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Golf Entertainment Article

My Take
Technology and golf clubs -- stop the madness?

This is an editorial, an opinion. I would be happy to receive reasonable comments or differing opinions, and will even be happy to change my opinion, or at least post the differing opinion, if reasonable enough -- but of course that will be in my opinion too... heh heh heh smile

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Ah, remember the good old days, when what separated the men from the boys (women from the girls?) in golf was the ability to hit a great 2 iron? Now, many more people can buy the same result, in some cases for as little as a hundred dollars or so, in the form of a utility wood or hybrid. And remember when a 430 yard par 4 was a "monster," where you had a 5 iron left in to the green after a good tee shot, or maybe a 6 iron if you really killed it? Now par 4's can be 500 yards long in order to play similarly. I guess inflation is everywhere.

And now somebody can buy a 250-300 yard drive who could not have hit one with the older equipment. Of course, that means that the people who were hitting 250-300 yard drives with the older equipment are now hitting 300-350 yard drives, so where's the upside? One thing that has been mentioned as a downside numerous times -- but that doesn't make it any less true -- is that some of the older classic golf courses with shorter yardages are now obsolete, so golf spectators don't get to see them any more. That is a shame, I suppose, but to me it's really just a matter of enough is enough. Get some golf clubs and develop your skill, and then keep developing your skill, and through an endless accumulation of practice and experience you build a golf game and create your own work of art.

At some point the equipment involved in an activity develops sufficiently to just chill on further "improvements." Take the piano, for instance. The grand piano of today is basically the same instrument it was a century ago (with no important refinements). Or how about baseball: why don't they use aluminum bats or fastpitch bats in the major leagues? Aluminum bats make the ball go farther, so that would make it easier, right? Yes, it would. But the sound of a wooden bat hitting the ball is part of the game, and they'd have to make all the fields bigger to get the same effect with aluminum bats, or everybody would be able to hit home runs and they'd have to renovate all the ballparks (sound familiar?). I believe golf equipment reached the point of "good enough to perform the task with adequate uniformity" around the 1970's (let's say before the development of graphite shafts and metal-headed "woods"). To keep making equipment work better and better is completely changing the sport. As of this writing I have heard that there is more than one player on the Senior Tour whose longest iron in the bag is a 7; everything longer than that being a hybrid or metal wood -- that's really different from the way I learned how to play golf. And to see the top players in the world with hybrids and 5 woods and 7 woods in their bags really strikes me as tragic. At this rate you know that the swing itself will be replaced at some point with computer-driven, shoulder-mounted ball launchers with cross-hair sights, distance gauges, wind and temperature readings, etc. And putting will be replaced by some type of flawless pendulum mechanism, and so on.

By the way, here's a sound you don't hear much any more (.mp3, 6 Kb).

I would be just as happy if everything went back to about any version of pre-1970's standards (course yardages, ball compressions, etc.). My main interest is in technique, skill and acquired feel, which come from (lots of) knowledge, time and experience, trial and error, and practice. Trying to make golf easier through technology kind of defeats its purpose, to me. Golf is hard; that's the challenge, that's the "juice."

Anyway, I'm simply opining that golf clubs have long since been good enough to perform the task (playing golf) and to continue to refine clubs to make them easier to hit farther and more consistently obviously leads to the point, again, of it not even really being golf any more. But, as an interesting side topic, the way things are going with cell phones, mp3 players, portable computers, etc. -- more power, extreme miniaturization and ultra-convenience -- it's pretty obviously heading in the direction of technologically enhanced humans (like "The Borg", if you happen to have seen Star Trek: The Next Generation). Certainly having a method of direct connection to other people or any accessible computer (like cell phones, handhelds or laptops but faster and better) is already almost here now, but further developments lead directly to implanting these technologies inside the body (we've already seen people wearing the glasses that have a small computer screen in view, hands-free headsets for phones, etc.). It doesn't take much imagination to see where "smaller, more powerful and more convenient" leads.

So maybe it's all good. After all, we're just talking about progress, right?

Just think: golf could be played on a global, interplanetary or even intergalactic scale at some point, once the launchers get more sophisticated. Drives of hundreds of thousands of miles or even light years will be common...

Anyway to get back on my original topic and conclude I've written a short poem -- hope you enjoy it.

The Olden Days

When woods were wood you just had to be good
No "hybrids", no "oversize", no "forgiving"

To play a long iron was an artistic thing
And in those days the golf clubs didn't make my ears ring

If we went back to hickory that would suit me just fine
Though I wonder if the number of golfers wouldn't quickly decline

That's what it boils down to in the end, always is
Inflation, profitability, the numbers -- it's just BIZ.

I'll have another topic to mull over in the future. Again, in the words of comedian Dennis Miller, "that's just my opinion; I could be wrong."

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