Former Open and US Open champion Tony Jacklin has his say on the state of the game.
I’m not coming at this as a gnarled old pro dreaming of days of yore, and none of this is sour grapes or anything like that. I’ve just got the best interests of the game at heart and I’m concerned about the direction golf has been taking for the last 40 years. The sport is at a crossroads and I wonder how on Earth it’s going to move forward.
A lot of us older guys have been imploring the R&A and the USGA to rein in the distance the ball travels. They say they are monitoring it, but I do wonder whether they are seeing what the rest of us see. Golf these days is all about smashing the ball as far as you can and about putting contests. The game is upside down with new technology.
People keep telling me bifurcation is an issue, but I don’t see why. There is a massive chasm between the game the amateurs play now compared to the professionals. I’d allow the amateurs to play with any new-fangled device they want if it makes the game easier for them, but I’d rein back the ball for the pros to make the game less predictable. Players are shooting 61s and 62s every week and it’s making a mockery of the game. The players don’t need 14 clubs in the bag because they don’t use half of them. The greens are all perfect and they can tap down spike marks, unlike the old days. If I had 25 putts it was a fantastic day, but now they’re regularly taking 22 and 23.
The game has become so easy. There are no real par 5s anymore, apart from when the wind is against and the hole is 650-yards long. It would be good to see the players hitting 4 and 5-irons into greens again, instead of smashing it miles on to wide fairways and hitting wedge approaches. You’ve got guys like Phil Mickelson coming back from the Ryder Cup saying, "I can’t play courses like Le Golf National anymore". To me, that is a great layout that rightly puts a premium on accuracy off the tee.
I don’t consider some of these elite guys that talented and nobody looks like they’re having a good time. They’re all just going about their business. A 30-foot putt goes in, but they don’t smile. There’s no fist-pumping and it’s all just very matter of fact.
The players have become too robotic. There’s no emotion. It’s not like when Seve or Arnold were in their pomp. It used to be a real spectacle to see those charismatic players in action. Tiger still pulls the biggest crowds and he’s got a bit more oomph... but generally speaking there’s little emotion.
Golf has been severely compromised. Let’s go back to the days of proper shot-making skills, players bending and shaping 3 and 4-irons into greens again. I think that if the professionals, i.e. the PGA Tour, made the rules, it would be a different game.