Slowly but surely professional golf is returning. At the moment it’s not quite the same as when everything shut down way back in March – there are currently no sponsors, fans or players’ families allowed on site. However, as we move towards a safer, healthier environment that situation will hopefully change and once again we will hear the deep-throated roars of appreciation as the players work their magic in the heat of competition.
But that’s not all that has changed. Are we perhaps witnessing a watershed moment in the game with the emergence of Bryson DeChambeau from lockdown a good 25 llbs heavier than when we last saw him? This wasn’t because he was occupying his couch and bingeing on box sets while tucking into the popcorn – no, quite the opposite, it transpires that this 25 llbs is pure muscle.I’m sure I don’t have even a quarter of that muscle mass in the whole of my frame but then again I’ve never worked out three times a day in my life nor consumed five protein shakes in every 24-hour cycle. Come to think of it, I’ve never had five protein shakes in my entire life. This tireless and tiring quest has been to swing the club at maximum velocity and reduce courses to second-shot-wedge examinations. After the thrill of the booming 350-yard exocet it becomes a rather boring, tedious sport to view, and I suspect, to play.
For years now, the great and the good of the game – including Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods – have called for the golf ball and equipment to be reined back in their development. In order to test every club in the bag of the professionals nowadays and to retain the full range of skillful nuances inherent in the game it is necessary to build something close to an 8000-yard course. The cost and maintenance of this type of facility is high, which is reflected in prohibitive membership and green fees – out of the reach of most people. Obviously, the time taken to complete 18 holes on this length of course is increased and slow play becomes glacial play.
Am I missing something, but is professional sport not supposed to be part of the entertainment business? Liaise with the manufacturing companies and put limiting factors on equipment to be used by the professionals and elite amateurs. Have fewer restrictions on equipment for everyone else – most of us need all the help we can get and increased enjoyment for the average golfer is surely to be encouraged? Dislike of bifurcation (different rules for professionals and amateurs) is no defence. When I first started playing the game, there were two different sizes of golf ball and bifurcation is essential in the current climate for the health of the game.
The powers-that-be, the R&A and the USGA, have heard all this before, and countless times, but it appears they are not actually listening.
Perhaps they will now that we are emerging into a very different world. This 2020 version has essentially no money compared to the pre-pandemic era and in these racially aware times golf, which is perceived as a privileged white man’s sport, needs to adjust. This is a wonderful opportunity to do just that. It is not the top of the pyramid that is important here – it’s the grass roots golfer.
I am back to my familiar war cry of inclusivity over exclusivity. During these very exacting times we have witnessed some remarkable examples of sacrifice, and care and concern for each other. Inspired thinking has led to innovative solutions and the realisation that things do not have to be done a certain way just because they’ve always been done that way.
They say where there’s a will there’s a way. I hope to goodness there is a will in the corridors of power in this game – and not just a commercial one.