Bifurcation May Be Inevitable
By mustang6560 on 4/24/12
The USGA and R&A are against developing a rule book for amateurs, which is separate from professionals. But, with the growing popularity of non-conforming golf equipment, the two ruling bodies may be forced to jump on the bifurcation bandwagon sooner rather than later.
Since then, the Polara golf ball has generated close to $3 million in sales, which represents more than 1.2 million nonconforming golf balls in the market. The Polara, which had modest beginnings, now is available in about 750 stores nationwide as well as online at

For many years, nonconforming drivers, balls and wedges were mostly seen only in small, peculiar ads at the back of golf industry magazines. The Polara golf ball is now being sold in 60 of the 86 stores within the Edwin Watts retail chain. Academy Sports, a chain with more than 140 stores across the South and Texas, sells the ball. Dave Felker, the former Callaway golf ball engineer and the executive behind the Polara ball, said that the ball was being test-marketed in 25 Dick’s Sporting Goods stores.
Why shouldn't amateurs play by a different set of rules than professionals?

In baseball, amateur players are allowed to use aluminum bats while their professional counterparts use wooden bats. In basketball, the three-point line is a few feet farther back for the professionals. In football, a receiver in the NFL must get two feet down in bounds in order for the catch to be ruled a "catch", where as in college and other amateur leagues the receiver only needs to get one foot down.

I am pro-bifurcation. I do not see a good reason why a golfer should feel pressured to NOT play a golf ball or a driver because the USGA or R&A deemed it to be "non-conforming" (excluding tournaments). If it keeps you playing then it's a win for everyone involved in the sport of golf. And if companies like Polara continue to find success, bifurcation may be inevitable.

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Image via Flickr, Phoenix Dark-Knight

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[ comments ]
falcon50driver says:
Sounds sexy
mjaber says:
Can't disagree more. One of the attractions of golf is that you're playing what the pros play. Everyone is playing by the same rules. What they should be looking at is clamping down on all of the "prototype" clubs that the pro's are using. If we can't buy it, they shouldn't be able to use it. Bring back the old stock car racing rules. Used to be that the car that a driver was using in a race had to be available for purchase at a dealership within a certain number of miles of the race. Let's bring THAT back. If the pro's want to develop a special hybrid (I'm looking at you Phil), then we should be able to buy it.

Besides, nobody says that you can't use a non-conforming club. You just can't say you played by the rules. There is no other penalty. They're not going to put you in "golf jail."
mustang6560 says:
@mjaber- I would say the "attraction" of golf is not that I'm playing the same irons as Rory Sabbatini. It's that one day, I may be able to play TPC Sawgrass, which is the same COURSE Rory Sabbatini plays.
woobwoob says:
Looks like there may be a market for my invention of an 8ft long Driver. Guaranteed to add 200 yards to your drive, and getting relief from Man Made obstacles will be much sweeter.
GBogey says:
I'm on the fence here. I thought the point of different length tees and handicaps was to equalize golfers. On the other hand, the pros keep getting longer no matter what they do to the courses.
erickbelus says:
I like the rules being the rules. That said, most at least bend them. I see lots of guys moving the ball out of a divot, taking a drop from out of bounds, etc. If a guy needs to do those things, play cheater balls, a 700cc driver, weird tees that don't let the ball spin and use a sandpaper face wedge, I say let them do it. We aren't playing the same game anymore and they are just making their game worse in the long run.

If they change the rules for these idiots, it's just to encourage the wrong way to play the game.
legitimatebeef says:
Great, now I have to go look up "bifurcation".
Dusty23 says:
to mjaber and mustang: in theory you both make great points, but let's remember even before NASCAR went to this one car theory, the Fords and Chevy's etc, running Daytona may have looked like showroom cars but they weren't. And yeah we can all play TPC Sawgrass but it won't be set up like it is when the pros play it, similar yes, the same probably not. Racing used to be where manufacturers developed things that ended up in everyday cars, engine types, brake systems etc, thus the prototypes that pros use. But essentially great points by both
Bama61 says:
If someone ever wants to play in a tournament or other club organized event I think this could cause them lots of problems. It could very well give a player a false sense of ability. It could very well so a handicap better than what it should actually be. I can just see it, 10 handicap with non conforming ball and club. Tournament score 99. It's more than just the rules that can be affected.
SteveMM says:
I don't see the point. Nothing is stopping Joe Schmoe from buying a Polara ball and using it when he plays with his buddies on Sunday morning. The rules are different when you're in a competition, however ... just like the "gimmees" and shoe wedges should also go away. I'd compare it to the rules used in a game of backyard football versus the rules used in a well-managed recreational league. They aren't always the same, but that doesn't mean the NFL should make a second rulebook for those backyard games.
Backquak says:
The rules of golf should be the same for everyone, now if you and your buddies all agree to play a round with different rules then go right ahead. I have a buddy that plays a "picky choosy on #1, 1 muli per nine, and gimmies inside the leather" He plays it that way and as long as I agree to the same rule, no problem. I allow him to play that way but do not play by the same rule, but I don't give as many strokes as I would if he played by the rules. Tournament Golf should have the same set of rules for everyone, and they always have the option to make a local rule.
mjaber says:
@Dusty... In the early days of NASCAR (when it was actual stock car racing), the cars on the track could be bought by you or me. Same motor, body, transmission, wheels, tires, suspension, etc. That was one of the rules. It HAD to be a stock car. It wasn't until the mid-70's that you could race something on the circuit that hadn't sold a certain number of units to the general public.
BAKE_DAWG40 says:
I say play by the rules. In the long run, it'll make you a better player. The league I play in, they use the so called "winter rules" all year. I would move my ball but when I found myself in a situation where I couldn't move my ball, I could not hit the shot. Now I can.
jcstoll says:
Echoing some of the comments, who cares whether Joe Amateur plays by the rules or not? I couldn't care less if a guy breaks rules, with the following exceptions: a) he endangers others, b) he slows down play, or c) I'm competing against him. Regarding competition - I abide by USGA rules and therefore maintain a legitimate handicap index which equalizes the field in a competition. How would bifurcation affect handicapping? If the amateur rules allow Polara golf balls, are those of us who don't use them (and who don't hit particularly straight) now at a disadvantage and thus basically forced into playing Polara balls, for example? It's a bad idea.
wrhall02 says:
I agree with the R&A and the USGA.
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