubs. If you have some time, look up the evo­lu­tion of the feath­ery ball to the gutta per­cha and then to the rub­ber-core ball or the story of the Sch­enec­tady cen­ter-shafted mal­let put­ter be­ing out­lawed af­ter Wal­ter Travis used one to win the Bri­tish Am­a­teur. The cry was all the fine old cour­ses would be made ob­so­lete be­cause they were too short and no longer chal­leng­ing or sim­ply im­prove­ments in equip­ment meant the game was be­com­ing too easy. Sound fa­mil­iar? Today t he dis­tance the golf ball goes is due to vastly im­proved launch con­di­tions. This be­gan with the in­tro­duc­tion of metal woods and then the de­vel­op­ment of graphite shafts al­low­ing an in­crease in size of driver club heads. When ti­ta­nium heads were in­tro­duced mak­ers were able to al­most dou­ble driver club­head size again and driver shafts could be made much longer. All of these plus an im­mense im­prove­ment in ball aero­dy­nam­ics added sig­nif­i­cant dis­tance with all clubs. Pro­fes­sion­als—the ones fuzzy thinkers be­lieve hit the ball too far—have also ben­e­fit­ted from in­ten­sive com­puter-aided in­struc­tion, bet­ter phys­i­cal train­ing and the sim­ple fact a large num­ber of them are taller and big­ger than in the past. Im­proved equip­ment and bet­ter agron­omy have re­sulted in cour­ses, es­pe­cially on Tour, play­ing firmer and faster. Plus we must rec­og­nize the

de­sire of op­er­a­tors to have the long­est, tough­est lay­out so they can boast of the dif­fi­culty for pro­fes­sion­als rather than the playa­bil­ity for re­cre­ational golfers. The num­ber of golf cour­ses is steadily de­creas­ing so over­all use of the land is not an is­sue. It is true some “fine old cour­ses” may not have the land to be stretched in or­der to ac­com­mo­date the modern pro­fes­sion­als but that's OK. For the av­er­age player not ev­ery course needs to be like this year's US Open venue Erin Hills and have the ca­pa­bil­ity to be played to over 8,000 yards. How­ever, the fact is in 2017 the av­er­age driv­ing dis­tance on the PGA Tour is 291.20 yards, an in­crease of about one yard in the pre­ced­ing ten years so there's been no “dis­tance ex­plo­sion” in more than a decade. For re­cre­ational play­ers ti­ta­nium-headed-graphite-shafted driv­ers and solid-core-low-spin­ning ure­thane cover balls have not pro­duced any­where near the gains in yardage achieved by pro­fes­sion­als. Tech­nol­ogy has not caused golf hand­i­caps to plum­met and the typ­i­cal male golfer still isn't hit­ting the ball over 200 yards--if that. The rulers of our game don't seem to un­der­stand the prob­lem in terms of the av­er­age golfer who oc­ca­sion­ally makes a par and buys a cel­e­bra­tory beer when he makes a birdie. Ad­di­tion­ally the USGA con­tin­ues with the idea the ball goes should be re­duced while telling week­end war­riors to play from a shorter tee set. That's il­log­i­cal and a non­starter. Of course the cul­prit most of­ten cited is the Titleist Pro V1 which de­buted in the fall 2000 and at once be­came the most played ball on Tour. Ev­ery man­u­fac­turer now makes sim­i­lar balls that are low spin­ning with ure­thane cov­ers and solid cores. The PGA Tour is in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness and the busi­ness model should be what its cus­tomers, i.e., golf fans, want. There's no ques­tion we want to see birdies and ea­gles and driv­able par-4s not to men­tion DJ smok­ing one 340. In 2007 the scor­ing av­er­age on Tour was 71.34 and this sea­son it is 72.00. In fact go­ing back 20 years the av­er­age was 71.77 show­ing cour­ses aren't get­ting eas­ier de­spite what some would like you to be­lieve. As Frank Thomas for­mer tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor of the USGA and cur­rent golf in­dus­try con­sul­tant has of­ten said, driv­ing dis­tance has gone as far as it can go be­cause the physics in­volved are maxed out. Or put an­other way, you can't ar­gue with Mother Na­ture. Fi­nally, part of the fuzzy think­ing can be laid at the doorstep of the me­dia be­cause it's easy to write that a well-known player, ex-player or some ad­min­is­tra­tor is de­cry­ing the state of the game. One head­line trum­peted “Great Balls of Fire!” re­fer­ring to today's low-spin golf balls. This is a cheap shot dis­play­ing a lack of knowl­edge not to men­tion an abuse of jour­nal­is­tic stan­dards. The in­escapable con­clu­sion--there's no hor­rific prob­lem with the dis­tance the golf ball trav­els. That's just plain old fuzzy think­ing. And the solution is easy. Do noth­ing. The cri­sis in golf tech­nol­ogy or golf ball dis­tance is only in the minds of fuzzy thinkers.

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