Regulation Shmegulation


Did you notice it at the U.S. Open? That vast silence ' beneath the endless cheers for Tiger, the swelling yells accompanying The Wave, the debates on whether we should really be nice to Monty, and the impatient carps of New Yorkers trying to say Hit it already! in Spanish?
The silence did not escape the attention of golf industry brainiacs.
Not a word, said Titleist chief Wally Uihlein on the phone the other day. Not a single word about tradition versus technology.
Well, of course not. There was golf being played. Real, grind-it-out, dont-miss-the-fairway, par-is-God, U.S. Golf Association-style golf. It took all the attention we had.
I tried to ask some equipment regulation questions early in the week, honest. Heck, its my job. The powers that be cooperated, but they cast me a vague look as if I had brought an orangutan to a black tie wedding at the Plaza. Interesting, but why would I want to ruin this nice party?
Fact is, no one cared much about coefficient of restitution at the national championship. Sure, guys had trouble reaching the 10th fairway, but no one said, What I wouldnt give for .03 more COR!
The USGA and its world counterpart, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, deserve credit for hammering out the May 9 Proposal to settle the regulation of spring-like effect off the face of modern drivers. Its a compromise, and therefore imperfect (they are the first to admit this), and it reads like legislation, complete with vaguely defined terms (whats a highly skilled player, and when does he have to give up his .86 driver?), which brings justified criticism. But at least they did something, taking a step (some say a lurch) in the right direction after 18 months of hand-wringing and public grimacing about the difficulty of it all.
But the great national shoulder shrug with which the golf public has met the issue should be a lesson in itself. Poll the sleep-out regulars at Bethpage Black, as hard-core a group as you will find, and my bet is youll find much more concern about the bunkers of 15 than about trampoline effect.
It may well be that those in the trade and those who cover it know and care more about regulation than those who actually walk the turf. I mean, I cant actually hear you going to get a sandwich when I report on this stuff on TV, but I have my suspicions.
Herein lies the real core: The regulators should not forget the regulated. At bottom, its good for golf if more people play it and become interested in it. So it stands to reason that the organizations should put their emphasis there.
(Not to all reason, evidently. I once got an e-mail from former USGA executive director Frank Hannigan, presumably in response to one of my columns, in which he asked where I ever got the crazy idea that the USGA should care about participation. I replied, but he never answered. Go figure.)
Still, the regulatory matters need attention. Its the ruling bodies job, after all. But folks, please ' and I say this with all due respect ' can we please get on with it? Enough distraction with things that dont intimately involve grass, fresh air and the actual movement of equipment. Some equipment issue or other has been a burr under some saddle for the better part of four years, since USGA executive director David Fay and then-president Trey Holland sat on a stage at Olympic and said existing drivers would be O.K. Lets finish the notice and comment period on July 15, make the law and move on. Then lets move with alacrity (and total manufacturer involvement, start to finish) on golf balls.
The rulemakers counsel patience, reminding us that rule changes in golf should not be made lightly. True. Reed Mackenzie, the current USGA president, brings a lawyerly sense of deliberation to the process, as well he should. But deliberation has more to do with care than slowness for its own sake. Im not saying floor it. Just push the pedal a bit.
Then the ruling bodies and the major organizations in the game can start devoting their full attention to an effective invitation to the game ' and a welcome that will make people want to stay in it.
Dont worry about me. Ill find something else to report on. So get your sandwich now.