You begin to get the idea that maybe golf manufacturers are out of control when you find out that they are making clubs and balls out of components used in nuclear weapons and bulletproof vests. I mean, progress is great and all, but when a sleeve of golf balls sets off the alarm at airport security, and when alloys once used in the struts of a Gemini space capsule show up in your irons, you wonder whether we're on the right track. What we are talking about here is a game.
A game whose increasingly sophisticated tools are compromising, in the opinion of many, the time-honored elements of skill, practice and judgment. Want to hit the ball far? May we suggest an aerodynamically designed graphite-headed driver from Yonex, the A.D.X. 200. The half-grapefruit-sized club head, with a sweet spot 20% larger than normal, is oversized but lightweight, and it is attached to a 45-inch graphite/boron shaft that is two inches longer than standard. Increased club length translates, by the oxymoron of simple physics, into increased club head speed; ergo, greater distance. You'll drive the ball, the company estimates, an average of 11.7% farther than usual.
Or perhaps you would prefer something in cobalt chromium, a metal so hard it is used to make artificial hips. Combined with a graphite shaft, a cobalt chromium club head will add 10 yards to your drives or your money back. The Lynx company guarantees it.
Are synthetic polymers more your style? Cobra recently came out with the Ultramid, a driver made of a high-tech thermoplastic originally developed by scientists for use in bulletproof vests.
Whichever set of clubs you prefer, you will want a golf ball that explodes off the club face. Something in lithium, perhaps, the metal of choice of nine out of 10 nuclear physicists who have designed a hydrogen bomb. Talk about getting more bang for your buck. Just don't let the Iraqis get their hands on the Ram Tour Lithium Plus.
Windy day? Want to hit it low? Forget choking down and pretending you're Lee Trevino. It's simpler to run out and buy a three-pack of Titleist's 384 Low Trajectory balatas, whose icosahedron-patterned dimples have been designed to cheat the wind, not to mention the club pro who teaches good shot making.
The fact is, for almost any difficulty in golf, there is a high-tech remedy for sale that was not on the market 10 years ago. Got the yips? Buy a long putter, the pendulumlike contraption that uses the player's sternum to anchor the top hand. This is a golf swing?
Got a slice? Perennial banana-bonkers can now whale away with abandon, knowing that metal woods used in conjunction with two-piece, Surlyn-covered balls will absolutely, positively impart less spin on impact than their old persimmons did.
The sweet spot of a golf club, once the size of a dime—the exact location of which, worn smooth, can be found on Ben Hogan's one-iron, on display in Golf House, the United States Golf Association museum in Far Hills, N.J.—is now the size of an Oreo cookie. Shots that once squirted off the toe of a six-iron now fly straight and true toward the green, thanks to the miracle of perimeter weighting. And who knows what lies ahead as golf manufacturers race to harness the powers of Kevlar and ceramics and compounds unknown?
Where will it all end? And who, pray tell, has been minding the store while the club and ball manufacturers have busied themselves with all manner of schemes—some bogus, some legitimate—to diminish the skill factors in golf, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish the great golfers from the nearly great, and the good golfers from the pretty good? Is the game becoming too easy?