Acushnet chief Wally Uihlein believes the relationship between manufacturers and ruling bodies is “180 degrees improved” from where it was 20 years ago.
That doesn’t mean the two sides do not -- nor should not -- disagree on technology issues.
“I really think we need to let the ruling bodies define the issues and the manufacturers, in the spirit of those ruled upon, need to continue to provide the tension, which ensures the dialogue is open and progressive,” Uihlein said.
He spoke last week at the Bay Club, where he introduced Acushnet’s new ownership, a Korean consortium called Alexandria Holdings. The new Acushnet chairman is Gene Yoon, who said that all operations at Acushnet’s headquarters of Fairhaven, Mass., will stay the same.
The debate between tradition and technology has been around more than a century, and that is not likely to change. Uihlein said he can make an argument “for or against bifurcation” -- different equipment rules for pros and amateurs -- although that should not be an agenda that any manufacturer could promote.
“We still have a commercial genesis to that thought process,” he said. “We can’t argue that we have the best interest in the game. We can make that argument, but the fact is we represent the commercial landscape. And so, it doesn’t matter how noble our argument is. It’s still going to be seen as to some degree commercially prejudiced.”
Uihlein said it’s up to the R&A and the USGA to not only set the rules, but to assume greater responsibility in the game’s future.
“If not, who does?” he said. “There’s always going to be that question of whose game is it, and who’s responsible for its perpetuation and sustenance.”