Years ago, when I was trekking through the grueling life that is the mini tour experience, a fellow grinder and I were enjoying a beer and some dinner one night when a gentleman who noticed our hats started chatting shop. He asked us what we did, our handicaps and upon learning we could get the ball around half-decently broke into an immediate story about a friend of his who "hit it 350 yards down the middle every time!"
My friend, who hadn't been having his best week with the putter, grumbles into my ear, "See, another a**hole who can hit it further than us."
And thus brings us to the biggest misnomer in all of sports. The misconception of the 300-yard drive. Ask any 15-handicapper out there and they have a friend who pounds it 380 yards. Or if you're real lucky you might meet a guy who he himself can hit it 300 "consistently."
But the reality of golf, and drivers, is that amateurs really have no idea how far 300 yards is, and the real question is should they care? The idea was brought up to Geoff Ogilvy by John Huggans when talking about how fans would react if the ball, or golf clubs, were dialed back. The complaint is "fans would outrage" if the guys weren't pounding it 325 yards down the fairway, but in reality do they even know? Here is what the 2006 U.S. Open champion had to say.
“It is absurd to imagine that professional golf would be less entertaining if we hit our drives 30 yards shorter,” said Ogilvy.
“I’ve heard multiple players argue that we are entertaining because we hit the ball so far. But Arnold Palmer hit his drives maybe 280 yards and he was the most entertaining golfer in history. It’s unbelievably arrogant to imagine that anyone on tour today is more entertaining than Arnold.”
In golf, distance is speed. Guys want to drive their cars fast, and their balls far and that's why basically every golf company is spending millions of dollars on research and development and marketing to convince you that they have the driver to gain you some miles off the tee.
But I tend to agree with Ogilvy here. Would anyone in the world notice how far these guys were hitting it if the computers didn't tell them or networks didn't report it? I don't think so. A solid golf shot is a solid golf shot and fans can see when a guy stripes a ball. I remember when I was kid watching David Toms do a clinic at a local municipal by my house and although he can't get the ball out there 280 I was amazed at his contact.
Long drives are fun, but go to any website that had a recap of the best golf shots of 2012 and find me one booming tee ball that made the list. It isn't there, and if the USGA, or whoever, decided one day to finally scale some of this equipment back, it wouldn't be as nearly negative to the game as some might think.