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Thinking Over a Few Things

A little thought is indeed a dangerous thing. Still, I've been having plenty of them lately, and why should I suffer alone?

It ain't over: Now that a major company has crossed the nonconforming line in golf clubs available in the United States, what will happen on the golf ball issue? There has been talk for years about 'rolling back' the distance the ball can go, or at least stopping it where it is. Over the years, the U.S. Golf Association has gathered the support of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and others in its crusade to keep the ball from becoming a rocket.

But now that the USGA has essentially accepted a world that includes Callaway Golf's nonconforming ERC II driver (indeed, what else could the USGA do?), it can't very well try to come down hard on golf balls without drawing restraint-of-trade allegations. Sure, the USGA can make rules against 'hot' balls, but it will have to be consistent in its treatment of both balls and clubs if it is not to anger the industry into lawsuits.

And that means that if a company introduces a ball that doesn't conform to the Rules of Golf, all the USGA can do, as it did with the Callaway driver, is issue a statement saying it hopes recreational golfers will play by the rules.

The Supreme Court we'd like to see: Casey Martin's case is finally going to the highest court in the land. But with all this talk about 'legal' and 'illegal' clubs, I'd like to see the nonconforming club issue come before the Supreme Court. Here's what the oral argument might be like:

LAWYER: Your Honors, the recreational game is vastly different from the elite game of golf, and therefore so-called hot drivers do not pose a threat to.

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST: Counsel, are you saying we should make two sets of rules?

LAWYER: Well, yes, Mr. Chief Justice, in a sense. And.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: By the bye, why do people call these clubs 'legal' and 'illegal?' We're not aware of any law disqualifying golf clubs or putting people in jail for using the wrong ones. Just the Rules of Golf, and from what I can see, they operate at the consent of the people who follow them.

LAWYER: Well, Your Honor, it's a term of convenience for.

JUSTICE O'CONNOR: Speaking of convenience, it'd be real convenient if we could hit some of these drivers.

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST: Agreed. Let's adjourn to the National Practice Range.

To Show or not to Show? What Callaway and other companies have begun to do is save the money they would have spent on the PGA International Golf Show in Las Vegas and use it to have a big press pow-wow at headquarters. Other companies, including Titleist, TaylorMade and Wilson have gotten into the habit of introducing products outside the context of a merchandise show, and certainly out of the context of Las Vegas. Well, Titleist introduced its latest ball in Vegas, but at the PGA Tour event, not the Show.

In a way, that steals some thunder from the Orlando show, because many of the new products will already be known to the press, and therefore the public. So Orlando will become more of an industry meeting, instead of a stage for products debuts.

That might not be all bad. After all, why share attention with 1,499 other exhibitors?