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Taking a Swing at the Blue Dot Theory

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Those of you who play softball are familiar with the Blue Dot ball. Its a limited-flight model designed to keep the game inside the fences and increase competition.
 
Its also a concept on the minds of members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, including one of its leading members, Jack Nicklaus. They say a limited-flight, standardized golf ball is the way to defend par against the long-hitting tendencies of elite players.
 
Golf course architects believe there should be a line drawn in the sand soon ' at least for tournament golf, said a recent release from the ASGCA. It is not just an issue for new courses, but for every club that finds its best golf holes rendered defenseless by technology, the release said.
 
And its not just the tournament game, the ASGCA says.
 
Longer drives by high handicap players also are forcing designers to widen corridors to accommodate more pronounced slice and hook shots, the release said.
 
As something of a golf purist, I find myself leaning toward anything that maintains the challenge of the game. So at first blush, the blue-dot argument sounds attractive. But there are practical considerations that touch the future of the game.
 
Even assuming for the sake of argument that the ASGCA is right, just try to take anything distance-producing from American golfers. They wont stand for it, even if the truth is that they get no more distance from the newest balls and clubs. (Manufacturers: Put down the phone. Im blaming their swings, not your products.) This is a game of potential, and its recreational players live for the next shot.
 
And of course, there are the manufacturers themselves, who have massive investments to protect. No effort to limit the flight of the golf ball would escape a horrendous gauntlet of lawsuits. Do we really want the Supreme Court involved in golf again? It would be. And let me tell you, Justice Antonin All Sports Rules Are Silly Scalia showed his mettle during arguments on the Casey Martin case.
 
(For a look at how passionately the manufacturers intend to defend their ground, check out Titleist president and CEO Wally Uihleins statement.)
 
In short, trying to break American golf of its distance mania would be like trying to take cars away from Los Angeleans. Theyd look at you funny, then harm you.
 
So what are the architects to do? Their concerns arent without merit. How can they hope to attract the recreational player on one hand with courses that are manageable in length and difficulty, and satisfy the elite players on the other with challenging courses that require the occasional long-iron approach?
 
Heres a suggestion: In that the ASGCA is the repository of the best talent in the business, perhaps it should start throwing its weight around. Refuse to design the upscale daily fee behemoths. Solve the land acquisition cost problem by not acquiring it. Let the work go to second-rate designers. Believe me, the owners will be back when people get bored with their courses.
 
Dont design for cart paths. Put tees closer together. Make landing areas safe. Force players to think about whether extra distance is worth the lateral error. (Ever had Lyme Disease? Hit it shorter and straighter.) Make the game move faster. Concentrate on the non-shot elements that make the game fun.
 
Im not saying the ASGCA has been doing anything wrong. What Im saying is, it cant reform the game alone, nor can it do it in one fell blue-dotting swoop. The recreational game needs the work of all the associations and participants in the game. And it needs leadership.
 
But thats a subject for another day. For now, no matter how good it may be for the game in the long run, you cant paint something blue if it wont be painted.
 
Is technology making courses obsolete? What can be done? Share your thoughts!