The Long Ball
There’s no question that golfers and golf fans have become enamored with “the long ball”. Most industry advertising activity is centered around drivers and hitting it further. Or golf balls that go longer. Irons lofts are being continuously cranked down to give golfers the impression that this new iron model’s 7-iron is a full club longer than the others.

On television, announcers are continually talking about how far so-and-so hit that drive, or that he’s hitting an 8-iron approach from 175 or some such silly number. Hitting 5-irons or less to par-fives has become a normal thing on the PGA Tour. But is all this good for golf? Or more importantly, your golf?

I’m going to say “no”, actually. I think the overwhelming focus on “the long ball” is hurting golf participation in general and junior golf in particular. The tour professionals are hitting the ball miles due to several factors:
  1. The equipment is certainly a factor. Modern drivers and balls are much more hopped up, but they also get an advantage by the in-depth fitting they get from their sponsor companies, tuning launch angles and spin rates to the “nth” degree.

  2. They are bigger, better athletes. Modern tour pros, with few exceptions, have become gym rats. They work out like any other modern athlete. The weight room and personal trainer are in their daily routines. Through the 1950-70s, the average tour professional was under 6’ tall – today you have a majority of them over that number. These are big guys and...

  3. They swing harder. Today’s tour pro was a junior golf product of the 90s and later, when “the long ball” began to take center stage. We junior golfers of the 50s and 60s were taught to learn to hit it solid and straight, and told that distance would come with our growth. Of course, we were learning with cut down persimmon woods and blade irons, so that was the way to learn the game. The modern tour pro grew up with big metal woods and cavity back irons, and has been taught to hit it hard from the start.
The problem that I’m seeing stems from that last point. I watch junior golfers of all ages at our club, and they are all totally star-struck on hitting the ball hard. The youngsters, age 8-12, often don’t even finish holes, they just want to go out to the range or walk a few holes and pound some drivers and hit irons as hard as they can. The closer they get to the green, the more boring the game gets for them. To them, hitting it far, not actual scoring, is the goal and fun of golf. So as they get older and aren’t the longest hitter in their group of buddies, I think they’ll lose interest. And as they get into competition and get smoked by someone who does score, they get demoralized.

I’ll offer as proof that junior golf is suffering is the situation in my own home town -- Victoria, Texas. When I was in high school, growing up in this area, there were dozens of kids in this and surrounding towns who could break 80 all the time. In my small high school of 700 students, we had 8-10 who could.

But today, in our town of 60,000. . . three high school golf programs . . . we have ONE kid that can shoot in the 70s consistently. ONE. And these kids have access to two private clubs and their driving ranges, practice greens and courses. Every day.

To me, the focus on the long ball just might be the number one threat to the game. What do you think?
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
dsing23 says:
I agree 100%. Everyone gets caught up in distances no matter what the level of play is. I'm just a recreational golfer myself, but I'm focusing more on hitting crisp, clean shots with consistent yardage everytime I hit that club. This is only my 3rd year playing and my last two rounds I posted a 90 and a 98. Both rounds, my putts were under 40. Missing a 2 foot putt counts just as much as hitting the ball 300 yards. All that distance doesn't mean anything if you can't finish up ON THE GREEN. People seem to forget that you'll be playing wedges and putter more than any other club each round. Fun is being around the green and having all these option with all the different wedges. That's the art in golf.
adude says:
when you get older you get wiser when I first started out playing golf I used to try and smash it of the planet but with age came the thought process, these days I concentrate on accuracy , all I want to do is zone in on the pin.
Do you know what golf is , trying to hit a ball 1.68 inches in diameter resting on another ball 8000 miles in diameter , you have got to hit the smaller one
ally1957 says:
It's tru that the skill in golf is short game but the person that can just hit the fairway 225 250 yards away has the advantage over someone like myself who has trouble hitting 200 yards and the green is always 3 shots away unless its a short 4 and if its a 600 yarder par 5 like our clubs 10th then 6 to the green is a dream I've yet to achieve.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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