I WAS looking at my golf clubs the other day, abandoned in the corner like some Victorian class dunce, and realised that I’ve had them for bloomin’ yonks.

Yes, there are one or two relatively modern additions to the armoury but, on the whole, the set is a fairly motley assembly of antiquities that perfectly compliment my golfing absurdities as I muddle on in this game with merry, enthusiastic ineptitude.

I’ve stood on the tee at media days down the years and my playing partners have examined said clubs with the same kind of peering curiosity you’d adopt when gazing at a primitive shard of flint during a quiet, whispering shuffle through a museum. Forget getting a caddie. I’d need a ruddy curator.

The rampaging advancement of golf technology, therefore, is not something I have embraced with great vigour. All of which brings us to the R&A and USGA’s Distance Insights Report and the on-going debates, discussions and deliberations about this, that and the other concerning equipment and its impacts.


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The game’s custodians gave an update last week and unveiled plans for regulations limiting the length of clubs and the potential use of a local rule specifying what clubs and balls a player can use at events.

Funnily enough, the missive from the top brass came in the same week that NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 14 commander Alan Shepard clattering two golf balls on the surface of the moon, one of which he claimed travelled “miles and miles and miles”. According to scientists, though, it only travelled 40 yards. Shepard must have been using clubs similar to mine?

Back on planet earth, meanwhile, the R&A and USGA’s statements of intent were essentially aimed at the top level of golf. Us mere mortals would just carrying on thrashing, swiping and gouging as normal.

In the wake of the announcement, Rory McIlroy got particularly animated, saying the whole process reeked of “self-importance”, and that limitations on equipment “doesn’t need to happen” while stating that the governing bodies should focus more on getting people into the game at the grassroots instead of worrying about something that “pertains to 0.1 per cent of the golfing community.” 

Some said McIlroy was missing the point, others thought he’d hit the sweet spot. Polarised opinion on this weighty issue is par for the course and finding consensus will take a bit longer than a guddle for a wayward drive in the heavy rough.

Over the years, great resources have been lavished on courses to be stretched and expanded to combat the big-hitters. At the elite level, the game has been getting longer and longer at a time when, in the sport’s broader sense, we are encouraging shorter formats to make golf cheaper, more accessible and less time consuming.


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Golf’s environmental credentials, meanwhile, are under increased scrutiny due to the need for more land, more water and more pesticides for bigger courses.

Part of the Distance Insights Report shows that course footprints in some cases had grown by 64 acres over the past 100 years. In the current climate, the issue of sustainability will become much more prevalent in the discussion as it rumbles on.

Simply adding length, then, is not the answer and surely some more creative thinking on course set-up can be employed instead of going down the hellishly complex route of trying to halt the realities of progress, technological advance and the march of time while potentially adopting bifurcation, with its separate equipment rules for professionals and amateurs.

That, of course, would take away one of the game's great selling points whereby your club golfer can operate under the same parameters as the world No 1. What the best pros wear, what they wield and how they whack it has always influenced and inspired.

Many wail that the game is now simply too one-dimensional. It’s all crash here, bang there and wallop over yonder while craft, invention and nuance is sacrificed. In many ways that is a great disservice to a whole raft of athletic performers who thrive in this fascinating game of skill, nerve and complex demands. You still have to get that pesky ball in the hole, even if you are rocketing it 350 yards off the tee.


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We grouse that cherished courses are being brought to their knees, some even rendered obsolete, but would you lose sleep if McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau or Brooks Koepka blasted a 59 in an Open over the hallowed turf of the Old Course? It would be thrilling box office and the wider engagement and profile wouldn’t do the game any harm even if some would view it as an appalling act of golfing desecration.

McIlroy zipped round the Old Course in 63 on day one of the Open in 2010 when there was no wind and the auld links was as vulnerable as a newly-born gazelle on the Serengeti. The next day, when the wind whipped up, he toiled to an 80. That’s the wonderful, unpredictable nature of the beast.

The Distance Insights Report has got everybody in golf talking. And that’s not a bad thing. Trying to rein back a horse that’s already bolted will require more than talk, though.