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Bifurcation: There’s golf for pros and the rest of us


Last week, we examined golf’s Distance Insights Project report announcing the long-awaited concerted research effort to explore in great detail the detrimental effects that the distances many of the PGA Tour pros are driving the golf ball are having on the game.

Up for research are clubs, balls and other distance-related issues. The game’s guardians feel that distance needs to be reined in for the sake of golf’s own future. Distance worries involve a mere 0.1 percent (at most) of golfers everywhere. Lots of seniors, including me, want golf balls that go farther, not shorter.

A monumental issue in launching the Distance Project is what’s called “bifurcation,” which simply means the idea of having one set of rules and equipment specs for the pros (and elite players) and a different set for everyday recreational gofers.

Let’s start with equipment. Tour pros get their clubs tweaked every week, because the club companies have workshops inside their vans on-site. Tour officials test a small fraction of clubs (mostly drivers) for nonconformance, but the truth is that many illegal clubs make it to the course.

When I go to the PGA Show in Orlando, I get to try a dozen clubs for a day. The pros try clubs week-in and week-out. They get virtually fitted daily, partly via expensive Trackman units.

What’s more, the tour provides fitness trailers, like full enclosed gyms, at every tournament site. We don’t have that.

A few weeks ago, Brooks Koepka had a personal trainer come out on the golf course to limber up his stiff hips mid-round. I sometimes need limbering up between nines, where are my trainers? Bifurcation.

Dare I mention rules officials and free drops from things like grandstands, when the shot probably was OB? Just one example of different rules for the PGA is that a player may not change brand or style of ball throughout the round; we can legally change balls every hole. Bifurcation.

It means “divided into two branches;” yes, the pros and everyone else. True, the idea of the game is still the same; the appearance of golf courses, generally speaking, is the same. But there are two different types of players, two different conditions and two different circumstances.

How about ShotLink data, indicating precise distances of every shot to a fraction, along with calculations of strokes gained for every possible variation, so players know exactly what to improve on? It’s a wonder they’re not even better!

And caddies. I wish we had caddies. I like to walk, but I dislike lugging a bag or pulling a trolley. Caddies know yardages from even the weirdest spots, and they know when to calm their player down. They help their players interpret the always available (but expensive) greens books. Where are our greens books! Don’t forget the dozens of TV cameras that show the blades of grass (and ball wobble) in close-up and slow-mo.

For the PGA Tour pros, golf is a job. For the rest of us, it’s a pastime and recreation. Therein lies the main bifurcation. The pros have a team: a personal trainer, swing coach, mental coach, agent, accountant, chef and others.

We have daily blogs on GolfPass and Morning Read. Then there are the course conditions. Yes, tour rough is longer, but the bunkers are dry, white and fluffy, and easier to hit out of. Greens are smooth, fast and pristine. But we play in four hours.

Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at docblanchard71@gmail.com.