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 Who is going to pay retribution to the manufactures whose products will be rescinded?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

Is this the worst “my clubs were stolen” story ever?



Tom Owen. Remember the name, because this unfortunate gentleman may have the worst tale of club theft in recent memory.

Now, the experience of having one’s bag pilfered, never to be seen again, is awful. Your clubs are simply gone, and you have no idea who took them and where they went. Tom Owen had the first part of that experience, however, he knows exactly where his clubs are…and he can’t (legally) do anything about it.

Therese Henkin New Zealand’s Howick & Pakuranga Times originally reported the story.

Mr. Owen’s bag, with its thousands of dollars of equipment and his cell phone, was lifted December 15th from Howick Golf Course at Musick Point, New Zealand.

“They took everything, all my clubs, my bag, trundle, golf balls and my mobile phone which was tucked away inside the bag,” he told the paper.

However, as this is the 21st century, Owen was able to track his phone (which was in his golf bag) to a nearby residential address on Pigeon Mountain Road.

Presumably overjoyed, he called the police to report the theft and the location of his stolen property. One can only imagine his despair when he was told the authorities would be unable to lawfully search the premises and thus could not recover his clubs.

After reporting the incident, Owen was surprised to learn that police were not able to search the premises for the goods.

A police spokesperson explained.

“While we understand people may think police can use the tracking system people use on their phones and then send a patrol car to retrieve the property, under the Search and Surveillance Act 2012, police officers do not have the authority to enter a premise based off a locater app on a missing phone. If police resources are available and the technology can pin-point a specific address such as a household, Police are able to knock on the door and make enquiries, but not enter.”

Obviously, Owen isn’t a fan of the law, and he thinks it puts victims in a bad position. He’s right: Knowing the authorities can’t do anything, but knowing where your stolen phone, etc, is, do you risk your life taking the law into your own hands?

“It’s very frustrating to know where your stolen items are and not have anyone do anything about it. If police really can’t act on the information you give them, then something needs to change.”

What do you think, GolfWRX members? Does this make any sense? Do you join Owen in calling for a rewriting of the law?

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19th Hole

Phil Mickelson’s pursuit of average driving, Phil being Phil, and plenty more Mickelsonia from the wires today



Phil Mickelson. We tend to forget the left-hander remains a divisive, swashbuckling figure as he settles into the home stretch of his PGA Tour career. We pretend that his outrageous risk-taking-masquerading-as-cool-calculation approach to the game is somehow something other than an affront to the plodding, conservative way the game was “meant to be played.” Phil Mickelson: Even those who can’t stand him have to be deeply intrigued by Mickelson the Man and Mickelson the Golfer. How can you not be fascinated? How can you not be frustrated?

The 47-year-old begins his season at the CareerBuilder Challenge this week seeking his first victory since the 2013 British Open. Thus, it’s not surprising to see a rash of Mickelson-related pieces populating the golf newswire today.

Here are a few morsels. Per Cameron Morfit of, Mickelson is pursuing “average” driving this year. The left-hander has historically struggled with the big stick and placed outside the top 100 in strokes gained: off-the-tee last season,

Here’s what Mickelson said about his pursuit of mediocrity off the tee.

“What’s funny is when you’re good at something, chipping, putting, wedges, distance control, all that stuff, it’s easy. It takes me a day or two of practice to get back to kind of an elite level. But to become just an average driver when you’re not good at it, it takes a lot of work. And that’s what I’ve been spending the last few years on, really trying to figure it out. Get the swing plane right, get shallower into the ball, get the weighting of the driver right. The whole mental approach to the driver. Just to get everything dialed in just to be average.”

“I just don’t want to give away shots off the tee. I don’t need to gain shots off the tee; I’ll gain them elsewhere. I feel like the short putting has been addressed. I feel like, and believe, that I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough with the driver. And if that happens, I think 2018 could be a remarkable year, a year where I can win multiple times.”

Golfweek’s Brentley Romine has some interesting remarks from Jon Rahm. Rahm, of course, was coached by Phil’s brother Tim at Arizona State–a job Mickelson left to manage Rahm. Tim Mickelson then ditched that gig to loop for his brother after Bones Mackay dropped his bag to pick up a microphone. In other words, Rahm has seen the pair up close plenty of times, and had this to say about the difference between his approach to the game and that of the variable-obsessed Mickelson

“It’s really fun to hear how they (Phil and Tim) talk to each other, because Tim being my coach at ASU, I don’t need much – “Okay, it’s like 120 (yards), this shot, right?’” Rahm said. “And you have Phil, it’s like, ‘Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like 1 mph wind sideways, it’s going to affect it 1 yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They’re thinking (that) and I’m like, ‘I’m lost.

“It’s funny, he gets to the green and then it’s the same thing. He’s very detail-oriented. He gets there and I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s a foot right.’ And he goes, okay, he reads the green, like, ‘Oh, it’s 1.8 degrees of slope here and this and that. And I’m there listening and I’m like, ‘Man, I hope we’re never paired together for anything because I can’t think like this.’ I would not be able to play golf like that. For me to listen to all that is really fun. And then you hear me and Adam talk, ‘180, a little breeze into, okay, hard six.’ … And it’s just opposite extremes completely.”

Different strokes before making strokes.

Then, there is this piece from Shane Ryan exploring the nature of Phil Mickelson, if you will, and suggesting he could impress this year. Of course, this is a wholly inadequate description of a piece for Golfworld you absolutely must read.


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19th Hole

What’s your favorite photo from the history of pro golf?



Golf history, as we know, is rich. Dramatic storylines, pithy anecdotes, iconic equipment, and storybook shots are all woven into the vibrant tapestry of the game at the professional level.

It’s no surprise, then, that from the rough black-and-white of Old Tom Morris, open-stanced, gazing past the camera to his target, to the present DSLR shots, the history of the professional game is peppered with great photographs.

WRX member Christosterone started a thread with the question, “What’s your favorite tour picture and why?”

He offered this shot of “three reverse-c idols and a Texan.”

Of course, it only took one response, for someone to offer up this classic shot of Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan. One assumes that the fact that they didn’t care for one another only enhanced their badass postures.


Also, dicko999 (who better to post the following?), offered a cropped version of the legendary Presidents Cup streaker shot. Beyond the absurdity of the scene, the facial expressions make this shot great.

Just a fantastic thread that you’ll want to check out–and hopefully add a photo of your own to.

Check out the thread.


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19th Hole