Golf Course Architecture - Issue 62: October 2020

58 CONNOR LEWI S T he history of golf, much like history in general, repeats itself. We like to think that the issues we experience today are unique to the now, when in fact they have been repeated over and over through time. One of these cyclical arguments has been over how far the golf ball goes. While that argument goes back to the age of the gutta percha golf ball (1850-1900), that spark met gasoline when Coburn Haskell invented the ball that changed the game of golf in 1899 – the Haskell ball. The invention of the Haskell ball either destroyed the game of golf, or it transformed it, depending on which side of the argument you believed in. This invention represented the single biggest jump in technology in the history of golf, and perhaps in all of sports. Within the space of six years every golfer who played the game picked up between 30-50 yards off the tee and every golf course in the world quickly became obsolete. The Haskell ball disrupted the sport, which was both destructive, but also helped give birth to the Golden Age of golf course architecture. It was in many ways, the worst thing and the best thing that ever happened to the game – and it was allowed to happen with only a quiet and brief debate on whether it was right. This argument over the distance good players can hit the ball has echoed through the halls of the game since 1899, but not since 1930 have those echoes been so profound. We now live in the age of science – in the age where the people who design the golf clubs and balls are no longer golf professionals, but rather the men and women whose jobs were to put astronauts into space. Couple aerospace engineering with a technology that was designed to be Connor Lewis examines previous debates about technology in golf and asks what we can learn from them OP INION Looking to the past to protect the game