Imagine Golf Blogs

Has technology changed golf?

Skill, talent and practise outweigh technological improvements

Posted Dec 16, 2010 by Jeff Dawson

Bubba Watson

On these pages over the past few months we have featured several new items of golfing equipment, demonstrating strides forward in technology and supposedly enhancing the performance of the average Joe out there. But is that the case?
Well, a bit of background first - the record for the longest drive, unofficially I must state, has been unbeaten for 35 years whilst the official record has stood since 1999. The drive from 1974, by a 64-year-old man called Mike Austin, was measured at 515 yards from the tee and to date no one has hit the ball further in a tournament. And perhaps more surprisingly, he used an old persimmon driver actually made from wood. Admittedly he had a 35mph tail wind and was 2000m above sea-level but still, that is some achievement.
And the drive from 1999, recognised by the Guinness Book of Records, and measuring how far the ball was in the air for, belongs to Karl Woodward and stands at 408 yards.
So there you have it, the guys who have the records are people you’ve probably never heard off. But has this improved technology had an impact on the game?
Well, in my eyes, yes it has. Let’s look at the stats from the professional PGA Tour. Here, the top players’ average driving distances jumped by a staggering 20 yards from 1990 to 2000 and nearly the same again from 2000 to 2003. At this point there were nine players averaging 300 yards or more.
This is when the technology was gripping the game and the huge titanium heads were being used. Driving distances were at an all time high. But golf, being the gentleman’s sport that it is, wasn’t satisfied and the governing bodies stepped in to keep the tradition and high level of skill of the game as the main points.
The efficiency of club faces was capped, regulations were put on the balls and the amount of groves on the club face were limited. These new facets actually saw a reduction in distance with the likes of big hitter, Bubba Watson, seeing his average drop by over seven yards.
So whilst I don’t think the records that stand at the minute will be broken in a hurry, technology has played it’s part in the improvement of the game. Yes we may not get the distance that we used to, but we get higher skill levels and better entertainment as a result.
I, for one, want to see the players have to hit woods into the green on long par fives, I want to see them have to play a decent recovery shot if they get in trouble. I guess I want to see them ‘dumbed down’ a little. I want to see the professionals struggle at times and have to use their talent and ability to get out of a situation.
And this is where technology shines for me.
As for the average Joe, well, they’ll always be average unless they put the effort and work into their game like the professionals do. No amount of technology can change a player’s game over night and quite rightly, that shouldn’t happen. We are average because we don’t practise enough not because of the clubs we use. And that, as they say, is fact!

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