Golf in America will face a crisis over water


So Callaway is offering us a club that hits the ball farther than the rules allow. Big deal. If you think the ERC II driver is a serious threat to golf, then you’ve got your Brooks Brothers necktie knotted too tight.

“But Callaway is trying to dictate the rules.”

Nonsense. It’s simply offering an alternative way to play the game. If you’ve ever given yourself a putt, then you already play an alternative game.

“If Callaway wins, the USGA loses, and all is anarchy.”

No more anarchy than it is now. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad the USGA has a rule book. It’s handy a good starting point for deciding how I’m going to play next Saturday. But that’s all it is: a starting point. Oh, occasionally I may decide to play strictly by the book in tournaments, for example. But the USGA governs only by consent of the governed, and if I choose not to be ruled by the USGA . . . well, by golly, the USGA is not my lord and master. (Neither, of course, is Ely Callaway; there’s a good chance that next weekend I’ll use a Titleist driver. How’s that for anarchy?)

“Callaway is just trying to make money.”

No kidding. To accuse Callaway-the company or the man–of greed is to accuse the shark of hunger. It’s a business, for heaven’s sake.

“But they’re hypocrites.”

So Callaway claims it just wants to make the game “more fun.” Is that a lie? No, it’s a marketing plan.

“Arnold Palmer sure is a hypocrite for supporting the ERC II. I thought he was all for the rules. He’s been bought off.”

Whoa, Nellie. Don’t knock Arnie-he’s just agreeing with the world’s oldest rules-making body: the R&A, which governs golf everywhere in the world except North America. According to the R&A, “spring-like effect” just doesn’t offer us enough of an advantage to matter. Besides, Arnie still believes tournament players ought to play by the rules. He’s just trying to cut us ordinary Joes a break and have a little fun with his own friends on Saturday morning at Bay Hill.

“But isn’t Callaway really just trying to put pressure on the USGA to change its equipment rules?”

Maybe. So what? If enough of us choose nonconforming clubs, then the USGA had better change or it will be courting irrelevance. The USGA is the servant of golfers, not the other way around. We decide how the game will be played. Callaway is just expanding our choices.

“So next Saturday one of my opponents in a $5 Nassau shows up with a nonconforming driver. What do I do?”



(1) Play anyway.

(2) Refuse to play.

(3) Negotiate a stroke or two off his handicap-assuming you think the club is going to help. (That’s a big assumption: Most of my friends will just hit the ball a little farther into the rough.)

“Won’t the ERC II make life trickier for people who run tournaments?”

I suppose. Now tournament directors will have to decide up front whether nonconforming drivers are allowed in this week’s tournament. Is it really so hard to say “yes” or “no”?

“But you can’t post a USGA handicap score after a round with a nonconforming club, right?” Right. Again, you’ve got a choice to make. The choice is good. “But isn’t this the top of a slippery slope, which will end with companies offering balls and clubs that anyone can hit 400 yards and that demand 10,000-yard courses?”

Only if people want to play that kind of game. They don’t. That’s why the vast majority refuse to buy the high-voltage balls that have been advertised for years in the newspapers.

Golf is, after all, a self-policing exercise. If everybody buys the ERC II or a similar nonconforming club, then, like it or not, that’s golf. If no one buys it, then that’s golf. If half of us buy it, and the other half don’t, then come Saturday, some of us will be playing one version of the game, some another.

Just the way we do now.


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