I was thinking the other day about how small golfer’s (5ft 5 inches to 5ft 9 inches) may and seem to be at an advantage to their taller counterparts. The last two players to grace the world number one spot have been small individuals, (Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy) and with Richard Sterne running away with the last tournament at under 5ft 7inches, my theory seemed to be gathering pace, if not height.
I then reflected on Golf’s less recent history and it quickly became obvious to me that from the 1970’s up until 2010, nearly all of the players who have held the coveted number one position have been rather large individuals. From Nicklaus to Faldo to Norman to Woods, all of whom were (and I guess still are) over 6foot and are built less like Golfer’s but more like boxers. (if Nikolai Valuev can be called a boxer, anybody can) These facts halted my theory somewhat, until I realised how many advancements have and are continually being made in technology. This is when I realised there may be some insight worth exploring…
So I’ll start with a prediction; If, and that if is an important one, technology continues to advance exponentially, the average height of the worlds top 50 golfer’s will decrease.
That prediction still made despite signs that the human species are getting taller. While many golfer’s still resemble ‘Ape-like’ characteristics, there are a few who mirror gangly Giraffes. A very northern sounding gentlemen called Chris Paisley informed me that the (main) reason there are fewer taller golfer’s than smaller one’s, is because of how the nerves are longer thus meaning the nerve fibres will inevitably take longer to become myelinated. Technical stuff but whenever something sounds technical, we tend to process it factually, I did, he’s from Newcastle, treacherous folk.
So why does equipment and the continually seismic development of technology matter?
Greater height equals longer levers, which generally creates a greater potential for power output. Smaller height equals shorter levers, which generally produces a higher ratio of control over power. Technology has affected power far more than it has control. So, if the tall man has had to work hard to gain control, the small man hasn’t had to work as hard to gain power. Because of Rory McIlroy’s inherent height which he starts with, again, generally speaking he has greater control over his limbs than say Chris Wood. (If Mr Paisley is correct in what he say’s, I believe he is) I’ll also argue, that because small people start off with greater control, they learn to hit it harder from a younger age, sacrificing less control to gain greater power, add this to technology and you get smaller Golfer’s smacking it a long way. Tall people however may start off with power thanks to their dynamic levers, but they’ll get told from a young age to focus on control, thus sacrificing power to gain what is an infinitely tougher skill to master, control. (The RocketBallz, which is 27 yards longer, doesn’t interest the giraffe)
There is a Theoretical Physicist called Michio Kaku, who believes that we have (for the main part) stopped evolving as Human Beings, meaning that because all races have already combined genetically, the probability of significant further growth is limited, unless we experience a mutation of some sort. So, Golf as a sport has a decision to make regarding technology, do we continue to let technology grow and enhance the way it is played or do we stop it? If Michio Kaku is right, the possibility of another human being revolutionising the sport like Tiger Woods did is becoming increasingly unlikely, which means, that the only way Golf will be revolutionised in the future would be to let technology dictate the revolutionaries.
Food for thought I would say.
From That Curious Wise Old Owl,