The legendary Bobby Jones once said of Jack Nicklaus, “He plays a game with which I am not familiar.” These days, it’s as if we all should be saying that when we listen to the pros talk about golf.
It became big news over the weekend when Tiger Woods said that the powers-that-be need to make the golf ball softer, thus preventing the modern golfer from hitting it so far.
My reaction: Speak for yourself, Tiger.
While it has been clear for at least two decades that, for the pros, the technology has overtaken the length of most courses, I don’t know that it applies to us mere mortals.
Even with clubs and balls that are far more advanced, I still don’t hit it as far as I once did, and I’m not happy about it.
Sure, I’m a better player in many ways. I’m certainly a smarter player.
But I miss hitting 300-yard drives.
I miss feeling as if I could reach just about any par-5 in two if I hit two big ones.
I miss being 225 yards away and pulling out an iron.
I miss pulling out an 8-iron when the rest of the group is hitting a fairway wood or long iron.
I miss hearing someone say, “Well, we finally got to Rick’s drive.”
I miss being called “Kong.”
Now the only way I feel like an ape is when I make a triple bogey. It’s especially humbling when I get paired up with some young buck who crushes the ball the way I used to think I could. Hey, what’s going on here? I’m getting outdriven by 30 yards!
It’s not just about ego. Yes, that’s a big part of it, but I also have lost a tremendous advantage – I could get out of trouble by hitting it extra far or extra high.
Never mind the fact that those hero shots too often got me in more trouble. At least I felt confident enough to attempt them. Now, not so much.
Our great game changes for us as we get older. If we’re smart, we come to accept it, and we adjust accordingly. We don’t try to go for that par-5 in two if there’s water in front of the green. We take an extra club or two and just try to swing smoothly rather than go all out with a short iron, which is never a good idea.
And the funny thing is, even though we might not feel as good about our game as we used to, we might score a whole lot better. We accept bogeys as an inevitable part of the game, and we make more up-and-down pars than we used to because our short game, by necessity, has improved dramatically.
So I have a simple solution for Tiger and the other PGA Tour guys: Change the ball, but for designated tournaments only. If the Tour wants to rule that a softer ball must be used at its events, that’s fine with me. If major amateur tournaments, featuring mostly younger players, want to do the same, go for it.
But I don’t see why the Champions Tour or LPGA need to do that, and I certainly don’t see why everyday guys like us need to do it.
Our egos have taken enough of a hit as we’ve moved up from the blue tees to the whites and still can’t drive it to the spots we used to reach. We, too, are now playing a game with which we’re not familiar. And it hurts. Boy, it hurts.