I've got all the respect in the world for Gary Player. His record is spotless. Oh, well, except for that cheating thing. But really, Gary Player, a brilliant guy and a great player with a good head on his shoulders. Oh, well, except for those stupid comments he made last week.
Gary Player is asking governing bodies to impose "drastic" restrictions to the equipment used on the professional tours. Says Player, a short hitter even in his prime, "There's not even a debate. There must be a premium on driving." New equipment is "ruining the game of golf."
Player elaborated, saying "I play on the Champions Tour now, and there are guys on it who are shooting scores that they could never shoot when they were young men. It just doesn't make sense, and it's ruining golf."
Never mind that today's senior golfer is better conditioned, or that today's senior tour player is going for millions of dollars. The motivation is there, and so are the exercise regimens. Gary Player, a lifelong health nut, should realize the impact that staying in shape can have on a player's game.
Gary then goes on to talk about his "solution" to the problem: bifurcation. Gary doesn't want to take away your Titleist 905 or your Pro V1x, but he does want to take that equipment out of the hands of the PGA and European Tour members. Why? Because "golf courses are becoming obsolete."
Gary Player's own passage into the realm of obsolete began long ago, yet he labors on: "We mustn't change the equipment for the average golfer, but on the tour, we've got to change things. If an amateur hits a ball 50 yards further, usually that will also mean he is 50 yards further in the rough. But they will get enjoyment out of it, and we have to satisfy them."
Because, as you know, Gary Player is all about satisfying "us." Today's ball is longer and straighter, and Gary's comments reinforce how out of touch he's become with the real world of golf. Not the world of golf inhabited by Jack Nicklaus or Ron Sirak, but the world of golf played by 99.9% of the golfers out there. It's a problem that commonly plagues golf's "talking heads," but Gary Player has tossed in an unhealthy dose of nostalgia as well:
The remainder of Player's have me seriously questioning his mental state at the time of the comments. They're quoted in full below along with an appreciably catty response.
I just hate to see what's happening today with golf clubs that I consider to be illegal. I'd stop the grooves being so deep (on the ball), and I'd stop the trampoline effect in the wood.
The way to solve all the problems is to quit making metal clubs and go back to wood, but I say that with tongue in cheek. If you gave Jack Nicklaus the conditions these guys play in now, none of them (modern-day players) could live with him. Also, there's nobody on the tour today who could hit the ball as well as Lee Trevino or Ben Hogan.
If I could somehow transport a 22-year-old Jack Nicklaus to 2005, I'd wager that Nicklaus couldn't win half of his 18 majors. Nicklaus didn't earn the nickname "Ohio Fats" for no reason: he was out of shape, a beer-belly toting "golfer of yester-year" at 22. I don't doubt that Jack would do well for himself, but I'd give him six majors. "Ohio Fats" would simply not be conditioned to play the modern game of golf any more so than Gary Player is equipped to comment upon it.
The point here is simple: Gary Player, sans any factual evidence, is guessing at things, grasping for straws, and trying to push an agenda. Whether that agenda is nostalgic in nature, rooted in his golf course design business, or has its roots in some other realm of his psyche remains to be seen.
All they have to do is spend a little bit of money and change the mold (of the ball) and let the ball go back 30 yards. There are no such things as par-5s now really in professional golf, unless they move the tees back.
Vijay Singh, with 55 rounds under his belt, is -98 on the par 5s he's played. That works out to a scoring average of 4.51, or less than half a stroke better than par, and Vijay is the leader in the category. Tiger Woods is tied for 22nd. In the past ten years, the leader never dropped below 4.44 and was as high as 4.66. These players don't have tap-in birdies at every par 5, despite what Player thinks, and the simplest of investigations bears out that argument.
I'll leave Player's understanding of the equipment making process alone. If you believe reducing the distance a ball travels by 30 yards is as simple as "changing a mold,", then I've got some oceanfront property here in Erie, PA to sell you.
The Same Old Distance Debate
We've covered the "distance debate" several times here at The Sand Trap (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and no doubt we'll talk about it more. The points of view can typically be broken down into two categories: emotion or fact. Gary Player, seemingly longing for the days of the gutta percha, is making an emotional, fact-less appeal. Gary Player, owner of a golf course design company, thinks that the costs of keeping up with the distance players hit the ball these days is solely the fault of the equipment they're using. After all, as a golf course designer he's forced to build larger, longer golf courses that cut into land previously set aside for real estate sales, eating into the property owner's budget and consequently, his paycheck.
It may not be quite that simple, in fact, but the motivations behind the various talking heads are quite easily illuminated with the simplest of logic, reason, and a few quick trips to Google.
The governing bodies, the golf course developers, the real estate folks, a few golfers who are no longer competitive (including Jack Nicklaus), and a crazy old guy in Georgia are asking that the ball go shorter. Who isn't? The players. You. Me. Golfers.
Gary Player, we bid you adieu, as you've officially crossed the Swilcan Burn bridge to blissful ignorance. Enjoy your stay.
Photo Credit: © NYT.