WISE PERSPECTIVE ON THE GOLF BALL DISTANCE ISSUE
As the major golf championships and PGA Tour Championship play out this summer – talks often centers around equipment and the golf ball. It’s been 19 years since Tiger Woods brought Pebble Beach to its knees with a 15-shot victory at the U.S. Open, and some 20 years since the Acushnet Co., introduced the revolutionary Titleist Pro V1 golf ball that changed the game every bit as much – if not more so – than titanium head drivers and graphite shafts.
THE BALL IS THE DIFFERENCE
“The ball is the biggest difference,’’ legendary golf instructor Jack Lumpkin told me recently. “Clubs are close behind because when (club companies) the learned they could have stronger materials that were lighter, it allowed them to make clubs bigger and longer that produces a bigger (swing) arc.’’
Lumpkin, senior instructor at Sea Island (Ga.) Golf Resort, which this past May opened its new 17,000 square-foot Golf Performance Center, is teacher to such PGA Tour stars as Davis Love III and Loren Roberts.
“The ball (20 years ago) didn’t go as far as today because it was a wound, balata ball,’’ Lumpkin said. “It spun a lot more and had more backspin, but it also had a lot of sidespin on missed shots.
“A player who could hit a steel-shaft, wooden head club 250 yards in 1992 could hit a modern driver – with the same loft – close to 290 yards. That’s changed the whole game. That’s why, unfortunately, some of the grand old courses are considered too short for modern golf.’’
WHERE WAS THE USGA?
Did the USGA miss the boat by not being more forceful in regulating golf ball distance 20 years ago?
“That’s a tough call,’’ said Lumpkin, know around Sea Island as “Mr. Jack.’’ Participation in golf has dropped. If you made the ball go shorter, would it drop more? Right now it’s hard to change.
“If they had put a lid (on distance), would it have been better for the game? I just don’t know. I know this, though. If you let somebody hit the ball 300 yards and you tell him tomorrow that he can’t hit but 250 yards, he is not going to be very happy.’’
JACK LUMPKIN - BIOGRAPHY
Jack Lumpkin has been an instructor with Golf Digest Schools since 1976. At the beginning of his career he was the Head Professional at Echo Lake Country Club in New Jersey and then on to Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, site of the 1968 U.S. OPEN. He was the Head Professional at Cherokee Town Country Club in Atlanta, GA when he joined the Golf Digest Schools staff. He has also served as a teaching director at Pinehurst and Amelia Island Plantation and is currently the Director of Instruction at Sea Island Golf Club, site of the Golf Digest Learning Center.
The 1995 PGA Teacher of the Year, Jack is currently instructing PGA Tour Professional Davis Love III, LPGA Tour Professional Donna Andrews (3rd on LPGA Money List in 1998) and PGA Tour Professional Loren Roberts. He teaches many young and inspiring Tour Professionals as well as Amateurs of all handicap levels.
Jack played on the PGA Tour in the late 50’s, including three U.S. Opens and the PGA Championship. He was Player of the Year as a club professional in New York in 1970-71 and was named Teacher of the Year by the Georgia Section PGA in 1993. He is listed among the 1999 Top 100 Teachers by GOLF Magazine.
During the past three years Jack has presented golf clinics at business and charity events with Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Lee Janzen, Brad Faxon, Fred Couples, Lee Trevino, Greg Norman and Davis Love III.
He served on the committee for the Professional Golf Association Teaching Manual and is featured in “Hit It Longer and Straighter” an instruction video and “When The Chips Are Down,” part of the GOLF DIGEST Magazine including “Playing the Utility Wood” in the October 1998 issue, “Swing-Plan,” part of your Cure Your Slice special section of the May 1998 issue and, with Davis Love II, “How You Can Hit Every Green: in June 1998.
A graduate of the University of Georgia, Jack played for four years on the golf team and was captain for two years.
Jack and his wife Sherry have a golfing family. Their son Jay won the 1987 National PGA Club Professional Championship. Their daughter Sandy is a teaching professional in Scottsdale, Arizona and is married to Mike LaBauve, also a Golf Digest School instructor. Their daughter Susie is married to Eric Smith, the teaching professional at The Country Club of Virginia in Richmond.