That was the crux of the debate Monday night in The Golf Channel studios between David B. Fay, executive director of the USGA, and Ely Callaway, head of Callaway equipment company. The question seemed to be, does the USGA have the right to control distances the clubs will propel the game ball? Fay says 'yes.' Callaway says 'no.'
'We have no problem with technology,' said Fay. 'We think technology should blend with tradition. We've certainly demonstrated that over the years in allowing technological advances such as the one you've cited (putters which are perimeter-weighted to make the ball go straighter.)
'But what we have here is an issue dealing with a driver, this phenomena called spring-like effect.'
Callaway believes there are two different types of game. 'There's a game of golf that is fundamentally competitive or tournament golf,' he said, which he estimated is played by perhaps five percent of the population. And there is recreational golf, which is the game played by 95 percent. 'And we think that there should be another set or rules or practice that affect these golfers, and they should not be bound by rules which are for the other five percent.'
Hence, the ERC driver. Using club walls that are thinner than the average club, the ERC propels the ball a greater distance via a trampoline effect.
Fay disagreed. 'To us, the important thing is we establish a rule, and we believe players should play by that rule,' he said. 'There's not a distinction in our minds that you have one set of rules for one type of player and another set for another.
'There's one game, and there's one set of rules. And we're not in the business to treat the game like it were some buffet line where you pick a little bit of this, you discard a little bit of that, you pick and you chose. The first rule of golf is you play by the rules of golf - not some of the rules some of the time, but all of the rules all of the time.'
Callaway said the ERC is a means by which non-accomplished players can still find the game enjoyable. And anything which adds as much satisfaction to the game can't be wrong, he argued.
'The average golfer probably won't shoot a lower score,' he said. 'But they will get the thing which brings them back to the game - which is the emotional satisfaction of a well-struck shot, which is the one thing the USGA doesn't see, because you don't look at the game that way. You look at the game as one that is supposed to be difficult.'
But it's the club's added distance that is the problem, said Fay. The game, which is slow already, will be slower because a longer club will merely force golf course architects to design even longer courses. And distance is relative, he said, because if his opponent gets a club which is 15 yards longer, he gets the same club to get the extra 15 yards.
'We feel that if you can get that extra distance through training, that's fine,' Fay said. ' But to just introduce a club, everyone is going to hit it longer. And if you're 15 yards longer than I am now, you're probably going to be 15 yards longer with any new club.'
Callaway feels that the new club, however, will have a very positive impact upon the game.
'When we get a new development once in 18 years which clearly gives added pleasure to the average hacker who is never going to score well at all, if we can give him this little added enjoyment with no threat at all to the negative - that adds a little pleasure to the striking of the ball,' said Callaway.
Callaway criticized the USGA rule-making body for being comprised of players who are exceptional golfers. For that reason, he said, there isn't enough credence given to a club which will allow the inferior player to feel like a better player.
Fay disagrees. 'You are talking about distance and that is one of the goals the average golfer strives for,' he said. 'It is not the ultimate joy - I think the ultimate joy is low scoring.'
But, said Fay, 'you and I both know, the better you are, the more you're going to get out of a club. And that's sort of a cruel irony, that those who need it the most will get the least out of these new clubs, and those who need it the least will get the most.'
Not true, said Callaway. And to emphasize his point, he made an urgent appeal to the USGA to visit his test center near San Diego, Cal.
'We think it (the ERC) brings added qualities for the mid- to high-handicappers,' he said.
If the USGA doesn't alter its stance, Callaway said, it may reach a stage when it has given up the 'consent of the governed to be governed.
'If you don't change you're inflexibility, you're going to find that golfers you are governing are going to rebel.'
'If you let distance go unchecked,' said Fay, 'you are going to have a game which is significantly different from what is today. I must say, I beg to differ.'
Full Coverage of the Club Technology Controversy
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