Resistance to Getting Twisted
O.K., perhaps thats stretching it a little. But the latest intersection between Congress and the judiciary offers a glimpse of the kind of balance of power that has developed in the golf equipment industry.
Quick junior high civics review: The president appoints federal judges, who may remain on the bench until they die. Could be a long time. To make sure the executive branch of government (of which the president is, of course, the head) doesnt have too much influence over judicial policy for decades to come, federal judges cannot don their robes until they have the Advice and Consent of the Senate. (Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section 2) In other words, federal judges have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Its a classic example of checks and balances. Each branch has specific powers, while the others have related abilities to make sure no branch extends its powers too far. Lifetime judges; decades of governmental policy expressed through the courts. Confirmation power; the ability to derail nominees (and sometimes slap the appointing president over other insults ' remember Robert Bork?) or to confirm them and build up capital for later political ventures.
But the main function of governmental checks and balances is to create and maintain a tension between powerful entities so that each does its utmost to complete its mission ' while no entity completely dominates the government or the governed.
Which brings us back to golf. The U.S. Golf Association has, over the last half decade and more, worked steadily to regulate modern golf equipment. The USGA has said many times that its regulations are meant to prevent modern equipments performance in the hands of the most skilled players from changing golf in a way that the USGA believes would injure the game.
To that end, the Overall Distance Standard for golf balls has been updated. The head size and length of driving clubs, as well as the responsiveness of their faces, has been limited. The USGA has asked manufacturers for prototypes of a golf ball that would fly shorter distances than current balls when struck under the same launch conditions. Spin creation off the club face is under review. And just before Labor Day, the USGA sent a memorandum to manufacturers saying that it has determined that moment of inertia, or resistance to twisting, needs to be limited in golf club heads.
As new and updated regulations have come into force, equipment manufacturers have at times reacted with frustration ' and then often found ways to innovate within the new strictures. Still, many have expressed their concern that aggressive regulation by the USGA will cut off or severely restrict innovation, the life blood of any technology company.
Lets consider the recent moment of inertia (MOI) regulatory proposal. As mentioned, MOI is the scientific term for a bodys tendency to resist twisting. Modern clubheads, weighted as they are along their perimeters, resist twisting better than they ever have. And less twisting means less missing the target, or not missing it by as much. The advantages for golf, especially in already skilled hands, are obvious.
You could swing from your heels and not be as concerned about a poor shot, said Dick Rugge, the USGAs senior technical adviser and a former club designer, explaining the USGAs reasons for wanting to monitor how well a club keeps the ball straight. MOI in golf club heads has increased threefold in the last 15 years, Rugge said.
We should have done this 10 years ago, he said.
The scientific basis for a bodys resistance to twisting need not concern us here (although Rugge will patiently explain it to non-scientific types). The original communication about MOI came out in March, and at the time, Rugge said the existing limits on the size of driving clubs might keep them twisty enough, without the need for a regulation on MOI. But research he has conducted since then proves that a limitation is necessary, Rugge said in his memo to manufacturers. Therefore, the USGA proposes a test to make sure that a clubheads resistance to twisting around the vertical axis through its center of gravity does not exceed 4750 g-cm2. The test would take effect March 1, 2006.
At least one manufacturer had a low-MOI club ready to go when the March 2005 communication came out; he said the letter gave him pause, but the club was approved as designed. The USGA said in its August 31 memo that every club now approved would pass the proposed test.
Those responsible for looking at the big picture for their companies, though, responded with concern about the new limitation and a regulatory climate they perceive as potentially stifling.
'The history of the game is about the ongoing interface between the game (and our futile attempt to master it), the golfer, his or her skill and the technology of the game's implements, said Wally Uihlein, chief executive of The Acushnet Co., whose brands include FootJoy, Cobra, Pinnacle, and golf ball market leader Titleist. Is someone going to argue that the introduction of the steel shaft did not alter the balance between skill and technology? What about metalwoods? What about solid core construction golf balls?'
Bob Wood, president of Nike Golf, was unable to respond to calls for this story, But in a story in the September 19 Golf World magazine by equipment writer E. Michael Johnson, Wood responded to the USGAs concern that clubs with elevated resistance to twisting would, as the March 2005 communication put it, reduce the challenge of the game.
I want to know exactly what that means, Wood said. For whom and by how much is it reducing the challenge? Where are the people who say the game is too easy? I mean, would it be so bad if the average handicap went down to 13? Its like theyre trying to stop time.
But you cant stop time in a technology company, not if the company is to grow. And these days, failure to grow is the first step toward business oblivion.
USGA executive director David Fay has said many times that the primary goal of the USGAs equipment regulation is not to thwart equipment innovation, but to maintain the game so that if by some miracle a 16th-century Scot were able to visit the present day, he would still recognize the activity we call golf as the same game he cherishes. He may be amazed by feats of strength or even technology, but the game, its object, its spirit, and its (relative) challenges would be largely the same. Tech director Rugge has said repeatedly that he wants to work with manufacturers to develop reasonable regulations that allow room for innovation, but that the good of the game must be his ' and the USGAs ' primary concern.
For as long as the USGAs regulatory practices have become more aggressive, many people from the professional tours to major tournament organizers to recreational players have been clamoring for a solution to the so-called equipment problem.
Well, there may be no clear, permanent, satisfactory solution. And perhaps thats the way it should be.
It may be better for the games major governors ' the USGA and its regulatory partner, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the equipment manufacturers, the pro tours, consumers with their buying behaviors ' to continue under the system of de facto checks and balances that has developed as a result of their respective powers. The USGA and R&A, for years governors of equipment by consent of the governed, can continue to regulate, informed by their point of view on the good of the game. The equipment manufacturers, who even before the aerospace industry contraction had some of the best minds in engineering and who have an even greater brain trust now, can continue to innovate, inspired by their point of view on the games best future.
If either of these branches overreaches, the other has the wherewithal to sue, with all the expense that would involve. But wise heads on either side would likely settle matters short of this nuclear option. The last great industry lawsuit episode, over the grooves in Ping in the 1980s, cost many dollars and much heartache, and no one in the industry wants that again.
The tours, whose influence as venues for the worlds best players is crucial, should continue to be involved closely in any regulation affecting the performance of its players. And consumers, if they like, can always advise and consent ' or not ' with their pocketbooks.
If you doubt the checks-and-balances theory, just look around. As Acushnets Uihlein points out each June, no one is running away with the U.S. Open or chronically overpowering any of golfs most testing courses. Pro driving distance has increased over the last decade, but short-and-accurate Fred Funk can still win The Players Championship. Stellar putters such as Brad Faxon can still hoist a trophy. Big hitters such as Hank Kuehne are not guaranteed a trip to the winners circle.
Conversely, innovation has not come to a grinding halt. Even within the 460 cc driver head size limitation, sole geometries, weighting, and optic advances have caught the attention of consumers. Golf balls can be made to spin little off a driver, but pleasingly on the green. Wide-soled irons help high handicappers make more solid contact.
When people leave the game, it is not clear they do so because equipment regulation makes the game too hard. Time, expense, and difficulty are, according to conventional wisdom, the main impediments to golfs growth, but there is no convincing evidence that recent equipment regulation plays into the difficulty component.
And as well, there is no evidence that high-C.O.R drivers, less-twisty irons, multi-tasking balls, or any other equipment advance has yet made golf unrecognizable to that fantastic Scottish time traveler.
Theres a balance. It may not always be perfect for every point of view at every moment. But its there.
Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.
With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.
Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.
The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.
In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.