It’s time to rein in horsepower of new equipment

A friend recently showed up for our weekly round with new PXG clubs. Naturally, we all wanted to see whether “the science of sexy” is as alluring as it’s made it out to be.

It didn’t take long to find out.

On the second hole, a 165-yard par-3, he hit the club he always hits there – a 6-iron. He hit it well and watched it go … and go … and go.

It kept going way over the green and bounced all the way to the boundary fence, about 40 yards past the back of the putting surface. He must have hit that 6-iron at least 185 yards in the air and 205 yards total.

A few holes later, he had a simple pitching wedge of about 125 yards. He didn’t swing that hard – just tried to finesse it. And there it went again, well over the green and into more trouble. Once again, it was about 20 yards too far on the fly.

“Guess I’ll need some time to get used to these,” he said.

Won’t we all?

Which brings to mind two other important questions:

How much farther can golf balls travel with this new equipment?

And, maybe more to the point, how much longer can we afford to let technology rule our great game?

I recently read the R&A-USGA Distance Insights Report. It had a long list of reasons why it’s a problem to have so many equipment manufacturers going to such great lengths to one-up each other.

Some reasons are obvious, such as the simple fact that many venerable courses are being overpowered unless they get stretched out.

Some of the reasons aren’t as obvious, such as more real estate meaning more use of water and chemicals – not things that modern society will support.

Not surprisingly, it concluded with these words:

“For the reasons stated above, we believe that it is time to break the cycle of increasingly longer hitting distances and golf courses and to work to build a long-term future that reinforces golf’s essential challenge and enhances the viability of both existing courses and courses yet to be built.”

We will see plenty of evidence of that need this month when the U.S. Open invades the South Course at Torrey Pines.

The course totals a ridiculous 7,802 yards. It has three par-3s of at least 200 yards, five par-4s of at least 450 yards and two par-5s that extend more than 600 yards.

And it probably wouldn’t be enough without a U.S. Open rough.

The pros are different from us, of course. We watch them hit 6-irons 230 yards and realize that we’ll never come close to that, no matter what fancy new clubs we buy.

But let’s face it: We all are in love with distance. We still try to bleed every possible yard out of every shot.

I know I am. I’m planning to buy new irons this year. I’ll hit lots and lots of shots during the fitting. I’ll care about feel and direction.

But I have to admit the obvious: On every shot, I’ll be asking one question:

How far?

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