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When are we going to stop kidding ourselves? We’ve never played the same game as the pros

Plans for a bifurcated ball have brought out some familiar moans from club golfers but, outside of swinging the club, nothing we do resembles the top players. Steve Carroll gets on his soapbox
 

I’ve never played an Open venue from the championship tees. I’m not even sure you can, but neither would I try. Call me crazy, but I quite like my golf and leisure time to at least offer the prospect of some fun.

My driver – a TaylorMade Stealth 2 for anyone who’s wondering – isn’t the same the one Rory McIlroy is smashing around PGA Tour fairways. I’m not even sure I could get his X-flex shaft to the top of my backswing.

Bryson DeChambeau once tweaked his big stick to drop the loft from 6.5 degrees to a mind-boggling 4.8. Forget Lee Trevino’s 1-iron – God isn’t putting anything that square anywhere near his bag.

And let’s see if you can find something that gets near that number at your average retailer.

I did chuckle when the R&A and USGA announced proposals for a Model Local Rule that would essentially create a competition ball and bifurcate the game. Soon unleashed were the usual comments about not being able to play the same game as the professionals.

Who are we kidding? 99.9 per cent of us have never played that game. It’s why when McIlroy tops a ball into the water it gets tens of thousands of comments and views on social media. It hardly ever happens.

You’d only have to wait about five minutes to see that in one of our Saturday comps.

bifurcated golf ball

Would you even want to take on a course at the lengths the elite do? Do you enjoy pain?

‘Oh, but at least we could if we wanted!’ But you don’t, and you never have. Why are you ruffled about a change to something you haven’t done?

Then there’s equipment. It’s a pipe dream to think you’re playing the same gear as the very best. They’re hawking tour-issue shafts, and pro-only specifications. The infinitesimal detail that goes into their bags makes our custom fitting look like a five-second once over.

Manufacturers have tour trucks and centres that do little else but tweak equipment for those at the summit of the sport.

You can’t benefit from that. And you never will.

I accept that people are curious. It reminds me of those who refuse a replica but shell out ridiculous sums for an authentic football shirt, or the ‘test issue’ rugby jersey.

Do you feel it brings you closer to the sport? It’s not going to help you step onto the Wembley pitch but I don’t suppose I’d begrudge you this – or any desire to get hold of a specialist item that only achieves its purpose in the hands of a highly-skilled player.

But to use that curiosity as a vehicle for rejecting change, based on nothing more than an illusion – that you, and Rory McIlroy, have the same kit – is ludicrous.

We’ve never played the same game. Let’s stop convincing ourselves we do.

From the Clubhouse podcast on the bifurcated golf ball

Tom Irwin and I chat in more depth about plans to roll back the golf ball on the From the Clubhouse podcast, in association with TaylorMade Golf. Listen in the player below, or click the buttons to be taken to your preferred podcast platform.

More on the golf ball roll back

  • Rory McIlroy has his say on bifurcation – and it’s not quite what you think

What do you think of the proposed bifurcated golf ball? Let us know with a tweet.

More podcasts from National Club Golfer

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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