Ivan Morris Column - Technology has been allowed devalue skill

Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris
DIVIDED into its normal groupings of East and West, the North Munster Section of the Jimmy Bruen Shield Matches were contested in difficult weather conditions last weekend at Roscrea and East Clare Golf Clubs respectively.

DIVIDED into its normal groupings of East and West, the North Munster Section of the Jimmy Bruen Shield Matches were contested in difficult weather conditions last weekend at Roscrea and East Clare Golf Clubs respectively.

With more or less the same personnel that won back-to-back Pierce Purcell Shields in 2013 and 2014, Spanish Point found moving up a grade no bother at all. They coped with the step up in class with consummate ease and sashayed through their matches with East Clare, Ennis and Woodstock with the loss of only one match out of the fifteen played. Such an impressive performance would normally throw down the gauntlet and possibly intimidate future opposition but hardly the qualifiers from ‘The East,’ Nenagh, whom they will face on May 20th or 21st at a venue yet to be arranged.

Former Irish champions in 2009, Nenagh GC is always a tough nut to crack and they, too, came through their matches in some style with victories over Castletroy by 4/1, Limerick by 3/2 and Charleville by 4/1.

In the earlier rounds, Limerick had defeated Adare Resort, 3/2; Ballyneety had defeated Adare Manor, 4/1 and Charleville defeated Roscrea, 3/2.

Two Sets of Rules or Golf Be Damned - Have legislators forgotten that golf is an easy game to give up? There are more than enough reasons for giving up golf without any new ones being added. Banning anchoring at elite levels is one thing but at handicap golf level, it’s unnecessary especially when one hears keen, amateur golfers saying that they will give the game up when the long putter is taken away from them.

On the surface it would seem like the R&A and the USGA made the correct decision to ban ‘anchoring’ from 2016 onwards. But the rules makers did not make enough distinction between technology and method. Anchoring does not make putting any easier - the opposite may actually be the case. To add to the unfairness, little is said about the benefits of today’s putter technology i.e. face balancing, grip variations, adjustable lengths and weights plus inserts and face scoring.

We all know the value of a good “roll” when the ball feels like putty coming off the putter face. A well-rolled putt hugs the ground with over-spin and resists the irregularities on the green’s surface - particularly on firmly struck short putts. Prior to putter face technology, the best putters developed the skill to make the ball come off the putter with topspin. Those unable to master this skill struggled. Now, everyone can purchase that elusive ability in a golf shop.

Modern wedges are another issue. Prior to groove technology, players, like Padraig Harrington, could spin a wedge consistently, control trajectory and roll, which gave them a tremendous advantage. With today’s grooves any reasonable player can pitch and chip quite well without developing the same level of skill that was once demanded and that’s not to even mention the ‘infinite’ variety of lofts available. I’ve played with golfers with five wedges. I had four in my bag until recently when I copped myself on and swapped one of them for a 5-fairway metal. Seve Ballesteros, one of the greatest short game artists the game has ever seen used two wedges. He held out his hands, wiggled his fingers and said: “Zeese are my lob wedge. Ask me play any shot with any club, I play it!”

Perhaps the biggest ‘divider’ is the long iron. Only the very best players can hit consistent long irons that, these days, have been sidelined by user-friendly hybrid clubs. Hitting a high, soft long iron is a talent ‘owned’ by very few golfers but any half-decent amateur can hit solid hybrids that bring results impossible with a long iron.

The ball is constructed to fly further, resist sidespin and bore through the wind. So, no need to learn how to hit the driver straight, trap a wedge, roll a putt properly, hit a high soft shot or a solid long iron. For good players the game is too easy. The only defense is to lengthen golf courses. That increases construction and maintenance costs as well as the length of time it takes to play a round.

The Governing Bodies have allowed technology to devalue skill and ignored that the cost of equipment is one reason why the number of golfers is shrinking in traditional strongholds. To increase the odds of only the very best players rising to the top, the skills required to play golf to a very high level should have been better protected.

The time has come to create two sets of rules, one for professional and elite amateur competitions and one for the average player. Let the average player enjoy the aid of technological advancement but the best players should operate with traditional tools that make the game a difficult challenge. The elites should be forced to use a slower golf ball, blade irons that are not perimeter weighted, smaller headed drivers and a total of 10-clubs plus a putter. In my opinion golf would not be damaged by two sets of rules.

Words of the Wise:

The powers that be should stop worrying about those not interested in golf and concentrate instead on looking after the core golfer.