Greg Norman talks shop

February 19, 2007

At 51, Greg Norman is as candid as ever when it comes to golf equipment. Recently, GOLF Magazine sat down with him to talk about today’s game. Here are excerpts from that interview.

GOLF Magazine: What’s the biggest advancement in equipment during the past five years?
Greg Norman: No question it’s the ball. The golf ball spins less. You have less control over it. I think if they went back to the specifications of the golf ball in the 1996 era, you’re going to find that the long hitters still hit the ball long. But also the ball moves more through the air. The art of playing the game of golf, hitting shots, comes back into the game a little bit more. Nowadays you see young kids pulling out sand wedges from 120 yards and just smashing it as hard as they can. The days of seeing [Lee] Trevino take a pitching wedge out and spin it in there from left to right and land on the green and spin 25 feet to the right, is gone. They’re gone. Because everything’s just aim at the top of the flagstick now and just go at it. I’ve always believed that the PGA Tour should take the lead role in this and put restrictions on for the pros. I think the masses, the 25 million golfers out there in America, shouldn’t have any regulations. They should have a golf ball that goes 330 yards.

GOLF Magazine: Should there be two sets of rules?
Greg Norman: Absolutely. We are supposed to be the best players in the world. We practice and hit golf balls 10 hours a day. So why should we be the ones benefiting from technology. We should be the ones having to work hard, which we do, to extract the best we can from the game. I go back to the Masters and get in this discussion a lot with manufacturers. They think by making this comment, they think that they’d sell fewer products. But that’s not the truth.

Take women, for example. Women get the least amount of advantage of technology nowadays because they don’t have the clubhead speed to generate, to get that extraction from the golf ball. And it’s the same with even the top players. You take 144 guys on the PGA Tour, there’s probably only 14 that generate a clubhead speed over 118 mph, I’m guessing. So you’re only talking about 10 percent of the players really extracting maximum performance out of technology.

Why not balance it out? So a player like a Corey Pavin or a Ben Crenshaw of the old days could beat you with the short game just spinning the golf ball around the golf course with their shotmaking ability.

They’re kind of gone now. I think of a Luke Donald who’s not a big guy in stature but a magnificent swinger of the golf club. Does he hit the ball a long way, 340 yards? No. But when he gets to certain golf courses, I think he’s not getting the advantages like some other players. Go back to the olden days whether it was Nicklaus or whether it was me who was the longest hitter in the world. Sure, we outdrove players by 20 to 30 yards, but the golf courses weren’t out there at 7,600-7,700 yards, either. So it’s a totally different story.

GOLF Magazine: How low could you go with today’s technology?
Greg Norman: I don’t think I’d be a better player with the equipment because I was taught to maneuver the golf ball. Very seldom did I ever hit a straight shot. What type of player would I be today? I’d be just aiming dead straight and hit it as hard as I could every time. Whereas in the olden days, I would be taking a lot off my shots and feeling the golf ball into a certain position on the green to spin into a certain place.

GOLF Magazine: You in your prime versus Tiger in his prime? Who wins?
Greg Norman: That’s an interesting question. It’s hard for me to answer that because the technology’s different. I used a persimmon driver and used to driver it 300 yards with an old Tour Edition golf ball that used to spin too much.

What would be the outcome? I don’t know. I’d probably say I’d hit the ball as far as Tiger, nowadays with the same equipment. From a mental skill, I think he’d probably have the edge on me. From a tenacity point of view, and an aggressive and confidence level, I think we’re pretty much the same.

Rob Sauerhaft is the Managing Editor of Equipment for GOLF MAGAZINE. E-mail him your questions and comments at [email protected]