Little League provides a glimpse into golf's possible equipment future

Bubba Watson Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Little League provides a glimpse into golf's possible equipment future

Equipment

Little League provides a glimpse into golf's possible equipment future

If you have a son or a daughter who is playing Little League, Babe Ruth League or any of a number of other junior baseball leagues this spring, you may be experiencing what it could be like if there is an equipment rollback imposed someday by the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient.

I am, and I have to tell you, my family is not thrilled.

For the past two seasons, my son, Charlie, and several of his teammates have used carbon-composite baseball bats that are light and strong. When he switched from an alloy bat to the composite bat, he hit the ball harder and a little farther, which boosted his confidence and made the game more fun. He never hit one over the fence, but he felt the difference and liked it.

The composite bat Charlie is swinging here, at age 12, is no longer legal for use in most youth baseball leagues. (David Dusek/Golfweek)

Charlie’s bat is now in the back of our garage, because starting Jan. 1, new rules governing bats in many age divisions of junior baseball went into effect.

In a statement released in 2015, when the new rules were announced, USA Baseball said, “The new USA Baseball bat standard will allow youth baseball organizations in the United States to reach their goal of establishing a wood-like standard, a standard that will provide for the long-term integrity of the game.”

Sound like a familiar concept?

Bat manufacturers still can use space-age materials, but the trampoline effect bats can have is now based on the performance wooden bats provide. As a result, the majority of kids in my son’s division have needed to buy new bats. Thankfully, good baseball bats are in the wedge/putter price range and don’t cost as much as drivers.

Charlie and I have searched for his next bat, and as you might suspect, we’ve been given conflicting advice and been forced to do a lot of research. For me, it has been fascinating to read bat reviews written by parents on message boards and manufacturer websites that criticize the lack of “pop” in conforming bats. One after another, they complain that the new, conforming bats, even the most expensive models, do not give their kids the performance they expect.

We probably are a long way from anything like this being played out in golf, but it might be a glimpse into what it would be like if the USGA and R&A find that distance plays too big a role in golf and equipment changes need to be made.

A lot of golfers have assumed that a distance reduction would mean reducing the performance of golf balls. Replacing a dozen or two dozen balls would not be especially hard for most golfers, but what if that assumption is incorrect? What if the governing bodies go after driver performance, mandating that the characteristic time (CT) be reduced, or head volumes be reduced, so you and your friends have to buy new, conforming drivers? There would have to be a grace period of a few years except for the pros, who get their gear for free and who have less time to change. But at the end of the day, you could be mandated to buy new gear that would not work as well as your old balls or clubs.

We’re buying a new bat because Charlie loves to play baseball, and golfers would buy new equipment if the rules change. But if you think making those changes would be a smooth process, come on out to the ballpark this spring and ask a parent about the new bat rule. You might want to wear a helmet.

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