Whats the Ruling Between a Rock and a Hard Place


Comes a time when a bad result is preferable to uncertainty.
Anyone who has ever waited for an answer after a big job interview, or for grades after that nasty organic chemistry exam, knows the feeling. Am I hired or not? Did I pass or not? Better to know, and either be relieved or deal with a definite set of consequences, instead of the discomfort of limbo.
Not that golf is as important as either of these episodes (did any of you actually put organic chemistry to any kind of use?), but some kind of decision would be better than the current rules limbo.
Theres no point placing blame. Golf should be looking for solutions. What we have now is the No. 1 professional tour in the world unsure of what to do about international players who can play one kind of driver and domestic players who must not play that driver, all at a time when said PGA Tour is trying to expand its global reach with world championships.
Meanwhile, Callaway Golf and a number of other companies must compete in foreign markets, so they must satisfy the demand there for drivers that dont conform with the U.S. Golf Associations restrictions on spring-like effect. Callaway vocally supports bifurcated rules so that recreational players, who are clearly not a threat to overwhelm golf courses with the distance of their tee balls, will not have to labor under the strictures that apply to elite players. Anyone who believes in the handicap system and the uniformity of the Rules of Golf as key elements of the game chafes a little at the two-sets-of-rules idea.
Meanwhile, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews refuses to get heated up about distance, and backhandedly insults the USGA by finding no problem with tee shot distance (although the R&A continues to study the matter).
Meanwhile, sources close to the situation say the USGA and R&A are no closer to settling this difference than they were when it first cropped up nearly 18 months ago.
The games elder statesmen, most notably Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, call for limitations on the distance the golf ball can fly. The USGA is preparing a new Overall Distance Standard to replace the one developed in 1975, but its not likely to be ready soon. More important, it is very unlikely the new standard will be less than the 1975 number of 291.2 yards of carry and roll, plus a 2 percent measurement tolerance, when the measured ball is hit by USGA testing equipment.
If it were to drop lower, the manufacturers would sign and date the complaints they have ready and waiting in their top desk drawers and head off the courthouse like an armada of Higgins boats heading to Normandy. Theres no guarantee that drawing a line in the sand ' that is, keeping the standard where it is and making clear it will stay there for another 25 years ' wont draw lawsuits, too.
What does the golf consumer feel? Judging by what I hear, confusion, followed quickly by dismissal. I get e-mails that express a general to-heck-with-the-rulemakers attitude. Its my leisure time, and if my friends and I want to roll em, spring-like em, soft-rubber-core em, or even not count emwell, thats what well do.
Its a bad groundwork to lay when participation in our sport stands at the crossroads between up and down. No sport benefits from even temporary confusion in its rules. Surely PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Masters chairman Hootie Johnson were thinking this when they lobbed Howitzer shells into the debate by publicly considering special rules for their events. They need to get the organizations with whom they have thus far cooperated off the dime. But both of them are too smart to talk this talk without being prepared to walk the walk.
Just the possibility begs the questions, what is golf? And who should decide?
Either waylets get it decided soon