ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Jayson Hron: 'Hot' clubs are latest threat to golf's essence

No doubt many of us tuned in to watch Tiger and the rest of golf's best lash majestic drives into the stratosphere above Scotland's most prestigous golf course this week.

No doubt many of us tuned in to watch Tiger and the rest of golf's best lash majestic drives into the stratosphere above Scotland's most prestigous golf course this week.
For many of us who someday hope to conquer the unconquerable game of golf, watching the pros shoot it out can be an awesome experience. What they can do with a golf club is sheer magic, and in our quest to "measure up" or shoot par, we look for help in a bevy of places, some traditional and some revolutionary.
Some golf enthusiasts even take their search for conquest past revolutionary and into the realm of illegal.
The latest journey into that domicile of unfairly improved scoring appears to be the outlawed ERC driver.
Originally introduced by Callaway Golf, the ERC, and several imitations, were originally designed to be sold only in Europe and Japan, where the United States Golf Association does not preside.
Human nature and the black market, unfortunately, have taken over, as a few of these drivers, carrying a hefty price tag of anywhere between $700 and $3,000, have seeped onto American soil.
Needless to say, this has the USGA and every American golfer expecting fair and traditional play very concerned.
The statistics on the illegal clubs go something like this: the USGA has a test, introduced two years ago, that involves launching a ball at the club's stationary face. If the ratio of the incoming speed to the outgoing speed exceeds .830, the club is in violation and deemed illegal.
Those who have played the club say that it gives them an extra 10 yards or so off the tee.
Ten yards doesn't seem like much, but the USGA undoubtedly is looking to the future and anticipating even more improvements that could, as they put it, threaten the "sanctity of par."
In a sport without rival in terms of historic game play, it's easy to see why the USGA is so concerned.
One need look no further than college baseball to see what run-away equipment improvement can do to a sport. Countless 20+ run ball games finally forced the NCAA to mandate a maximum exit velocity on aluminum bats to maintain the "sanctity of pitching."
There are many who contend that "gorilla ball," as they call it, has destroyed baseball. They're right.
As is the USGA when it bans such drivers for the sake of the game.
It seems many Up North golfers are of the same opinion, including Brett Hull, who said that he would never consider using the illegal club.
But how will local tournaments be protected from others who may not be so honest?
Certainly Minnesota and Wisconsin are governed by the same USGA rules that proclaim the new drivers to be illegal, but will officials at Northland, Ridgeview, Enger Park, Lester Park or Nemadji be checking each player's bag for contraband clubs. Of course not.
However, the owner of Duluth's Golf USA store, Dean Miller, says that "club police" probably won't be necessary.
"It's pretty well known which clubs are illegal," said Miller. "And the golfers will know."
Miller suggested that area competitors will likely police themselves and each other well on the course, thus insuring fair play.
I hope he's right, but I know that when I'm playing a round against an opponent, the last thing I'm thinking about is what the other guy has in his bag.
At this point, it appears locally that the greatest deterrent to illegal club use will be the availability and expense of the ERC and its contemporaries. I'd love to believe that golf etiquette and a passion for holding high the game's traditions would also figure into players' decisions, but judging from what I've witnessed on many of the area's courses, I doubt that will be the case.
Jayson Hron is the sports editor at the Budgeteer News. He can be reached by e-mail at jayson.hron@duluth.com or by telephone at 723-1207.

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.