Science and Golf II: Proceedings of the 1994 World Scientific Congress of Golf

By A. J. Cochran; M. R. Farrally | Go to book overview

37

The state of the game, equipment and science

F.W. Thomas

Technical Director, United States Golf Association, Far Hills, NJ,
USA

Abstract

The game of golf has a long history, and today it is enjoyed by an ever increasing number of golfers around the world.

The governing bodies of the game, The United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A), promulgate and interpret the rules. The object is to preserve and protect the traditions of the game and the challenge it presents.

Equipment design has evolved over time, and progress has been made based on trial and error, rather than the application of scientific principles. This is changing, and science is starting to take its place in the industry. Competition for part of the $5 billion market requires that products with superior performance properties be produced. Hype, without sound data to support it, has sufficed in the past, spurred on by a natural phenomenon, which results in an initial but short lived improvement in performance with each new piece of equipment.

The stories of improved performance are of great concern to many who care about the future of the game. Some have suggested that more rigid performance standards should be adopted.

A review of performance statistics over the last 25 years, and scoring over the last 50 years, does not seem to indicate an improvement beyond reason

Keywords: The Game of Golf, Rules, Golf Market, Science in Golf Equipment Design, U.S. PGA Tour Statistics, USGA/R&A.


1 Introduction

The views expressed herein are those of the author, borne of 20 years experience in setting standards, ruling on golf clubs, considerable effort trying to understand the science of it all and a lifelong love and fascination of this most challenging of games.

The game of golf has been played in one form or another for more than 400 years. The rules have not changed significantly since they were formally documented in 1774 (220 years ago). In spite of Peter Guthrie Tait's work and publications over 100 years ago, club design, and until recently, ball design, has not had a scientific base, but rather followed a path of trial and error. Science is now taking its place in the game, and this will result in a better understanding of why clubs and balls perform the way they do, rather than in discovering a dramatically different club or ball design, or a swing technique, which will alter the game

Science and Golf II: Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf. Edited by A.J. Cochran and M.R. Farrally. Published in 1994 by E & FN Spon, London. ISBN 0 419 18790 1

-237-

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