By Mike Stevens, USGTF Member and Contributing Writer

For the average person, baseball, football, basketball and hockey are clearly spectator sports. No guy off the street is going to face a 100 mph fastball, tackle an NFL running back, guard Lebron James, or stop a Sydney Crosby slap shot. In golf, however, there was a time when a decent amateur or teaching pro could hit similar shots to those of a PGA Tour professional. The gap was not insurmountable. Oftentimes, a club pro or amateur would qualify for the U.S. Open, and some club pros could be found on the PGA Championship leaderboard. In the 1980s, the leading driving distance on tour was around 278 yards. Into the ’90s, it went up about 10 yards. Tour players were better primarily because of their consistency in ball striking, not because of equipment.

The last three years, the leading driving distance has been 320 yards. No one I know, average pro or amateur, even comes close to that. The regular guy has not gotten the advantage with today’s equipment that the tour guys are getting. Unless one starts very young and trains like the athletes on major sports teams, there is almost no chance of making it to the top level. It has really become a spectator sport like the big leagues: there’s them and then the rest of us. It kind of makes the game less fun for those with dreams. I remember playing at Doral when I was at school in Miami right after the tour stop there. I shot a 71 and felt like maybe I could compete with the pros. At least I felt I was close to their level. Pro and amateur golf are nothing like that anymore.

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