R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers says golf needs to find a balance between skill and technology. Hannah Holden says we should celebrate what we have
If I could find one good thing to come out of the last few months it’s that the golf distance debate was temporarily paused. Of course, it all came flooding back when the PGA Tour and a bulked-up Bryson DeChambeau returned to our screens.
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It seems like R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers has been particularly impressed with the change in DeChambeau’s physicality.
“I’m not sure I can remember another sportsman, in any sport, so fundamentally changing their physical shape,” he told the Daily Mail.
“But what is extraordinary is that Bryson isn’t the first one to put on muscle in golf. How he’s able to control the ball, with that extra power, is extraordinary.
“All credit to him, he’s a true athlete.”
It’s hard to argue. I have been fascinated by DeChambeau in recent weeks. Watching the distances he can now hit in while still retaining his accuracy is bordering on absurd. I’ve been so captivated that I even found I wasn’t really interested in watching the week he wasn’t playing.
Distance is an advantage – no one is doubting that – but it’s not easy to gain. It has taken DeChambeau months of deliberate and carefully constructed workouts and eating plans on top of years of preparation to get his body to where it is.
If someone is dedicated enough to make that change then they should be allowed to reap the rewards.
But there’s being impressed with DeChambeau’s transformation and being concerned for the credibility of the sport. Slumbers also suggested equipment changes are coming – but maybe not simply in the shape of a new ball as many expected.
“It’s important to have a balance of skill and technology,” he explained. “It is too simple to say just change the ball. Way too simple. You can do things with the ball. But it’s the relationship between ball and club which is most important to me.”
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This is an extremely hard balance to meet. The concern of so many is iconic venues, such as the Old Course at St Andrews, becoming obsolete if the increase in distance continues.
But does it really matter if pros are hitting driver and wedge into every hole? What, I must ask you, is wrong with that?
If DeChambeau’s recent form has showed us anything it’s that people – myself included – really enjoy watching the pros going at it and pushing themselves to their physical limits. Who isn’t excited by eagles and birdies?
Give me that over a 2-iron lay-up, 4-iron to 40 feet and two-putt par any day. Sure, there’s a skill involved in that but I don’t want to see that all the time.
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People say modern equipment is taking the skill out of the game, but today’s golfer has developed to swing differently in a bid to generate power in a new way.
Dialling back the equipment would involve a significant change in technique for so many golfers of all levels.
I understand traditionalists will not agree with my stance but I, like so many, tune in to sport to be entertained and bask in the athleticism and human endeavour. At club level, golf is hard enough as it is. We all want to enjoy ourselves on the course and shoot the lowest scores we can.
So no, I don’t want to see driving distance stripped back 50 yards on tour and I certainly don’t want it stripped back for us club players.
We are well and truly into a new era of golf and it’s time we, as a sporting community, accepted it.
What are your thoughts on the golf distance debate? Feel free to get in touch in the comments below or you can tweet me.