The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - 2

GOLF EQUIPMENT
REGULATIONS

USGA slips bonds of reality with latest
thinking on ball regulations
By Jim Koppenhaver

F

or those of us who were night-owls and grew up in the
'60s amid 3 network TV channels, we likely recall the
memorable John Gillespie Magee Jr. poem accompanied by fighter jet video that started, "Oh! I have slipped the
surly bonds of earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered
wings." It celebrates the feeling of being untethered from earth
and freedom from its confines. With the latest commentary on
ball regulations and technology, I'm beginning to think that
the USGA is seeking to follow Mr. Magee's flights of fancy
and seeking to be untethered from reality and unconstrained by
any fact-based logic in their rules and equipment specifications
actions and thinking.
Let me outline why I, representing the "average golfer"
that the USGA solicits annually for my financial support via a
membership letter, am increasingly wary of their motives and
supporting logic. The first recent instance was the debate over
the anchored putting stroke. The USGA's initial thinking on
the matter was that it was providing an unfair advantage at the
highest level of competition for the minority of players who
had adopted it on the various tours. In the old days, you could
come up with this type of anecdotal thinking, pick out a couple of random examples of recent winners and pass that off as
"proof enough." That was then, this is now.
In today's world, we have both more data and better math to
put these types of arguments under a microscope to determine
both correlation and cause-and-effect. Think of it as applying
a "Moneyball" approach to evaluating whether the USGA inquiry and decision was supported by "we know" vs. "we believe."
Based on analysis by people better at math than myself and
over multiple years, there was no strong correlation between
competitive success/winning and an anchored stroke with a
long putter. So we got the worst of both worlds in this decision
and modification by our friends at the USGA; it didn't fix a
problem that didn't exist. Unfortunately, while trying to better
govern the micro-minority of the world's best players, it also
brought unintended consequences to the game played by average Joes like me. A number of our non-elite, majority-share
golfers are beyond the age of 55. While no scientific study

of any size has been conducted, the anecdotal evidence from
many quarters would indicate that the longer putter was helping them stay in the game longer (less back pain by eliminating
the putting crouch) and helping some number of them make
more putts/shoot lower scores/increase their fun. It's no secret
(at least not to any of the Perspective's readers) that the industry
is in the challenging position of trying to cling to our Silent/
Baby Boomer generation participants and maintain their frequency while we figure out how to have more appeal to Gen X/
Millennials who aren't embracing that game at historical rates.
USGA's decision and messaging to average golfers on this front
is a three-fer: 1) Just deal with your back pain, you old geezers
2) It doesn't matter if you make more putts, they're ill-gotten
gains and you have to give them back and 3) We're not here to
make it fun; if you're not having fun, go play some other sport.
That piece of governing logic and rule modification was followed by a review and revision on the posting of solo scores
for handicap purposes. For background, by general consensus
of multiple knowledgeable sources, less than 15% of all golfers
have a handicap. Within that, we don't know what subset of
them have one by actual choice (i.e. it's generally a "bundled"
component of private club membership so, like Golf Channel
which gets piped into ~79M households due to packaging, it's
not a true consumer choice) but it's probably safe to say that
<10% of golfers actually choose to have a handicap. Moreover,
the number of USGA members and handicap holders has been
declining for years, indicating that previous participants either
no longer find it useful, worth the money or both.
One would think that in this environment, a reasonable "consumer interest" organization would be trying to think up ways
to expand the base vs. further constrain it. The USGA however has proven time and again that it follows no such business
model. Against that backdrop, the organization in the recent
past felt it necessary to create the constraint to the handicapping system that scores posted in solo rounds would no longer
count. I guess that somewhere they had uncovered evidence
of sand-bagging by the rank-and-file that was so widespread
and egregious that it required commensurate force (farce?). As

It's no secret (at least not to any of the Perspective's readers) that the
industry is in the challenging position of trying to cling to our Silent/
Baby Boomer generation participants and maintain their frequency
while we figure out how to have more appeal to Gen X/Millennials who
aren't embracing that game at historical rates.
2 The Pellucid PersPecTive

December 2017



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017

TOC
USGA slips bonds of reality with latest thinking on ball regulations
Course closures can be mythbusting
Storied desert club charts new course
November golf weather impact: Double-digit drop, year sags slightly
Atlanta golf market conditions far from peachy
Shark Experience unlikely to break golf ’s chains
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - TOC
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - USGA slips bonds of reality with latest thinking on ball regulations
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - 3
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - 4
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - Course closures can be mythbusting
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - 6
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - Storied desert club charts new course
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - 8
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - 9
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - November golf weather impact: Double-digit drop, year sags slightly
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - 11
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - 12
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - Atlanta golf market conditions far from peachy
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - 14
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - 15
The Pellucid Perspective - December 2017 - Shark Experience unlikely to break golf ’s chains
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