"We try to play by their rules and so far they haven’t done anything really of any great impact"
Ahead of his long-awaited Senior Open defence, Germany’s Bernhard Langer weighed into golf’s distance debate and believes the R&A and USGA could do more to ensure courses like the iconic host venue this week, Sunningdale, remain playable for current and future generations.
Despite drawing conclusions from the eagerly anticipated Distance Insights Report that, under the current trajectory, golf was moving in the “wrong direction” and that an “enhancement in the balance between distance and other skills” was desirable, the governing bodies have yet to come up with a solution that might rein in the likes of Bryson DeChambeau.
“The R&A and the USGA are making our rules, we try to play by their rules and so far they haven’t done anything really of any great impact to bring the ball back or any of that,” Langer, who is looking to win his 12th senior major this week, said.
“They’ve obviously put restrictions on the trampolining effect on the driver but people are hitting the ball incredibly far, the young folks.
“It’s a fascinating part of the game, so it’s a difficult decision and I do get it, because people come out and watch Bryson DeChambeau, right? Because he is the longest guy on tour right now, or one of the longest, and it’s fascinating to watch.
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“People came out to watch John Daly because he could hit it really far and if you take that away, then you make the game maybe less attractive.
“But at the same time, you’re making some golf courses obsolete in terms of the distances that they’re hitting it and golf becomes a little more expensive because you used to have 7,000 yards of golf, now you need 8,000 yards.
“You need an extra 1,000 yards, more or less that you need to take care of, maintain, rent, buy or whatever you want to call it, water it. It’s just more expensive to do an extra 1,000 yards than not, it’s just common sense.”
These thoughts echo those of Masters chairman Fred Ridley who, ahead of this year’s tournament, urged the governing bodies to put forward “thoughtful solutions as soon as possible” or the Augusta National committee would look at “other options” in order to maintain the design integrity of the famous layout.
“As I have stated in the past each year, we look at every hole of our golf course,” said Ridley. “Fortunately, we do have the ability to make any number of changes to protect the integrity of the course.
“At the same time, we hope there will not come a day when the Masters or any golf championship will have to be played at 8,000 yards to achieve that objective.”
“If there is no action taken, for whatever reason, then we need to look at other options with regard to our golf course and what we can do to continue to challenge these great golfers and maintain the design integrity that was initially adopted by Mr [Bobby] Jones and Mr [Alister] MacKenzie.”
At the beginning of this year, Rory McIlroy also let his feelings be known, calling the joint R&A and USGA report “a huge waste of time and money”.
And for all the vast opposition to the “bomb and gouge” strategy that has risen to prominence in recent times, Langer did acknowledge the impact it has had in bringing newcomers to the sport that perhaps wouldn’t have considered a career in golf previously.
“The game evolves, it changes, the players are more athletic. In America, we say the game of golf has come a very long way,” Langer added.
“It used to be the national games were baseball and American football, and the top athletes would go to those two sports.
“Now, they realise that you can make a good living in golf and you can have a longer career and we get a lot more of the best athletes coming to golf and fewer and fewer maybe to baseball and football.”