THERE are certain words that folk simply don’t like. According to the linguistic experts, terms like “moist” or “ointment” provoke the same kind of jowl-quaking wince that people often experience when they see that banner at the top of this page saying “Nick Rodger on Tuesday”.

As for yours truly? Well, I’ve never been particularly fond of the word “bifurcation”. To be honest, it sounds like something that would get suggestive mileage in an old Cissie and Ada sketch featuring Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough. “What do you think of bifurcation?” “Well, we only tried it once but Bert said it made his shrapnel move.”

You’ve probably read about bifurcation of late in the wake of the R&A and USGA’s proposal, by means of a Model Local Rule, to introduce a distance-limited tournament ball for top-level competition. In effect, it’s bifurcation between the elite professional and amateur men’s game and the recreational pursuit.

The proposal, if adopted, won’t take effect until 2026 but golf’s governing bodies have made their move and now the fun and games begin. Already, opinions are flying around in wild abandon and the next few weeks and months will see plenty of heated debate, hand-wringing and the kind of prolonged rumination you’d get in a field full of grazing cattle.

One equipment manufacturer suggested the plan to limit the distance the ball can travel would be “cataclysmic” for the game. Perhaps the R&A and USGA should devise a Model Local Rule to rein back the levels of hysterical reaction?

A statement, meanwhile, from Acushnet, the parent company of Titleist, claimed that “multiple versions of golf ball models in the market would be confusing to golfers.” This from a company which currently has 19 different balls listed on their website. It’s a funny old game.

In a way, it was oddly fitting that the plans to combat the vast lengths the modern-day ball travels were unveiled in the week of the Cheltenham Festival. When it comes to the issue of distance, after all, the horse has long since bolted. Nevertheless, the game’s custodians remain eager to lasso it back in.

Given the polarised opinions on the subject, this perilous, some may say impossible, quest to find common ground requires measured diplomacy from the R&A and USGA. They have to be seen to be preserving the sustainability of the game while not provoking war with the equipment manufacturers and the tours that are multi-million pound enterprises. The booming of 350-plus yard tee-shots, after all, is viewed as terrific entertainment. Then again, I can’t imagine that shaving some 15 yards off a drive – as a proposed tournament ball would do – would have spectators turning their backs on the game.

The argument from the purists is that golf in its upper echelons is a one-dimensional trudge. It’s all crash here, bang there and wallop everywhere while craft, invention and nuance is sacrificed. Those with an opposing view reckon these dewy-eyed romantics are nothing more than golfing Luddites who spend all their days wistfully imagining the sound of a nicely flighted Persimmon wood. Like everything in these fevered times, there’s not much middle ground in the debate.

Over the years, great resources have been lavished on courses to be stretched and expanded in an attempt to temper 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.

And we can’t forget the bigger issues surrounding the environment. In fact, one keen observer suggested this whole distance lark is a bit like climate change itself. Well, perhaps not quite as apocalyptic but there are parallels in the sense that we’ve known about the problem for ages but haven’t done much about it until it gets all very pressing.

Golf’s actual environmental credentials are under heightened scrutiny and you don’t need to be Greta Thunberg to work out that increased hitting distances lead to longer courses, the need for more land and all the strains that come with additional maintenance. One of the findings in the R&A and USGA’s comprehensive Distance Insights Report details that course footprints in some cases have grown by 64 acres over the past 100 years. The topic of sustainability will become ever more prevalent as more years pass.

In fact, I was reading a doom-laden article recently about the impending climate catastrophe and the effects on various golf courses. Forget the Old Course being rendered obsolete by a relentless bombardment from the game’s big-hitters. By 2050, it will be under bloomin’ water. We’ll need a Model Local Rule on coastal erosion next.

By 2026, meanwhile, the game’s elite players may, on occasion, have to master two differently engineered balls. It’s hardly a new conundrum, though. Back in the day, there was the smaller British ball and the larger American ball. Ben Hogan played the small ball in his one and only Open appearance in 1953… and won it. The great golfers would find a way to adapt. I’m sure the cosseted modern-day superstars, with all the tech, research and development at their disposal, will cope with a slightly different ball game too.

Until that day comes, the distance debate, like a booming drive, will run and run.