The Slugger, Golf's New Future

Adrian WhiteheadContributor IOctober 4, 2011

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 01:  Dustin Johnson of the USA drives off the 18th tee during the third round of The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at The Old Course on October 1, 2011 in St Andrews, Scotland.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The more worrying aspect about the beautiful game over the last years, has been the introduction of the slugger. Courses have been designed, competitions have been ran, and equipment have definitely been created for them in recent years.

But it wasn't that long ago where golfers used say “all he can do is hit a long way; he has no skill." Well, guess what, they're here, players with very little skill other than an ability to hit the ball a long way.

Never was this more evident, than in this year's British Open. Links golf, windy, rain and tough rough, normally was enough to control players, but not know, we now we also have to have a course that is 7,200 yards plus.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem on a manicured park land course, where the only problem is the sun. But on a links course in a storm, 7,200 is more like 7,500.

As we watched the week unfold, great players were dropping away one by one, not even making the cut, one slip and your round was over and your competition. So when we came down the final straight, basically we were left with about 6 players, 5 sluggers and a player who had been brought up on links golf.

Now I’m not saying that this player can’t hit the ball, far from it. It wasn’t that long ago where he himself was considered a long hitter. But he still had enough power and more so skill, to work the ball around, and the only saving grace about the whole week was he won, and in my mind saved the tournament.

The other ironic thing about the whole competition was that a 60-year-old was still in there fighting it out with the boys, cause he has the ability not only to hit the ball, but also work the ball. His only problem was, that even he ran out of steam during the third round and didn’t have enough to get it back.

Golf at this moment is definitely going down a new road. In my last article, I wrote about the lack of charisma from our players, faceless accountants.

But also now, we seem to be going down the path of the slugger, the once-golfer who was only destined for freak shows Like “the longest hitter in the world,” now the only requirement to play tour golf. Gone are the days, so it seems, where players had to work a ball and think. 

Even kids nowadays are trained only to do one thing: hit it a long way. The good player even now, still hits the ball around 275 to 290 yards and it doesn’t matter what people say, and 10 years ago that would have been plenty enough.

But now the average stats are 305 to 320.  So the players now are being told, if you can’t hit that far, get in the gym, bulk up, to find the added distance.

Tour officials, I’m sure, are acutely aware of these problems as its been coming for a long time, maybe 30 years or more. And when they tried to do something about it, like tightening the courses, the players only got straighter and still hit further, making once-great golf courses too short to play.

They even also tried making courses so difficult, surrounding greens with water and the like. But then the owners of the courses started complaining as nobody was going to play, as they were too difficult.

Trying to find this happy medium has been a long-time problem and as new event officials come and go. More and more it seems to be, that were left with only one option, The Slugger.

Adrian Whitehead