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19th Hole

Chamblee doesn’t want to roll back the ball: Breaking down his argument



Once an advocate for bifurcation, Brandel Chamblee sings a different tune in his year-end column for Golf Channel, ultimately saying “let’s let this sleeping dog lie” with respect to the distance debate.

But first, let’s give credit where it’s due: Chamblee’s column is very good, and it’s well worth a read (especially against the backdrop of end-of-the-year filler) and extends well beyond the issue in question.

Chamblee says he expects the distance/roll back the ball debate to come to a head this year. He begins with the oft-reported stat: Since 1980, the average tee shot on the PGA Tour 36 yards longer.

He then discusses how we arrived at this increase: titanium drivers, the switch to wound balls, and then he postulates “from 2005-17, players have picked up 4.1 yards for any number of reasons, but likely because most PGA Tour players now look like Greek gods.” He folds in improvements in agronomy, lighter shafts, etc.

Some of what Chamblee says after this is worth quoting at length. First, his point that what we’re upset about isn’t really distance or low scoring, but rather.

“…an outrage to the lack of something missing in the game, and in the games of the best players. First, the need to drive it in the fairway, as coming out of the rough with short irons is hardly a penalty. And second, the need for long-iron approaches on the occasional par 4. And finally, a return to relevancy of some of the game’s most sacred pieces of land, most notably St. Andrews.”

He also suggests that, essentially, ball manufacturers not named Titleist have a vested interest in rolling back the ball. This is true.

However, he falls into the trap of “what about-ism” and fires off a slippery slope argument all in the same paragraph.

“When I hear people scream, “Roll the ball back!” I first think, Why the ball and not the rebounding and forgiving metal woods? Why the ball and not the longer lighter shafts? And then I think, At what cost? Who is going to pay retribution to the manufactures whose products will be rescinded? Who will pay for the lawsuits?”

Not to take sides, but the argument is that making a ball that goes 10 or 20 percent shorter is simpler than additional regulation on equipment.

Chamblee’s final point is that “booming distance” is really only an issue at the elite level. If the Tour wants to combat it, it should add more challenging tees, slow down courses, grow rough, etc., not change the ball.

What do you think about Chamblee’s argument, GolfWRX members?

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  1. mad honk

    Dec 30, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    I get the concern about the ball, and I also got the concern about grooves when it cost a lot of club-makers hundreds of thousands in decimated inventory,and all of the other concerns like face design.
    My course is going through a re-design and it will add more challenges, but if the current ball wars continue, it will be obsolete in about ten years (and unplayable for normal human beings).
    I work with the elite and they are special people, but golf courses do not thrive on the greens fees from the elite; it is the average Joe six pack that pays the bills and keeps a course in bizniz. Making golf balls is easy, and changing course design is hard. It should be a stoopid simple solution. Smiles, MH

  2. gvogelsang

    Dec 25, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    It is probably time to make the ball a little lighter. Not as light as they decreed in 1931 (1.55 ounces), but lighter than now (1.62 ounces). 1.60 ounces might be a good place to start, or maybe 1.58. Yes, that would make the game a little more difficult in the wind, but overall modern equipment is so damn good….

  3. Rich Douglas

    Dec 25, 2017 at 10:01 am

    At the professional level the ball is really a problem, followed by equipment.

    At the local club/muni level, the equipment is what saves players. They get the forgiveness–extreme perimeter weighting, ultra-light shafts, offset, etc.–the pros often forego. The ball? Most can’t swing the club fast enough to access all the ball’s layers anyway, so it really doesn’t matter. Playing a tour ball is a waste of money for them. Even though they CAN access the cover for greater spin on short shots, their short games are so miserable it doesn’t really matter. They’re better off saving some money and playing the TopFlite D2 Gamer. In short: this discussion is irrelevant to them, unless the ball gets dialed back.

    The real question here is bifurcation. Do you want one set of rules or two? The men’s professional tours MUST dial back the ball. And no, tricking up courses to mess with the long hitters doesn’t help. It negates the bombers, but it’s unfair to them, bring them to the same level as the short-knockers. But if you dial back the ball, do you do it for everyone, or do you have a special ball for the tours?

    I would be really uncomfortable playing a “hot” ball while the best players used a dialed-back one. But I also don’t want to give up yardage to the hacker next to me either.

    One ball. Dial it back. Live with it.

    • stewart

      Dec 26, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      Great analysis about utilizing all the layers of the golf ball, but unfortunately for the rec golfer who claims to have a 200+ yard drive and doesn’t, he wants to play the very best and feeel what the pros feel even though he is a pathetic golfer with more money than brains or talent. Most golfers are pathetic deplorables struggling at a game they will never conquer… but they still have fun with their equally deplorable golfing buddies. They also buy the newest because they have pride in their WITB arsenal of toy weapons.

  4. Tal

    Dec 24, 2017 at 12:22 am

    I’m not a big fan of Chambles but he’s right about this. The “RTBB” campaign is driven by antiqiated thinking and jealousy.

  5. John

    Dec 23, 2017 at 1:48 am

    The people designing golf courses are old, therefore they think longer = harder because for them that’s true. For these guys who all have diet and exercise programs an extra 20 yards means nothing. There needs to be a rethink in course design – does it actually matter if the pros are playing shorter clubs off the tee because positioning and accuracy is more important? Instead of rewarding mega drives force them to play the way you intended them to play the hole. Add bunkers, smaller fairways, thicker rough, shave the green fringes, rethink course design. Watch the pros average over par this year on the 270 yard par 4 at Riviera and tell me i’m wrong. Lengthening holes just amplifies the problem.

  6. jkl

    Dec 22, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    If Tiger had been against rolling the ball back… Chamblee would have then been for it.

  7. LarryG

    Dec 22, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    “Chamblee’s final point is that “booming distance” is really only an issue at the elite level. If the Tour wants to combat it, it should add more challenging tees, slow down courses, grow rough, etc., not change the ball.”
    There’s the issue and solution, in two simple sentences! Make the long ball risk/reward factor higher, and only those who dare or are desperate will take risk. That would introduce drama and chaos into the Tour game.
    The Tour players don’t want change because they want to look good and because their sponsors want to sell fantasy to the gullible golfing masses who want to buy “the best”.
    “What wins on Sunday sells on Monday” — the Lemming Effect.

    • GM

      Dec 22, 2017 at 10:21 pm

      I love it. I’ve told my friends the same thing. Want to make it better/more interesting?? Put some traps out there at 320. Lets see some gambling! If you want a piece and think you can fit it in a 20 yard gap, go on and get you some! But all they have to do is add more trouble in that 300-340 range. Until J Vegas starts carrying it 345 of course!

      • DoubleMochaMan

        Dec 23, 2017 at 11:29 am

        Deep traps. Not easy-to-get-out-of traps.

        • DoubleMochaMan

          Dec 23, 2017 at 1:14 pm

          Or just put a dam* pond in every fairway at 300 yards out!

          • DoubleMochaMan

            Dec 23, 2017 at 1:16 pm

            Or a cliff, or IED’s or a lion’s den or a snake pit at 300 yards. That’ll work, too.

  8. Thomas A

    Dec 22, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    This quote, “From 2005-17, players have picked up 4.1 yards for any number of reasons, but likely because most PGA Tour players now look like Greek gods,” could also be attributed to driving accuracy. More fairways hit could account for more good drives counting toward fairways hit.

  9. Bob Jones

    Dec 22, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    The problem with Chamblee’s piece is that it is centered around the professional game. What happens on the PGA Tour is irrelevant to my golf and the golf of millions of other recreational golfers. I don’t need my 230-yard drive rolled back to under 200 yards. I don’t need to hit a 5-iron from places I used to hit a 7-iron. What would be gained by making me do that? Who is hurt by me hitting a 400-yard par 4 with a drive and a 5-iron rather than a drive and a fairway wood? Par 5s? I can’t get on in two, and never will.

    Sorry, this “roll back the ball” debate is happening because golf writers think the professional game is the game. It’s not. I wish a few of them, and a few of the talking heads, would acknowledge that.

    • Acemandrake

      Dec 22, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      Agreed. I’ll WATCH the pros but PLAY my game. To do otherwise is fantasy (not that there’s anything wrong with that…to each his own).

      My concern is the loss of older, classic courses for tournament golf. But, again, only the pros get excluded.

      Paul Goydos once said that course firmness is the only way to challenge pros & make them have to work/think more.

      • LarryG

        Dec 23, 2017 at 2:15 am

        Yup… they water down the greens to hold the ball and dry out the fairway to let the ball roll and roll and roll …. because the Tour pros must look good and to promote their equipment sponsors… plain and simple …!

        • Acemandrake

          Dec 23, 2017 at 8:57 am

          “dry out the fairway to let the ball roll and roll and roll …. ”

          Hopefully into the rough 🙂

    • Mike

      Dec 25, 2017 at 10:53 am

      I don’t really see the benefit in rolling the ball back but your problem is easy to solve. Moving the front tees closer is a lot easier than moving the back tees back.

  10. cody

    Dec 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    funny, this is what everyone on this forum has been saying.

    • LarryG

      Dec 23, 2017 at 2:19 am

      …. and everybody is interested for WITB and tell everybody about their next toy purchase and how it transformed their game with their new “best ever” forged clubs and adjustable driver heads. The whole thing is a farce!!!

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19th Hole

GolfWRX members weigh in on the best swings on the PGA Tour



Who has the best swing on the PGA Tour? On the one hand, the answer is Dustin Johnson, as he’s the No. 1 player in the world, right? Of course, golf fans banter about the “best” swing on the PGA Tour over beers in the grill room, they’re usually talking about technical soundness and aesthetics more than results.

It’s in this vein that GolfWRX members schley started a thread asking the forum faithful for their picks for the three best swings on Tour. For his part, shcley says Ernie Els, Adam Scott, and Louis Oosthuizen.

GatorMD says: Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen

SASSpeeder says: Louis Oosthuizen, Luke List, Ernie Els

Bladehunter says: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson

Oz dee cee says: Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen

Bye says: Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott, Justin Thomas

What do you think of these responses, GolfWRX members? Just a sample from the first 20 or so, obviously, and there are plenty more perspectives in the thread.

Who are your top three, GolfWRXers?


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19th Hole

Study: Amateur golfers are actually hitting it shorter than they were 3 years ago



While the USGA’s distance report found a “concerning” increase in driving distances at the professional level, a new report from Arccos Golf — Mike Stachura of Golf Digest got the exclusive on its study —  identifies a very different trend at the amateur level. The golf GPS and statistics-tracking app found that the average golfer’s average drive decreased from 220.6 yards in 2015 to 217.1 yards in 2018.

Before we go crazy, however, it’s worth pointing out that we’re only four months into 2018 and the golf season hasn’t even started in much of the country. Thus, it probably makes more sense to look at the average golfers’ average drives from 2017, which measured 220.0 yards — a difference of a little more than half of a yard since 2015, rather than more than three yards, as the 2018 number suggests.

Again, maybe the trend for 2018 will continue, but it seems inappropriate to draw far reaching conclusions based on the “220.6” number.

Nevertheless, if we assume Arccos’ data is representative and statistically significant, then it would be, at the very least, a bold check in the “yes” column for bifurcation/not limiting the golf ball at the amateur level.

However (again, assuming data derived from Arccos users is representative of all golfers), the findings beget another question: Why are amateurs, equipped with the latest and greatest technologies that Iron Byron and his robotic colleagues are crushing past previous years’ models, stagnant in the distance department?

Stachura points to a Club Champion study showing that an average increase of 11 yards after fitting, that the drivers of 2018 go an average of six yards farther than the drivers of 2012.

Nick Clearwater, Director of Instruction for Golftec, strikes a similar tone

“It’s likely that many golfers used in the data are still using five-plus-year-old drivers as well and most don’t get fit for their equipment to benefit from the advancements. The average golfer uses too much spin loft with all of their clubs, so increases in tech still show minimal improvement in the quality of the shot. The shots still start to the right, spin too much and are mishit.”

This may be true, but for distances to decrease, golfers would have to be hitting new equipment that’s ill-suited for them, not merely sticking with the same drivers they were hitting in 2015.

Those with skeptical inclinations toward the benefits of new equipment, particularly $400 drivers, will assuredly have a field day with this data, and OEMs will be keen to emphasize the importance of fitting. They’ll also be quick to point out we have no idea what drivers the Arccos sample set is/was playing.

If, again, we assume the data to be accurate and representative, the USGA would look foolish if they advise a rollback of the golf ball for amateurs.

The amateur golfers in question will want to visit a qualified fitter or take part in a demo day with a buffet of options before shelling out for a new big stick, which is the advice we give in conjunction with Gear Trials (and the same reccomendation we’ve offered for years).

What do you think about this data, GolfWRX members?

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19th Hole

Meet Faaaabel the goat: unofficial mascot of the Valero Texas Open



The Valero Texas Open this week has a new unofficial mascot. And really, let’s just make this official. Two ½-month-old pygmy goat mix  named Faaaabel is the official mascot of the Valero Texas Open. You heard it here first.

While there’s nothing funny about Faaaabel’s range of very important duties, she arrived at the VTO as part of a practical joke. Per Roxanna Scott of USA Today, Ted Kneale, the senior manager of operations for the Valero Texas Open, and Mark Mellgren, a tournament volunteer, wanted to wind PGA Tour rules official Brad Fabel up.

Naturally, they bought a goat on Craigslist, named it after him, and brought it to the tournament. Yes, this is a real thing that actually happened.

No word on how Fabel feels about Faaaabel, but everyone else rightly loves this miniature domestic goat.

“I’m kind of surprised at how fast this took off,” Kneale said. “We had her for about a week out here leading up to the event. Some of our staff knew about her and she was friendly with the staff. Before we knew it, people just started asking about the goat. We heard you had a goat, and it snowballed. I think she enjoys all the attention.”

This good girl does some very important jobs and has quickly become a vital part of the tournament operation. Obviously, she has a Twitter account as well.

Reportedly, Faaaabel is considering branching out into acting. As you can see from this PGA Tour video, she’s a natural on screen.

How do you feel about animals as tournament mascots, GolfWRX members? Should, say, Tripod formally be awarded Zurich Classic mascot duties?


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19th Hole