Vaseline on the clubface

I’ve been accused of being an equipment geek. I’m not totally sure about that but I am interested in modern technology and materials as they are expressed in the engineering and design of clubs. 

In other words when you put Vaseline on the face of a driver to inhibit the amount of spin imparted to the ball it goes further.  

That was sure true back years ago for persimmon drivers with a cycolac face inserts hitting a balata covered ball before what have been called ‘exotic’ materials started being used for clubheads.  

According to the United State Golf Association Rules of Golf, Rule 4-2b, “foreign material must not be applied to the club face for the purpose of influencing the movement of the ball. Any coating designed to influence the movement of the ball by either increasing or decreasing spin, or to have any other effect on performance is not permitted.”  

Back whenever, we knew applying Vaseline was outside the rules but we still did it because it give us more distance. By way of explanation I plead an impressive amount of situation stupidity along with a massive ignorance of proper behavior and of course youth. 

Any way, it might be considered a major advance that engineers can now make a titanium driver so when it strikes an equally impressively engineered multilayer urethane covered ball the boost in distance because of lower spin rates is similar to what happened using our Vaseline. 

Without any cynicism I’d put that in the category of real progress. 

Progress of course comes from the relentless search for innovation which many golf equipment makers are committed to, backing their commitment with millions of dollars annually. It’s been true in golf for more than a century and has been a primary factor in making golf into a mainstream sport rather than a curiosity pursued by a few transplanted Scotsmen. 

For example, the two largest putter companies have a mind numbing array of flat sticks from which to choose. Ping has over 50 putters in their current lineup and Odyssey has over 60. More than 100 choices between the two!  

If you count the other equipment companies the number of putters available to cure a shaky stroke is somewhere north of 500. As one would expect, a few of these flat sticks are extremely innovative while the bulk are more or less copies of what has been already done.

Drivers are another category with a plethora of models and I haven’t mentioned the “previously-loved” used club category that everyone from your hard working club professional to the big box retailers to the club manufacturers themselves have trade-ins for sale. 

The point of this ramble is we are in danger of stifling innovation because of the United States Golf Association creating ever more complex versions of the Rules of Golf in the hope of upholding the ‘traditions of the game.’  

Every jump forward in technology since the time when the gutta percha ball replaced the “feathery” has prompted dire predictions of golf’s demise. I’m not saying every innovation should be allowed – balls with dimple patterns that correct slices and hooks come to mind – but the USGA should apply some fresh thinking to the topic.  

They appear to automatically look at “new” as synonymous with “bad.” With golf exhibiting stagnant participation numbers at best, shouldn’t our ruling body be working to remove restrictions, making the game easier and more fun rather than adding restrictions?  

I have never heard someone giving up the game because the equipment made it too easy.  

Besides if the USGA changed their approach they might even rethink Vaseline use…all I can do is hope.

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