From The Inbox

Our gear-driven game stands out in sports world

Compare the advances in equipment and how they have changed golf with those in other sports, which have been minimal

Great article by Gary Van Sickle (“There’s no turning back on driving distance,” Aug. 20).

This subject has lingered for decades, and the ball continues to go farther and farther. It takes much away from pro golf and miniaturizes great golf courses, which were not designed for that length. Not much is discussed in comparison to other sports.

Think about this: Is there any game in which the governing bodies have allowed equipment to make it easier every year?

Yes, tennis allowed bigger rackets, but the game’s leaders also slowed down the ball about 20 years ago when serving got too fast and ruined much of the other skills in tennis.

Baseball: No. Same-size ballparks, close to same ball.

Football: No. Same-size field, same ball.

Basketball: No. Same-size court, same ball.

Soccer: No. Same-size field, same ball

Hockey. No. Same rink, same puck

Pingpong: No

Olympic events: No

Those sports did not make their games easier with equipment.

In golf, we make equipment better and more forgiving every year. It’s been an explosion of equipment improvements, and this requires much bigger courses for the top amateur golfers and touring pros.

In other sports, the athletes get better and they train better. They do in golf, too. The difference is, golf gets equipment improvements nonstop.

Jim McLean
Coral Gables, Fla.
(McLean is an instructor, author and course designer who founded the Jim McLean Golf School, which has eight locations, in the U.S., Mexico, South Korea and Spain.)

Governing bodies paint themselves into corner
Am I missing something? As the distance concern continues by the esteemed R&A and USGA, didn't they set the standards for the golf-ball characteristics and clubhead size? (“There’s no turning back on driving distance,” Aug. 20).

Were these ruling organizations so caught up in traditions that they did not pay enough attention and look forward?

They have painted themselves into the proverbial corner. How can they keep the amateurs engaged to grow the game and keep the professional golfers from “hitting it too far”?

There appear to be several actions that they can take. Bifurcation, reducing clubhead size, or maybe banning workout trailers at tournament sites. And here's an idea to ruminate on: If you hit the ball more than 300 yards, you get a penalty stroke and have to play from a designated drop zone at the 300-yard area from the tee. Distance problem solved? Think that might get everyone's attention? No need to lengthen courses or roll back the ball.

Likewise, the long ball in other sports. Football field goals that are good from 45 yards or longer score only two points. In baseball, after two home runs by a team, any others would be ground-rule doubles. Darn those bigger, faster, stronger athletes for changing professional sports’ competitions.

Any action that the esteemed golf bodies eventually promulgate will result in an outcry across the spectrum of players and manufacturers. We can anticipate it will be a long and legal journey.

Dave Richner
St. Johns, Fla.

Golf must grow itself out of distance problem
I read Gary Van Sickle’s distance article with great interest as a lifelong, 74-year-old golfer (“There’s no turning back on driving distance,” Aug. 20). The piece hit all of the right notes.

I'm in the San Francisco area and had the pleasure of being invited to media day on the Monday following the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park. We even decided to punish ourselves by playing from the kids’ tees. It seems that severe rough might be the only defense now.

My great friend and teacher Chuck Hogan once said fit influences form. By this, he meant that a golfer will adjust to equipment, such as a whippy shaft, extremely flat lie, etc.

When I learned to play, there was great emphasis on hitting a very small “sweet spot” on woods and irons. Thus, we were taught to swing under control so as to hit that small spot.

Now we have at least two generations of kids introduced to the game with clubs that are all sweet spot, allowing them to be encouraged to swing all out, all the time. That, combined with the athleticism of today's golfers, has contributed greatly to this distance issue.

Lots of choices in this digital golf world. I enjoy Morning Read.

Al Jamieson
Burlingame, Calif.

Golf needs to find its ideal distance formula
I enjoyed Gary Van Sickle’s article about distance on the PGA Tour (“There’s no turning back on driving distance,” Aug. 20). Though Van Sickle discussed some ideas, I think that he might want to re-examine his thoughts about golf-ball size and the effects on the different constituencies.

If the ball size were to be increased again, there would be several benefits to the various people and companies in the space. A larger golf ball would make golf easier for new golfers, as the ball would set up slightly higher. While it would still be easy for amateurs to hit 200-yard drives (and get the ball off the ground), it would be harder for pros to hit 350-400-yard drives. Wind resistance goes up with speed by an exponent of 3, so the loss in distance would affect pros much more than amateurs. If the ball reduced pros' distances by, say, 30 yards, or 10 percent, amateurs' distances would be reduced by only about 3 percent, or about 6 yards. (Think of how easy it is to hit a baseball 50 yards, but how hard it is to hit it 100 yards.) A larger golf ball also curves more, making accuracy relatively more important.

Manufacturers would benefit, too. They could optimize equipment to the new dimensions and sell lots of new golf balls, as well as optimized clubs. (Imagine that every golf ball in existence would need to be replaced.) With a larger ball, courses wouldn't need to keep lengthening due to technology changing. The larger golf ball would allow classic courses to retain their character and remain viable as tournament venues.

In short, I think Jack Nicklaus is right. We have allowed technology to improve distances and performance immensely; changing the size of the golf ball easily would restore the game to its previous level of challenge.

Other sports have changed their equipment quietly – there are no 150-mph serves in tennis or baseball players hitting 71 home runs. I believe that it's time that golf addresses the problem, as well.

George Hessler
Harrison, N.Y.

A slow, torturous weekend
Watching the U.S. Amateur on the weekend was torture (“Tyler Strafaci birdies final hole to win U.S. Amateur,” Aug, 17).

When is the USGA going to enforce the slow-play rule? While it might be understandable to play a bit slower in 30-mph winds, you eventually have to play. On the weekend, the conditions were benign, and the pace of play was like watching a tortoise.

The USGA promotes itself as the protector of the game, but the major problem in public and tournament golf is slow play. The USGA would not allow members at its tony country clubs to play this slowly.

Gary Cohen
Great Neck, N.Y.

Pros should break par, not tradition
There was a time not too long ago when we were taught to behave like gentlemen. I'm guessing that time is over (“Golf raises eyebrows as it lowers decorum,” Aug. 21).

Golf was created as a sport for gentlemen. Today's pros have forgotten a very important piece of history, caring
only about themselves and not of respecting others.

Bob Perago
Newark, Del.

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