Making Moves: Is Golf Technology Going Too Far?
The game of golf has been around for centuries, so naturally, there have been multiple technological advancements since the day of hitting a stuffed leather ball with a stick. Some of those advancements have really benefited the golf world: the LIVE coverage, special effects, replays and so much more has provided a broader platform for golf fans throughout the country to become even more engaged with the sport they love. But not all of the developments have given golf a positive spin.
When one of the best golfers ever to play the game speaks out about golf becoming…dare we say it…too complicated, we know something is up. Tiger Woods back in November stated, “We need to do something about the golf ball…if the game keeps progressing the way it is with technology, I think the 8,000-yard golf course is not too far away. And that's pretty scary because we don't have enough property to start designing these types of golf courses and it just makes it so much more complicated” (GolfDigest).
For all of us amateur golfers, we know firsthand that golf is a complicated sport. It’s not only a physically demanding sport, but the mentality it takes to play could arguably be even greater. The mechanics are specific and the patience needed is crucial. It’s a one man band out there, and you don’t always have teammates to rely on. You’re setting a tiny ball on a little stick and smashing it directly in the middle with your club: you hit it a little high, and you top the ball making it go two feet away; You hit it right underneath and the same thing happens. There are slices, draws and cuts, and the pressure to make that putt can make or break you. How can the game of golf become in any way more complicated?
We see the advertisements for clubs everywhere we look and they all have one asset in common: if you use their club, you’ll hit the ball farther, faster, and straighter. Who wouldn’t want that? And maybe that’s the problem. Everyone wants that. Everyone wants the clubs that will make you a better golfer. But if everyone’s hitting the ball farther, then what happens to the courses? If the courses don’t change, then where is the competition? Unless the courses become longer, golfers will find themselves not finding the courses difficult. Par 5’s could easily seem like Par 3’s with the distance golfers could soon be getting with more advanced golf clubs.
And it’s not just the clubs that have been getting some major upgrades: even the dimples on the ball have improved so much that golfers are getting more distance per shot. The average distance a pro golfer can hit the ball is 300 yards, but almost ten years ago, the average was 266 yards. There’s a reason Augusta national extended their holes during their renovation period in 2000…just to stay ahead of the game and rising technology. It could come to a point where the technology is developing so fast, leaving professional courses unable to keep up; and even if they could, as Woods put it, is there even enough space to keep building?
However, even with the rapid changes that golf technology seems to be making, the USGA can make some decisions that will keep golf challenging. Even if golfers could soon be hitting the green (not that this would happen anytime soon, but is something that should be thought upon), the greens are where the major strokes come into play. The USGA can make the greens far more difficult and can consitently change where the holes are place. No technology is going to make that difficult putt, no matter how far it has advanced.
So where do we go from here? Do we continue to make technological advancements in hopes that courses can keep up, or do we halt production on new designs? The latter will most likely never happen, but can the Majors restrict even further which clubs and balls can and cannot be used? Only time will tell.