Golf's technological boost

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

Gary Player turns 72 on Nov. 1 and, judging by the energy he displayed at the Presidents Cup, he isn't slowing down, likely because of his devotion to fitness over a magnificent career.

Yet, even a nine-time major champion loses a bit over the years.

"I drive the ball way more accurately than I ever did in my prime, but I'm obviously 40 yards shorter," said the Black Knight, who credits equipment technology for not only helping his game, but those of weekend warriors, as well.

Player is using a Callaway FT-i driver, one of those high moment of inertia clubs that are so popular this year, but the point of the discussion was not to plug a company he represents, but to chat about how equipment technology in general can benefit the game.

"The technology is unbelievable and it has given people such encouragement to play the game," Player said. "(Clubs) are forgiving, that's the big thing. They're so forgiving and it doesn't hit the ball as far off line.

"The dimple configuration of the golf ball allows it to go straighter and there's no spike marks on the green. Don't forget that soft spikes are as big an innovation as has ever been made."

For some reason, golf's governing bodies have resisted cutting high handicappers a break on equipment limitations when it's elite players who threaten to make golf courses obsolete with their monster shots.

Recreational players aren't overly concerned about equipment limitations when their rounds aren't monitored, making the governing associations somewhat redundant in the eyes of a significant number of golfers, even if club manufacturers do try to conform.

Earlier this year, Nike recalled some of its drivers when it went a tad over the coefficient of restitution (springlike effect) limits set by the United States Golf Association due to a manufacturing glitch.

A few years ago, right around the time Player was joining the company, Callaway got dinged for introducing the ERC driver, with its hot face, for recreational use in North America in an ugly battle that saw Arnold Palmer ostracized by the USGA for promoting it.

"I don't know how you can single that out when you've got a ball that is going too far and how you can single that out when you've got grooves that are too deep or are stopping the ball too much. There are so many other things," Player said.

"I don't think that pro golfers should be allowed to use the ERC. I've said it, but the (Royal and Ancient) disagree with me, I think they're two different games. It's like tennis. When you watch (Roger) Federer and another man playing as an amateur, they're different games.

"When you watch Tiger Woods and the pros playing against amateurs, it's another game. Give all the amateurs 'the heart of the game' give them all the technology, but you've got to curtail it with the pro golfers. Otherwise, all the golf courses are going to be obsolete."

Player has experience on all counts in the above statement. He just dealt with 24 of the world's top players at the Presidents Cup and was somewhat impressive himself in his day. He also has designed more than 200 golf courses and says it's the pros who should be the focus when it comes to limits on equipment.

"Right now, they're spending hundreds of millions of dollars on golf courses around the world, changing them unnecessarily. If we slow the ball down, you wouldn't have to spend those hundreds of millions of dollars around the world.

"You could take those hundreds of millions of dollars and give them to a youth program. You could use it in a far better way."

Golf courses could use a small part of that money to educate golfers, which could also lead to more participation in the game, according to Player.

"The other thing that all golf courses have got to be strict about now is pace of play," he said.

"What is taking a lot of people out of the game is five-to-six-hour rounds and that's hurting the game. Golf courses have got to come up with a rule (that) the max you may take for a round of golf is four-and-a-half hours.

"When you're playing, get ready to play. Don't look at the birds and the bees when it's your turn to play. You've got to play ready golf and this is something that we should really start enforcing if we want to see an increase in the game."


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