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

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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 Who is going to pay retribution to the manufactures whose products will be rescinded?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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20 Comments

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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 Choice: Best Open Championship course

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With Open week upon us, we wanted to know which Open Championship venue is first in the hearts of GolfWRX members.

We asked: Factoring in course design, viewing enjoyment, overall test of golf, history, and whatever else you put into your criteria, what do you think is the best Open Championship venue, and why?

The top-three vote getters got more than 80 percent of the vote. Only Royal St. George’s was more than two percent. As a refresher, the other venues were, Royal Liverpool. Royal Troon, Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s, Royal Portrush, Royal Birkdale, and Turnberry.

The top three from the Open rota in GolfWRX members’ links-loving hearts are as follows.

3. Carnoustie (18.57%)

Ignatius Reilly says, “I went with Carnoustie – maybe because it’s the current one, and maybe because it’s so nasty.”

Sean 2 says. “I selected Carnoustie because it is a challenge regardless of the weather. As DJ called it: “…a true test.”

2. Muirfield (20%)

15th Club draws on his first-hand experience, “But I have been asked this question before; of the British Open courses, which one was your favorite? And my answer always was an additional question; if all of my remaining golf could only be played on just one course that I have been on, what would it be?”

“And the answer is Muirfield. It might not have the interest or the quirkiness of The Old Course, but to me, it is the finest, fairest, purest test of golf I have ever seen. It is at once a perfect match play and/or stroke play golf course. And it is more natural, with less town-encroachment than almost all of the other sites on the Rota.”

1. Old Course at St Andrews (41.43%)

IVM says simply, “St Andrews the home of golf.”

Bucky316 points out, “St Andrews….but only with heavy wind… otherwise it’s sad to see a historic track getting thrashed by the modern technology.”

What do you think, GolfWRX members? You can vote in the poll here, or feel free to discuss your favorite track in the comments.

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Fancy a punt? Check out these Tiger Woods British Open prop bets

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It wouldn’t be a major featuring Tiger Woods without Tiger Woods prop bets, would it? Bettors, as we know, get off the sidelines to shovel cash behind Woods when he tees it up in major championships. This has been historically true. It was true at the Masters. It was true at the U.S. Open.

Accordingly, the good folks at BetDSI are offering a number of Woods wagers you may be keen to punt on…especially if you want a piece of the TW action but aren’t keen to take Woods at 24-1 to win The Open.

Tiger Woods makes cut

Yes -350
No +250

Tiger Woods wins

Yes +2400
No -2900

Tiger Woods finishes top 5

Yes +600
No -900

Tiger Woods finishes top 10

Yes +270
No -400

Tiger Woods finishes top 20

Yes +140
No -170

Tiger Woods finishing position

Over 25.5 (-115)
Under 25.5 (-115)

Tiger Woods lowest round

Over 69.5 (-110)
Under 69.5 (-120)

Tiger Woods highest round

Over 75.5 (-110)
Under 75.5 (-120)

Tiger Woods highest score on any hole

Over 7 (-110)
Under 7 (-120)

Tiger Woods total double bogeys or worse

Over 3 (-110)
Under 3 (-120)

Tiger Woods within 5 strokes of lead during final round

Yes +225
No -300

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19th Hole

WATCH Phil Mickelson hit a flop shot over a man 2 yards in front of him

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On the Gear Dive podcast, Fred Couples told Johnny Wunder that Phil Mickelson is the best judge of a lie (and the shots he can execute from a certain lie) in the game of golf.

This video from Carnoustie yesterday is testament both to that fact and a reminder that Phil Mickelson’s short game is truly singular.

Former European Tour pro Gary Evans was the guinea pig.

Here’s the shot from another angle. That’s gotta be a 64-degree Callaway Mack Daddy PM Grind, no?

Mother of golf gods! Check your trousers, Gary! How crazy is that shot? There’s plenty of puffery when it comes to Phil’s short game, but that shot is simply insane. Would love to see the Trackman data on that flop.

I mean, if Phil doesn’t get the contact he wants and you get hit, you gotta hope to get pelted in the stomach or chest…and not the jewels or the face.

What do you think, GolfWRX members? Would you take Evans place for viral video fame? A few bills from Mickelson’s famed cash wad?

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