Golf Channel analyst and Frank Nobilo believes the game of golf has never been more divorced between amateurs and pros than it currently is.
In an interview with Golf Australia’s John Huggan, Nobilo said, “I think that is extremely dangerous.”
“We have equipment that is really designed for the recreational player, but which produces unhealthy distance for the elite players. I remember playing in pro-ams and occasionally being out-driven by an amateur. Now that never happens. Now the pros hit their 5-irons past the amateur’s drives.
“The professional game has never been more divorced from the amateur game. I think that is extremely dangerous. I’m not one for bifurcation though. One of the beauties of the game should be that everyone can play. But if we went to different equipment we would lose that. The game wouldn’t be what it is supposed to be.”
Let me just stop right here and ask everyone reading this if they believe that amateurs and professionals should be hitting the ball the same distance no matter what equipment they are using?
If you came up with any answer other than “no,” just stop reading here and move on.
In no sport is an amateur expected to be as good as a professional. You don’t see amateurs getting called onto the court to play in the NBA, they don’t run onto the field and pitch for MLB teams, and even though the Cleveland Browns struggle with quarterbacks, the guys they have drafted will always be better than an average Joe off the street — OK, that may be stretching it.
In golf, you may run into an amateur who is a scratch golfer or has a plus handicap. We’ve all played with them and they generally put us to shame during our weekend outings. But when that player hits the course with someone who makes their living on the PGA Tour or the Web.com Tour, there should be no competition. That includes play off the tee, from the fairway, around the green, and on it. Sure, an amateur might get lucky and hit a great shot every once in a while and, like Nobilo said, they might even out drive a pro, but if you were to score the distance and accuracy of every shot, the professional should dominate 99.99% of the time.
THAT’S WHAT MAKES THEM PROFESSIONALS!
Nobilo continued by saying:
“I am amazed when I go to Wentworth now for the BMW PGA Championship. It isn’t the course I remember playing. So any comparison between now and then has been lost. Martin Kaymer, for example, should be able to compare himself with Bernhard Langer. But he can’t. He isn’t playing the same game or the same courses.”
Yes, Martin Kaymer is playing the same game as Bernhard Langer. It’s just a version that has been modernized over the last 100 years. Changes to equipment take place in every sport. Golf just happens to be a sport where equipment matters quite a bit.
Should there be a change made to stop golfers from overpowering the current courses they are playing weekly? Of course there should, and the easiest way to do that right now is to bifurcate the sport and allow for major advancements in equipment on the amateur level. But make rules stating that changes to professional equipment cannot add more than (for example) three yards over a certain time span, say five years. Baseball, another sport where equipment matters, has never had an issue using wood bats for professionals, while most levels of the sport below that use composite or aluminum bats that allow younger players to hit the ball further than they would with a wood bat.
Bifurcating equipment rules would keep the manufacturers happy because they can continue pumping out new products. It should also keep course architects happy because they won’t have to worry about major changes to courses based on distance. And lastly, the professionals who have already grown accustomed to hitting the ball a certain distance could continue playing the game at the current level.
Don’t roll the sport back. There’s no need to diminish what has already been established as the status quo. Just keep it as is and lets move forward with two divisions, one amateur and one professional.
No matter what equipment advances are made on the amateur level, even the best amateurs will never be competitive with the guys we watch on TV.