For the good of the game, the ramifications of equipment rules should be carefully examined. So says two-time major champion David Graham.
For example, if the Australian was the czar of golf, he would increase the 14-club rule for amateurs but not for professionals.
“Well, 16 would be nice,” Graham says, “or maybe there shouldn’t be any limit for amateurs.”
As czar, Graham’s attention would be riveted on equipment, because he believes much of the sport’s enjoyment comes directly from golf clubs.
“Let’s look at Tiger Woods,” says Graham, 66. “There are people who think high-lofted wedges should not be allowed, but that shot by Tiger (his pitch-in on the 70th hole of The Memorial) could not have been executed to that perfection without adequate loft.
“It turns out to be nothing but pure, pure joy for television viewers and everybody else.
“And look at all the miraculous (wedge) shots that Phil Mickelson has hit. Without adequate loft, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy these great exhibitions.
“I don’t see where it has harmed the game at all. I’m for anything that makes the game more popular, so that more people will play it.
“If the PGA Tour is in the entertainment business, then these clubs allow them to be the best entertainers in the world, and I’m all for it.”
Graham has thought long and hard about this. So high-lofted wedges are just fine, thank you. So are long putters.
“If we examine long putters, it’s easy to see they have allowed a lot of people across the board to get more enjoyment from the game,” Graham says. “Absolutely the long putter has helped the game. It’s a good thing.
“Besides, even with a certain amount of opposition to the long putter, it may be too late to change it. Many golfers thoroughly depend on these putters. With this kind of passion, I think the game itself becomes the benefactor.”
The Masters, where Graham’s best finish was fifth in 1980, respects his judgment so much that he has been a member of the Masters Cup and Tee Marker Placement Committee for more than 20 years.
“I am deeply honored, and I take it very seriously,” Graham says.
When it comes to golf clubs, Graham is an experienced and savvy designer. He began designing irons for MacGregor Golf after Jack Nicklaus, the primary owner at the time, asked him to fix his irons.
“He was taking these big, heavy divots,” Graham recalls, “and I told him I could fix it.”
Graham added sole bounce to the irons, and ultimately a new generation of MacGregor VIP irons was born. The VIP was followed by Jack Nicklaus Limited Edition irons.
Nicklaus used the Limited Edition clubs to win his last major, the 1986 Masters. Graham used them to win both his majors, the 1979 PGA Championship and 1981 U.S. Open.
“He (Graham) has forgotten more than I’ll ever know (about golf clubs),” said Lee Trevino. “He has a great eye for how golf clubs should look, and he knows all the technical stuff, too.”
Graham, 66, would like to see a comprehensive examination of equipment rules. “It’s the greatest game in the world,” he says, “so let’s be sure that golf club rules make it more fun for more people.”
Graham may be on a soap box for modern equipment, but clearly not for himself. He declines to answer a nagging question surrounding his career: Why isn’t he in the World Golf Hall of Fame?
One explanation: To some degree, election to any Hall of Fame is a bit of a popularity contest. Graham, an intensely private man, never had enough fans or followers.
For the record, his playing credentials include two majors, a Piccadilly World Match Play title, more than three dozen professional victories on six continents, eight PGA Tour wins and five Champions Tour triumphs.
Aside from Gary Player, there may be no other contemporary golfer who maintained such an extensive international schedule while helping popularize the game of golf around the world.
It is easy to make the argument that Graham should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame years ago. He has excelled as a golfer, an ambassador for the sport and a club designer.
If Graham were golf czar and decreed that amateurs could carry 16 clubs rather than 14, ask yourself what two clubs you would add. It’s fun to consider the possibilities.