October 21

Who Are the Guardians of the Game?



Ever hear the term “Guardians of the Game”?

Who are the Guardians of the Game?  No, it ain’t a space-travelling team of vagabonds made up of a genetically-modified raccoon, a space pirate, some no-neck dude with crazy-looking knives, a living weapon and a walking tree with a stunted vocabulary… it’s the magazines, TV channels, the USGA and R&A.

They are supposed to be defending you, me, all of us that enjoy this game called golf without making a paycheck from playing.  They’re supposed to be there to tell us right from wrong, to help us figure this game out when we’ve lost our way.  And they aren’t.


Yeah, you read that right.  It rankles me, to say the least.  Let me count the ways:

1. The Magazines

The magazines should be doing more to help you make good decisions… but they’re focused on keeping their magazines relevant.

Take their “hot” equipment “tests” and lists, for example.  That’s pure marketing, and really does nothing to give you information towards making intelligent golf equipment buying decisions.  Some are nothing more than buddy trips with range sessions.  Some say they have science to back up their claims, but never show it.

Did you know that the “big names” pay thousands of dollars to these magazines, just for simple one page splashes?  It’s even more for the 4-page exposes in the equipment editions.

What that means is, no negative reviews.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the driver head has been maxed out for many years now.  Sure, we have adjustable hosels, but that’s nothing new; Tom Wishon invented the first adjustable hosel metal wood back in 1995, and club builders were doing it with wooden woods (by altering the entry point and angle of the drill) before then.

Make no mistake, club companies have the right to run their business as they see fit… but the golf magazines could do a LOT more for us.  They could stop kow-towing to them because of their ad dollars, and give us real, “Consumer Reports”-like information for all things equipment, for starters.

2. The TV Channels

This is very similar to the magazines, so this will be short.  They do seem to get more ad revenue from outside sources, so they aren’t as reliant on the OEMs as the magazines are… but they could do more to show us ALL options.

3. The Governing Bodies

Flat-out, the USGA considers itself the guardians of the PROFESSIONAL game, even though it was founded for amateurs.  The putter anchoring ban and the box groove ban are just two examples.

You see, when they banned anchoring putters, they did it for EVERYONE that wants to participate in a USGA-sanctioned event.  Doesn’t matter if you’re Joe the Accountant, playing in one tournament all year.  Why?!  It wasn’t hurting anyone!  There is no statistical evidence that proves anchoring a putter improves your game.

They banned wedges and irons with more loft than 27* that had “box” or “U” shaped grooves.  The reason?  PGA pros were playing “bomb and gouge” golf, where they’d bomb a drive 340 yards into the rough, then gouge it out with a SW or LW from the rough.

As a refresher, grooves aren’t what create spin.  Loft, swing speed, quality of contact- those do.  Grooves play their part by channeling away grass and dirt from the face, which allows cleaner contact.

Ever hear of a “flyer lie”?  That’s what happens when too much grass is between the ball and club face.  The grooves can’t channel away all that extra spinach, so the ball comes off the face with reduced backspin, which causes the ball to fly farther than you planned.  Nice with a driver, not so nice with an 8 iron.  And yeah, flyer lies happened even with those dastardly box grooves…

But because the PGA pros- the very best of the best of us- were apparently rendering courses obsolete, the USGA banned the box grooves.

Now, if you don’t remember, the USGA did try to ban high-COR drivers.  After they went to court, it was decided that .83 would be the limit.  It helped that the R&A went with a higher COR, with almost all pros switching back to the “normal” .83 COR (because of a higher frequency of wayward golf balls) within the same calendar year.

Also, if you don’t remember, distance sells.  That’s why you see “X more yards!” or “guaranteed (to hit the ball farther)” in the marketing spiel.  We constantly hear people like Jack Nicklaus want the ball rolled back, or clubs rolled back, but they won’t do it.

Instead, they’ll punish us in the areas where we could use the most help: the short game.

If you have a 90mph swing with a driver, switching from a .83 driver to a .86 model might give you a few extra yards, but the accuracy issues you risk developing might turn you off from that kind of driver… especially when many of us already have accuracy issues, to boot.  But short game shots and putting are two areas where you can see immediate and appreciable differences, and we no longer have that option.

Thanks, USGA- and R&A for just following along.  Now you know why I don’t bother paying for a membership.

At GLG, we’re all about the FUN of golf; if you wanna use an old box-style wedge, go for it.  Find a non-conforming driver on the Bay?  Boom away.  Anchoring a putter helps your aching back?  Make like a sailor and anchor’s away.  Stop worrying about what our supposed “guardians of the game” say and just go out and play!

What do you think?  Are you a “Purist”, or a “Hell’s Bells… Let’s Play!” type?  Let me know in the comments!  While you’re here… why not sign up for my newsletter?

About the author 

Justin Blair

Justin Blair is the founder of Green Lantern Golf. When he isn't bringing his 10+ years of excellent craftsmanship experience to golf club fitting, building, and repair, he's geeking out about Star Wars (he's watched them all about 8,437 times!) and things like the MCU and LOTR, he's drinking mead and craft brews. If you wanna know more, check out my About Page!

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