|Muirfield, East Lothian, Scotland (click to enlarge).|
Photo courtesy of George Waters.
What's so shocking about this? First, the R&A (in conjunction with its counterpart on this side of the Atlantic - the United States Golf Association) is an organization with responsibility to 'govern' the game. Technically, part of that 'governance' responsibility involves regulating playing equipment. But instead of acting with significance on the never-ending distance issue, here we have the R&A (and USGA) 'toughening and tighening' many of the world's best courses for a single week of competition, in direct response to their own inabilities to keep the performance of clubs and (especially) balls under control.
Frankly, the R&A and USGA have done a horrendous, almost non-existent job over the past two decades at regulating playing equipment - reportedly in fear of potential lawsuits from equipment manufacturers, who also have done the game no favours with their (seeming) unwillingness to work with the game's governing bodies on a solution to this problem.
The necessity of renovating courses to keep up with an unregulated golf ball that continues to travel out of control is an absolutely ridiculous path for golf to be on. Why? The threat posed by allowing the ball to travel further still, along with the example set by the R&A's 'toughening and tightening' campaign is quite easy to comprehend: Longer (and longer) courses require more land (remember, the longer the ball is permitted to fly the further it'll also travel sideways); bigger courses are more expensive to build and maintain (these are costs that inevitably translate into higher green fees and club dues); and, bigger courses take longer to play too (there's already a very discouraging slow play problem in golf).
None of this is good for the game, and amazingly relates directly to the R&A's and USGA's non-response to ever-improving playing equipment technology.
Forget the potential lawsuits that may be filed by equipment manufacturers if stricter regulations on playing equipment are imposed - it's been suggested that, perhaps, a class action lawsuit should be filed against the game's governing bodies by all of those clubs and course owners literally forced to add back tees, move greens and bunkers down range, etc., as a means to recoup their 'investments' in response to the R&A's and USGA's apparent complacency.
Now, there's an interesting concept to consider.