JOHN COCKAYNE: With hi-tech, average golfers might just hit that cow’s behind
Opposition to technology in golf seems misplaced, as the sport is largely immune to its effects
Every day I am bombarded with technology adverts telling me about what I need and by implication that what I bought yesterday is already on the technology scrapheap. Whether it’s mobile phones or laptops, speakers or headphones, there seems to be a new and or better solution coming out every week.
Of course, none of this technology has made the average person’s life any easier. Service and customer service levels are often abysmal, as evidenced by a recent experience I had after buying a laptop at a well-known group’s store in Fourways, while the online world is full of frauds and cheats.
A home loan will still take most people 25 years to pay off and what happened to the much vaunted three- and four-day week? In this case I am not referring to the pandemic-induced version, but that New-Age promise, which was going to allow us more downtime and better lifestyles thanks to technology.
Day-to-day tasks are no easier either. It seems technology is designed just to get us all more quickly to the next point of failure, or put us through to the next “idiot” human that we are going to have to talk to or interact with. To use an analogy — if you leave a chimpanzee with a smartphone for half an hour, you will not return to find a smarter chimp, just a primate holding a smartphone.
Thankfully, golf seemed largely immune to all of this, although there is mounting opposition in some quarters to equipment technology rendering golf courses obsolete, and then into this mix came Bryson DeChambeau.
My previous column about DeChambeau’s win at the US Open elicited much comment, so I analysed his performance in more detail, expecting the statistics to show that he had outdriven the field by 50 yards on every hole and topped the putting averages. The outcome was interesting. DeChambeau was not the longest driver at the event — overall driving distance statistics show him in seventh position.
Five of the top tournament’s top 10 were also in the top 10 for driving distance, while the other five long hitters were outside the top 15 on the final leader board, which suggests that driving distance was not the only requirement in taming Winged Foot.
DeChambeau did not hit the most fairways. Where he did have a good week was in the shots gained category, where he was No 1 and in terms of overall performance in other key categories such as birdies made and putting where he was ranked 11th. Oddly, he was better than half the field in terms of fairways hit, which makes the criticism that he just bombed it anywhere and as far up every hole as possible, look a little thin, or that more than half the field was doing exactly the same thing, albeit a lot less successfully.
What might be key in all this is that DeChambeau might have missed “better” than the rest of the field. He seems to have taken planning and course analysis to new levels and also uses Flight Scope technology extensively to understand his own game better, as well as the weather’s effect on ball flight. All of these efforts are to get the best from his performances, the possible root of the “mad scientist” sobriquet, which seems to have attached itself to him.
Every good golfer knows there are certain areas off the tee and around the green on most holes where you should not “miss”. So the data for his missing airways might be misleading as it is not unusual for a player to be better placed when off the fairway when coming into a green than on it. We all will have experienced a hole where a tee shot on a large percentage of the fairway will find a tree blocking any direct route to the green, whereas a “missed” tee shot, either well to the left or right, might not offer as good a lie, but a clear sight of the green.
This may not be an advantage off a 230-yard tee shot and with about 200 yards left for your second. But when you are hitting the drives on average 100 yards further and with only 70 or 80 yards to go and a lob wedge in your hands, then it can be a game changer.
Technology advances enable the average player to use a driver which hits the ball 30 yards further, with a more durable ball that lies further, stops quicker and lasts longer — and the golf world cries “foul”.
Leave it alone — the average golfer cannot hit a cow’s behind from three feet using a banjo and so needs all the help he or she can get.
Change the rules for the tournament professionals, if you really must, but embrace innovation and technology wherever it helps us mere mortals to get more enjoyment out of golf, especially as technology seems to have underdelivered in so many other areas of human activity.
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