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The Masters has got me in a the golf mood but I have questioned one thing. Over the last 15 years the advances in equipment such as large headed long drivers and much straighter and longer balls should in theory make the game easier. I think this is only true for already good players (single figure handicap). For middle and higher handicaps the new equipment can only help them to hit it further into the trees. Manufacturers would never admit to this as it would slow sales but is there any evidence.

Do advances in sport technology benefit newcomers and high skilled players alike, or does better equipment require a skilled player to be used effectively?

  • Can you clarify? I am not really sure what you are asking here. – Sklivvz Apr 8 '11 at 5:49
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The Rules of Golf are highly specific about equipment, to prevent too many improvements. For example Appendix III of the rules states

  1. Initial Velocity: The initial velocity of the ball must not exceed the limit specified (test on file) when measured on apparatus approved by the R&A.

  2. Overall Distance Standard: The combined carry and roll of the ball, when tested on apparatus approved by the R&A, must not exceed the distance specified under the conditions set forth in the Overall Distance Standard for golf balls on file with the R&A.

On clubs there is now lists of approved and disapproved drivers updated every week, plus a rule on grooves for lofted clubs being phased in to make them spin the ball less.

This is all designed to reduce the effect of technical advances on the game.

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As with any skill-based activity equipment differences usually only make a big difference for people of a high skill level. For example, if you are a master guitar player, choice of guitar matters a lot. For a beginner, there will be little difference in your music on any standard guitar.

Such is the same with golf. The choice of clubs makes a big difference if you are a professional. As an amateur your skills are so low that your own mistakes are going to have such a huge effect on your score. If your equipment makes any difference in your score it will be statistically insignificant compared to the difference caused by your personal skills

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  • I think I agree, the greatest improvement is for already good players. – Craig May 4 '11 at 3:06
  • For example, if you are a master guitar player, choice of guitar matters a lot. OTOH a master player can make a poor guitar sound good, which a poor player cannot even with a good guitar. Your conclusion sounds plausible but it is an unreferenced assertion; maybe guitar-playing is difficult, a skilled player can overcome those difficulties, and rather it's the beginner who benefits most from any assistive technology (by analogy, training wheels or even an electric motor on a bicycle). – ChrisW Aug 17 '13 at 11:50

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