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I was recently at a book store and was leafing through a book, How to Break 90, by Johnny Miller. Late in the book he gives his case for what might best be described as "it's the carpenter, not the tools". In other words, it ain't new equipment technology, it's the golfer, stupid. It was surprising to read what he had to say in light of how close he is to the commercial aspect of the sport. He's a golf announcer, announcing for a sport that relies largely on the promotion of new-fangled equipment. (Twice as much money is spent on golf equipment annually than football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer and tennis equipment...COMBINED) Sales of equipment largely drives the sport. It supplements, through endorsements, the golfers' Tour earnings, in some cases exceeding earnings. It largely pays for the tv commercials that support the networks that televise the sport. And the networks that televise the sport are what pays Johnny Miller, the announcer.

All of that, however, did not stop Johnny, in writing the book, from telling the truth as he knew it. He is to be commended for his forthrightness despite the obvious conflict of interest between his position in the booth and the advocation of said new equipment, which also serves to add much weight to what he has to say. (He briefly heads the chapter by going over this conflict, saying he simply won't be party to the insidiousness of cowtowing to something he knows not to be true. His stance is that the truth is the truth, golfers deserve to hear the truth, and let the chips fall where they may. Again, very commendable)

That said, he makes the case in no uncertain terms that new technology in golf equipment (graphite shafts, titanium heads, super duper balls, grips -- the whole nine holes;) has literally nothing to do with how you or anyone else will score. He sites statistics such as the average amatuer handicap, which has gone virtually nowhere for decades. PGA Tour pros don't fare any better. Over the last 20 years the average Tour players' scores have varied by no more than one measly stroke. In fact, it's even less than that. WAY less. If I remember correctly, the average strokes-per-round of the Tour pro over the last two decades has "improved" from about 71.18 to 71.06, or about 1/10th of one stroke per round. He even goes back 30 years, where scoring has decreased by nearly a full stroke since. However, he attributes even THAT to improved golf course agronomics -- smoother greens, better kempt fairways, etc..., NOT technological advances in golf equipment. He also does a good job of dispelling the coveted distance increase created through the new head-shaft technology as nothing more than that: a distance increase, but not with a commensurate scoring DEcrease. He goes back to siting the average score thing, but also gives you a personal challenge to dispel the myth for yourself: Hit your tee shots as you normally would, but take a tiny bit off of the swing. Then pick up your ball and move it 10, 15, even 20 yards further in the same direction it was flying, then see what this does to your score. He contends it will do nothing, mostly because many of your shots that would've landed on the edge of the fairway will now travel into the rough, and many of your shots that would've landed in the rough are now landing in the deeper stuff, or even flying into the woods, water, out of bounds, etc..., thereby COMPOUDING your problem, not solving it. What about balls, you say? They're soooo superior to the balls of yesteryear, aren't they? Well, no. Tour pros claim they can tell the difference between different types of balls by how they feel when they hit them, and make their preferences based upon this "feel". Ummm, not quite. Short game guru Dave Pelz conducted an experiment with Tour pros to find out if this were true, and concluded that it just ain't so. He took 3 very different balls and had the pros hit them while wearing industrial-sized earmuffs so they couldn't hear the sound of club-to-ball, but had to rely solely on feel. Which ball were they hitting? They guessed right slightly less than 33% of the time. As Johnny Miller said about that, "a monkey could do better". To emphasize his point he even went so far as to say he could not only never tell the difference between one cheapy ball and the other super duper ball, but TO THIS DAY he buys his cheapy balls at K-Mart for $15.00 a dozen.

So where does this all lead? Let's let Johnny tell it...

Paraphrasing for lack of having the book in front of me, he urges you to "take the next $1,000 or so that you would've spent increasing your driving distance by 10.897 yards, and decreasing your score by .000124 strokes, and invest it in lessons. Learn the short game from your pro and spend lots of time on course management, where scores can be decreased by increments of 10... not by a fraction of a stroke!"

Concluding, and being that we're on this particular web site, are you a foolish Technological Wonder all the way down to the end of your putting shaft, but sporting a high handicap? Or are you a Foolish Lesson Taker, useing cheapy clubs and balls, but spending your money more wisely on lessons... and whooping the fancy pants off of your hapless parter with the titanium-tipped shoelaces?

You decide.


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