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Should we really “roll back” the golf ball? A deep dive…

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The USGA and R&A ruling bodies recently released their 2017 Distance Report, which gathered data from seven major tours. The driving distance of each player was measured using TrackMan and ShotLink on two select holes during each tournament. This analysis cumulatively yielded roughly 40,000 pieces of data over the course of a year. The report revealed that the average driving distance on the PGA Tour increased by a total of 3 yards over the past year, while the greatest increase was 10 yards on the Web.com Tour.

The report ignited a firestorm of comments. The general consensus is that the sport is facing a crisis — depending on who you believe and/or your group affiliation. They all have a vested interest in the outcome.

There are two issues on the table. They are linked together, but they also have individual considerations.

  1. The Distance the Golf Ball is Traveling: There are many reasons why the ball is going farther than ever before. There are some in the industry who believe the golf ball is not the problem and it would be a mistake to roll it back.
  2. The Golf Ball Itself: There are others in the industry of the opinion that the answer is to roll back the distance the golf ball travels by as much as 20 percent. Those in this group believe the golf ball is the problem, regardless of other factors that are contributing to what has been dubbed a“Distance Creep.”

In both cases, most everyone agrees that something must be done. The numbers tell the story. In 1980, the first year of officially measured drives on tour, the average distance off the tee was 257 yards. In the early 2000s, there were only a few players who we able to drive the ball over 300 yards. Today, there are 57 PGA Tour players who average 300 yards or more off the tee. A major concern is that most of the great courses throughout the country are becoming obsolete.

Wally Uihlein, the former leader of Titleist, has argued there are many contributing factors to the increased distances shots are now traveling: “thin face, oversized titanium drivers; low-spinning, solid core, high performance golf balls; the physiology of today’s professional golfer; improved technique and instruction; mobile launch monitors and customization of equipment; improved golf course conditioning and agronomy,” as he told GOLF in 2017.

GROUP 1

These three men, together with their respective organizations, will ultimately make the decision as to what should be done with respect to the golf ball and distance issue.

  • Mike Davis, Executive Director of the USGA: Davis is the lead spokesman on this issue for the USGA. “These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand. All it’s doing is increasing the cost of the game. The impact it has had has been horrible.”
  • Mark Nowell, President USGA: The newly elected President’s comments have been more general in nature. “We have been, and we’re going to be focused on what that situation is and how we can deal with it … there is no fixed timetable, but we will commence this process immediately and endeavor to reach a conclusion as promptly as possible.”
  • Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of the R&A: The R&A will vote in accordance with the USGA. “I’m looking at the balance between skill and technology — are they in balance, is it good for the recreational game? And should it be the same for the elite game?”

GROUP 2

There are two other groups that have the ability to sway both public and private opinion. They are the PGA of America and the PGA Tour. The leaders of these two groups believe that the golf ball in not the problem, but that there are other extraneous factors responsible for the increased distance the golf ball travels.

  • Jay Monahan, Commissioner of the PGA Tour: “We believe this increase in club head speed is mostly attributable to a combination of factors, such as increased player athleticism and fitness, physical build of the player and enhancements in equipment fitting.”
  • Pete Bevacqua, CEO of the PGA of America: “We are highly skeptical that rolling back the golf ball in whole or part will be in the best interests of the sport and our collective efforts to grow the game.”

GROUP 3

And then there are the players, past and present. Jack Nicklaus has been at the forefront of this issue dating back to 1977 when he first called on the USGA to look at making a change to the ball. Nicklaus believes the distance the ball travels should be rolled back 20 percent.

  • Tiger Woods agrees with Nicklaus that the ball travels too far. “I think the ball is going too far,” he said. “You would not want to take away the amateur’s ability to hit the ball farther and straighter, but with the touring pros you might want to roll the ball back… like in baseball you would have a pro ball and an amateur ball.
  • Dustin Johnson agreed with Tiger Woods in a press conference in late November 2017, but then he changed his mind a few months later.” When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don’t really understand what all the debate is about, because it doesn’t matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole.”
  • Geoff Ogilvy agrees with Tiger Woods, using a similar baseball analogy. “Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats … everywhere else in baseball, they use aluminum bats. That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters. We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So, do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter?”
  • Gary Player, Hale Irwin and the late Arnold Palmer all have at one time or another agreed with Jack Nicklaus that something needs to be done with the ball because it travels too far.

GROUP 4

The last group that is a stakeholder in any decision made are the manufactures. A required change in the ball could mean thousands if not millions of dollars required to retool golf ball manufacturing plants. And from Titleist’s perspective, as they are the leader in sales with the greatest presence on the professional tours, there looms the possible loss of market share.

  • Wally Uihlein, Former President and CEO of Acushnet, Titleist’s parent company, does not believe the ball is the problem. Titleist conducted its own study adding further context to the Distance Report’s finding of a three-yard average gain year over year across golf’s seven prominent professional tours. Titleist’s research shows a 0.5-yard gain in distance at PGA Tour events in 2017 that were played at the same course as 2016. Of the courses that were new for the 2016-17 season, Titleist found most of increase came at three of the major championship venues: the U.S. Open (Erin Hills vs. Oakmont, +20.4 yards), the British Open (Royal Birkdale vs. Royal Troon, +8.1 yards) and the PGA Championship (Quail Hollow vs. Baltusrol, +7.0 yards).
  • Angel Ilagan, Bridgestone Golf President and CEO, says the company agrees with Tiger Woods that the distance the pro ball travels should be reduced while the equipment and the ball should be “juiced for the amateur.” “As it relates to the Tour, there needs to be something to standardize the ball because these guys are hitting it way too long,” he said.
  • David Abeles, CEO and President TaylorMade: “We believe innovation and technology lead to better performance, and better performance brings more joy to the game for all who play it … As the discussion around bifurcation and rollback formalizes, we look forward to having a seat at the table to lend our voice. Until then, we will continue to create the best performing products for all golfers.”

In the end, we know it is about what the R&A and the USGA decide. They are like the Supreme Court; their decision is final. The PGA Tour and the PGA of America are like co-counsels presenting their case unofficially to the public and the media. And the players are on the opposing side, presenting their case for change—a roll back of the distance the ball travels.

What will the USGA decide, and when will it decide? We have seen through other changes at the USGA and R&A that they prefer a slow rollout rather than an fast rollback. The USGA has had to deal with other sensitive issues in the past. The current issue is reminiscent of the “battle of the groves” when Ping’s Karsten Solheim sued the USGA for $100 million in 1987. The lawsuit was eventually dropped, and Ping’s Eye2 irons were grandfathered in.

There was most recently the ban on anchoring, in which the PGA Tour and the PGA of America were considering enacting their own rules. After the USGA announced its intention in May 2013, the ban went into effect January 1, 2016. There was a period in which open discussion was entertained, and then after listening to various points of view the USGA set a date in which the ban on anchoring would go into effect: January 16, 2016. The PGA of America and the PGA Tour eventually capitulated.

In 1998, there was the issue of thin-faced drivers that were popularized by Callaway and TaylorMade. The USGA implemented a new rule restricting the coefficient of restitution to a value of 0.83 for drivers. The rule was then adopted world-wide by 2003.

It’s clear that the USGA moves carefully. It’s interested in hearing every point of view, which takes time. It also favors setting a date in the future when the rules change will become effective but, in the meantime, there is a waiting period in which those who are affected have the time and opportunity to adjust. What is also clear is the USGA is interested in doing what’s best for the game. While its actions may at times seem capricious and arbitrary, those who hold that opinion are the individuals that have been directly affected by a rules change.

As in the past, the USGA has shown that it will not back down from a fight if it believes the cause is just. At the same time, however, the USGA will listen to every point of view. This approach obviates the possibility of an out-and-out showdown. The greatest predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and for that reason I would predict that the USGA will announce its intention to make a change in the rules with regards to the ball in 2018. But whatever changes it decides, it will not go into effect until 2020 for professionals.

As for amateurs, the USGA will have to decide what the best approach is when it comes to them. They could:

  1. Reduce the distance the ball travels to match the standards applied to the professionals
  2. Keep it the same as today without making any changes
  3. Increase the limit the ball travels

Those who are in favor of regulating the distance the ball travels are not in favor of doing anything that would reduce the enjoyment of the amateur or have a negative effect on growing the game. As we consider the issue, we must believe that Mike Davis, Executive Director of the USGA, meant what he said over dinner with Jack Nicklaus in November of 1997. They were discussing the increasing distance the ball is traveling, and sarcastically Nicklaus asked Davis, “Are you going to study the issue for another 10 years?”

And Davis answered defensively, “No, no, no, we’re going to get there… and I’m going to need your help when we do.”

That sounds like a promise to me. What do you think?

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As a teacher, Rod Lidenberg reached the pinnacle of his career when he was named to GOLF Magazine's "Top 100" Teachers in America. The PGA Master Professional and three-time Minnesota PGA "Teacher of the Year" has over his forty-five year career, worked with a variety of players from beginners to tour professionals. He especially enjoys training elite junior players, many who have gone on to earn scholarships at top colleges around the country, in addition to winning several national amateur championships. Lidenberg maintains an active schedule teaching at Bluff Creek Golf Course Chanhassen, Minnesota, in the summer and The Golf Zone, Chaska, Minnesota, in the winter months. As a player, he competed in two USGA Public Links Championships; the first in Dallas, Texas, and the second in Phoenix, Arizona, where he finished among the top 40. He also entertained thousands of fans playing in a series of three exhibition matches beginning in 1972, at his home course, Edgewood G.C. in Fargo, North Dakota, where he played consecutive years with Doug Sanders, Lee Trevino and Laura Baugh. As an author, he has a number of books in various stages of development, the first of which will be published this fall entitled "I Knew Patty Berg." In Fall 2017, he will be launching a new Phoenix-based instruction business that will feature first-time-ever TREATMENT OF THE YIPS.

68 Comments

68 Comments

  1. Paul

    Mar 29, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Maybe this is a dumb question, but why can’t we let the pros just shoot lower scores?

  2. Tom Newsted

    Mar 29, 2018 at 8:13 am

    This has been covered by so many people across the internet who have done testing with balls from today and balls from 20 – 25 years ago. I say put them on the robots and see if there is any major difference 20-30 yards is a major difference. If the robots are close then there is no reason to change the ball. I have said many times that this issue is the result of the players being in much better shape than ever before. Both PGA and LPGA players are extremely fit and have a physical trainer as part of their game. This along with some technology is why the ball is going further not the ball itself. When Tiger came on the scene in 97 he was the only one that took physical fitness seriously now all the kids that grew up wanting to be Tiger have done the same thing.

  3. glfhsslr

    Mar 29, 2018 at 6:36 am

    MLB uses wooden bats yes. Ask some of the MLB pitchers of their opinion of the ball, They’ll all tell its juiced.
    If the USGA decides to roll the ball back I think they should expand the hole to 6″ wide lol. Id make that exchange all day

  4. Square

    Mar 29, 2018 at 5:54 am

    Every single decision should be based on how to make the game more fun, affordable, and optimum pace for amateur players. There should be no consideration as to what Tour Players are doing. Rolling back the ball for amateurs will not grow the game. I hit the ball 280 off the tee 25 years ago. At age 48 I still hit it 280 off the tee. Technology has allowed me to enjoy nearly the same experience for 25 years. If I was hitting it 240, I’d probably have slowed down a bit and picked up other interests.

    • gvogelsang

      Mar 29, 2018 at 8:37 am

      Why would you want the game to be easier. A big part of what makes golf a great game is the difficulty.

      If you need easier, move up a set of tees, or two.

  5. ewfnick

    Mar 29, 2018 at 5:14 am

    I have stopped watching golf on TV these days as it is simply boring, driver, wedge, driver, wedge, all that gets shown most of the time is putting, as the approach game has become too obvious.
    I will continue to love and play the game, but watching for me, is now a thing of the past.

  6. A. Commoner

    Mar 28, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    Don’t care what the PGA, Tour, USGA, or R&A does. There will be makers of and markets for balls appropriate for 90% of us “real” golfers. Just an aside: some people have strange ideas about how to “grow the game.”

  7. KP

    Mar 28, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    Been playing since 1993. Busted my a** trying to hit it longer any straighter. Down to a 3 now, was a scratch about 10 years ago. I practice a few times a week and play on one or both weekend days. My handicap climbed when they got rid of belly putters. If they roll the ball back because the beasts that are the PGA Tour are hitting it further than they like and I start hitting it noticeably shorter…I’m done.

    • Hogan Fan

      Mar 29, 2018 at 4:52 am

      In all seriousness, the article compared golf to baseball and the analogy is correct. Do we rebuild all the stadiums or just make the ball go shorter? If they make it a bit shorter to control the costs of course maintenance, then everyone should just move up a proportionate amount. 10% rollback? Stop playing 7000 yards and go back to playing 6300. There are a ton of great courses under 6500 yards.

      • Mat

        Mar 30, 2018 at 4:32 am

        No, MLB also requires all parks to be 330 to the poles now, and 400 CF. So you can’t go saying “play a shorter course”, and say baseball is an example. It’s opposite. They are ensuring the “course” is a minimum distance.

  8. Mat

    Mar 28, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    Frankly, there’s only one thing I care about. Whatever is decided in the area of the ball, and equipment in its entirety, is simple; it must remain equal, pros and amateurs.

    If it’s reduced for the pros, it’s reduced for the ams. We all play conforming clubs, and the ball should be no different. If they do or don’t change, what I care about is that the ball is the same one that the professionals play. Right now, they play the same ball I can buy off the shelf. If that ever changes, you’ll find that golf will suffer. It is the fact that pros play the SAME as me that makes what they do amazing. Otherwise, I don’t have anything to compare them, and that’s when you lose the connection so vital in the game.

  9. Golfer 5

    Mar 28, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    After reading a lot of comments it is a variety of factors in my opinion which has increased distance:
    -Player fitness
    -Faster conditions
    -New technology

    One thing that I think has really increased distance across the board is club fitting, even for pros. That in itself is so much more detailed and technologically advanced now it is crazy! The intricacies pros can maximize on are only going to increase their production further. If you combine all those factors and add in the fact that any golfer has a chance to play the most perfectly tailored set of clubs, then you are obviously going to maximize performance.

    In that respect, perhaps they should regulate the COR standard of woods further, and put parameters on fairway woods as well.

    • Charles Miller

      Mar 29, 2018 at 9:25 am

      That is the critical point. Just publishing distance stats takes no account of clubhead speed. A recent analysis of the top 20 on the US PGA tour showed a 4mph (which translates to c.10 yard) improvement over a decade, so better heads and shafts, stronger players and perhaps a more aggressive approach all play their part. Given that the USGA and R&A have not changed the maximum permitted ball velocity for ages, other factors come into play.

      One of those is the performance of today’s golf balls. Optimising spin, and fitting balls to players, means they nowadays fly better and more predictably (regardless of distance) than they did.

  10. Bob

    Mar 28, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    I don’t see what the problem is. The game is fun and exciting to play as an amateur and it is fun and exciting to watch the pro’s play. Roll back the ball and you roll back the fun and excitement and you end up rolling back the growth of the game. Sorry, I think the USGA and the R&A are a bunch of old fuddy duddies

  11. Bob Jones

    Mar 28, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    The problem, if there really is one, exists only in professional golf only. I don’t think my 220-yard drives are hurting the game.

    And where is Group 5? A set of recreational golfers, who represent only about 95% of people who play the game?

  12. Billable Hours

    Mar 28, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    I don’t understand why anything needs to change

  13. Vance

    Mar 28, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    No course is obsolete. They will always be free to have tournaments at any course. They are only afraid of scores being too low, but won’t admit it. The same people who readily admit that players are better these days seem unable to accept that scores might be lower as a result.

  14. gvogelsang

    Mar 28, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    They should roll back COR and reduce the driver head size for “elite” players. They have already defined elite players when they changed the groove rule.

    A COR of .76 and a driver head size of 200 cc would work just fine.

  15. R Symes

    Mar 28, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    I believe the Ball is going further due to a combination of inputs as mentioned by multiple people, course conditions, Ball technology improvements, club technology improvements, physical fitness. I do not see it as an issue as all play in the same environment with the aim to get the ball in the hole with the least number of strokes.
    Why not conduct some analysis with the top ten players mixing up combinations of current balls/clubs and balls/clubs from 20 to 30 years ago! How far does the modern club hit the old ball and vice versa?
    Get on with the game and let everyone enjoy it.

  16. Golf fan 55

    Mar 28, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    I am an advocate of keeping the golf ball the same, and agree with Dustin Johnson being that the object “is getting it into the hole”. Why I wouldn’t compare golf equipment to baseball equipment.

    1. The only reason aluminum is used everywhere but professional baseball is because of availability of wood and cost for amateurs to use wood.

    2. Tiger’s comparison about the “Pro” baseball and “Amateur” baseball is exactly what is wrong with pro baseball right now, and why homeruns have become such a joke and how hard pitchers are throwing. There is a very distinct difference in how tightly wound the “Pro” baseball is and the height of the seams compared to a “Minor League” ball compared to a college/high school ball, thus creating less resistance in the wind. It is simply a money-maker for the sport of baseball.

    I agree with all those who have said that the conditions of the course should change!!! The pros on average seem to be getting 20-30yds of roll-out on drives due to how fast, tight and firm the fairways are. And if putting greens are way faster today than when Arnie, Nicklaus, etc used to play, aren’t the fairways as well??? How is this not flawing the numbers as well? All in all, I do not think overall carry distance is much different through the years.

    • Golf fan 55

      Mar 28, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      I do not think pros needs to play on fairways that run 9-11 on a stimpmeter, which is faster than some of the greens most of us play on. And of course, something that runs that fast will also be more firm allowing the ball to roll more, thus distance+

      • Golf fan 55

        Mar 28, 2018 at 4:35 pm

        In my opinion, Golf is the only sport where the playing conditions are significantly different considering professional play vs “ordinary” conditions amateur conditions. Perhaps the pristine conditions of the courses need to be addressed as the conditions are contributing to distance gain.

  17. dat

    Mar 28, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    Make the courses play harder. Or force all pros to play steel shafts over 100g in their woods. That will slow things down and force a decrease in length.

  18. Dave

    Mar 28, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    as soon as they make anything different than i use. i will lose substantial interest in golf. i spend about 10k annually on golf. no longer will their 340 drive seem amazing as it will only be 300yards…i will be hitting 300 yards and so will DJ. STUPID. not every course needs to be tourney playable. its only those courses that need length and they only need that length for tourneys. no one is even playing the tips at any courses i play. half the time the tips are grown over. Just narrow the damn fairways and you will see more irons off the tee, hybrids etc. problem solved…

  19. Rick Wilmoth

    Mar 28, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    We know its about the money, not the integrity of the game. However, to fix it is pretty simple. Same reasoning behind the baseball rules. Amateurs can use whatever they want, but the pros have to hit a standardized ball and use wood woods.

  20. AndyK

    Mar 28, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    For what it’s worth

    Top 10 players in World and swing speed (Fleetwood sub for Koepka, no keopka 2018 data)

    1 D Johnson 121.6
    2 J Thomas 117.7
    3 J Rahm 118.4
    4 J Speith 113.1
    5 J Rose 117.7
    6 H Matsuy 118.4
    7 R McIIroy 122.4
    8 R Fowler 115.2
    9 S Garcia 119.0
    11 Fleetw 116.7

  21. Peeza

    Mar 28, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Since the MLB seems to be the most common comparison, maybe the Tour courses should be made tougher like the MLB parks are made larger. High school and college baseball fields don’t measure up to MLB parks. Make the fairways narrower and softer, while making the rough longer and greens smaller.

    99% of amateur golfers don’t play the courses the pro’s play. Change the pro’s courses and leave the am’s alone. Equipment remains the same.

    • Chuck

      Mar 28, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      We have been doing that — tricking up golf courses — for many years, and it is long since time to stop it. It does not produce the best golf. And it isn’t just doing tricky stuff in setups. We are changing golf courses — lengthening them, stretching them, changing them — all to accommodate $3.50 golf balls.

      Ridiculous.

  22. GolfGolfGolf

    Mar 28, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    simple – no

  23. farmer

    Mar 28, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    1980 is damn near 40 years ago. How much longer were tour players in 1980 than in 1940? Did that 1980 ball need to be rolled back?

    • Chuck

      Mar 28, 2018 at 3:11 pm

      You are helping to make the rollback argument.

      The differences between clubs and balls in the 1940-1980 period was negligible, to the 1980-2020 differences.

      In 1940, as in 1980, all clubs were steel-shafted. Drivers were persimmon. Clublengths and lofts were mostly the same. In the 1970’s, a great many tour players were still playing with collectible MacGregor Tommy Armour drivers that were made in the 1950’s and 60’s.

  24. Peeza

    Mar 28, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    At what playing level does the USGA make it mandatory to use a reduced flight ball(if they go that route). What does this do for guys on the Web.com Tour or college players aspiring to be pro?

    The USGA will have to define a threshold where players competing at a certain level will have time to adjust.

    A college player deciding to go pro will be at a serious disadvantage when they tee it up on a mini tour or the Web.com tour with a reduced flight golf ball. They will need time to adjust to their new yardages and the new ball’s characteristics.

    Someone else already mentioned this but what will this do for the amateur that qualifies for a pro tournament? They’ll have to use a ball they haven’t used before or have very little practice with.

    Also, will there now have to be another division for amateur tournaments for amateurs that want to use pro compliant equipment?

    Too many variables for the roll back case IMO.

  25. CB

    Mar 28, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    A semi-scientific thought…

    A pro who achieves a very efficient contact may lose 20% with a new-tech ball. BUT an amateur with less efficient ball striking would lose a much lower % of their distance – maybe only 5%, because so many other factory are at play.

    I think a ball which bunches the driving distances could be good – only the best longest pros getting to 300yds whilst the club players who get about 230 or so at the moment will be less effected an come out of this with 220 or 225yd drives.

  26. Peeza

    Mar 28, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Just for the record…MLB baseball is not the only league that uses wooden bats. Some Division II College baseball conferences use wooden bats. Like, the NE10 in New England.

    Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble. Well, not sorry really.

  27. Scooter

    Mar 28, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    The problem is that the courses are set up to reward longer hitters. The setup for tournaments should allow for long drives up to a pre-determined threshold. At that point, distance gets penalized with hazards, bunkers, long rough, etc.
    Face it. Golf courses can’t continue to be made longer and longer. PGA tournament setups are rewarding only the bomb and gouge players by making the courses play longer and eliminating the shotmakers on tour. Give the long hitters 3-5 holes that reward their distance and setup the rest to level the field off the tee.

    • Scott

      Mar 28, 2018 at 1:18 pm

      (Scooter) And then make the cups smaller for better putters. Why penalize a player that can do something you can’t?

      • AndyK

        Mar 28, 2018 at 1:31 pm

        Haha seriously this is so true. That’s the real reason PGA guys light up course When they hit 15 greens and have 24 putts they is just insane.

        That is much harder then hit the ball 300. I know plenty of guys shoot in 90s that hit it 300+

  28. Dino

    Mar 28, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    Rod … you missed the group of players that are content with the golf ball and the distance issue. I suspect that there are plenty of players that would like to see it stay right where it is, but for some reason they never get the “ink” or “airtime” to make their perspective more clearly known.

  29. nyguy

    Mar 28, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    on and on and on and on…. my god.

  30. HeineyLite

    Mar 28, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    Going to the baseball comparison, make all pros play blades and and smaller than 360cc drivers. Maybe limit clubs they can carry from 14 to 11? IMO

  31. kevin

    Mar 28, 2018 at 11:53 am

    the real issue is when course strategy is removed because of the distance guys can carry it. i’m all for thicker rough and tighter fairways, but if guys now have ability to carry the hazard, carry the fairway bunker, cut the dogleg, and essentially eliminate the risk and reward the course architect spent so much time creating, then the game changes for the worse.

    combine this with the forgiveness in the large driver heads and lack of spin with the new balls, and the separation or gap between the best ball strikers is narrowed. I want a bigger emphasis on ball striking as the deciding factor on tournament success vs what the game is quickly becoming…which is workout, perfect your launch angle to hit driver as high and far as possible, and become a good putter. course management, iron play, working the ball is taking a back seat to the bomb and gouge type of play. not sure that’s great for the game.

  32. Humble Golfer

    Mar 28, 2018 at 11:25 am

    I think that we can use MLB as an example. Professional baseball are the only ones that use wooden bats. If they do pull the trigger on this, they should only reduce ball distance on Tour golf balls not consumer based balls. Just like golf clubs; pros use equipment that amateurs can’t get. Should be the same for the golf ball.

    • Allan

      Mar 28, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      Its hard to use MLB as an example. you don’t see true amateurs playing in the MLB. There are many Professional golf Tournaments that allow Amateur players to compete (IE Masters, US Open, British Open…the list goes on). So if Pros and Amateur are using different equipment, How cab they level the field? Only way would be to force Amateur to use Limited golf ball which is not what they’ve practiced with or play with on a regular basis, so the are at an immediate disadvantage.

    • HoleIn2

      Mar 28, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      What happens to top amateurs, top juniors, club championships, state, and national tournaments? Where do you draw the line.

      • Den

        Mar 28, 2018 at 11:17 pm

        You can’t draw the line because a line can’t exist…. would they take away the u.s. am champs invitation to the masters or u.s. open because they used the “amateur” ball instead of the regulated tour ball to qualify? it just wouldn’t work with two sets of rules. you’d have to do it for everyone…. and a 20% rollback would mean a 300yd drive would only go 240. so no recreational golfer could legitimately hit the ball 200yds basically. sounds like a great idea

  33. Man

    Mar 28, 2018 at 11:15 am

    They should stop cutting the fairways so thin and running them out so firm on the Tour courses and let them get shaggy and clumped with crab grass like they are on many real, muni courses across the US. And then let’s see how the Pros do on courses that aren’t so perfect where the ball doesn’t roll out 50 yards

    • BH

      Mar 28, 2018 at 11:54 am

      Yup. The ball is NOT the problem.

    • AndyK

      Mar 28, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      TV wants low scores on long drives. Notice how they always but these shot tracer driving distance hole on a hole that’s off a cliff down hurricane with lava rock fairway.

      All the pros care is how far they carry the driver and only a few can carry it 300.

  34. Sam

    Mar 28, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Of course longer hitters on tour like Tiger and DJ want the ball rolled back. When they(longer hitters) are now hitting short irons and wedges into greens where other guys are hitting mid irons, roll the ball back and now the big hitters are still hitting short irons to mid irons to the greens the short guys are forced to hit long irons. Who’s going to have the advantage of getting the ball to stop close to the pins on the these fast greens? Yup the big guys.

  35. Rev G

    Mar 28, 2018 at 10:59 am

    I think there is another perspective that you’re missing. Player’s on the tours hit it further for many reasons (clubs, balls, fitness, nutrition, instruction, course conditions, etc.) The ball is the easiest and most logical thing to roll back to counteract this. Saying the ball is at fault for the increase is not the point, the point is that the ball (and only reasonable) thing you can roll back. Tennis has encountered the same issues – the ball was traveling too fast because of new racquet technology, fitness, nutrition instruction, etc.). So what have tournaments done to counteract, they’ve made the ball fluffier. The ball wasn’t at fault, but it is the easiest thing to use to counteract.

    • Matt

      Mar 28, 2018 at 2:11 pm

      If fitness is the reason for the length then put a 300cc Wood headed driver and Balata ball in their hands and see what happens. Their swing speeds will drop and distances will go down regardless of how fit they are.

    • RS

      Mar 30, 2018 at 1:59 am

      Was just about to leave a comment, but your post nailed it. The ball is the only logical thing to roll back.

  36. Bye

    Mar 28, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Are we allowed to discuss this again? Every roll back thread seems to get shut down.

    • Chuck

      Mar 28, 2018 at 3:25 pm

      I think that the reason that these threads get shut down is because of the bad behavior of a small number of commenters. (Invariably the anti-rollback crowd.)

      I haven’t seen any heavy-handed censorship by GolfWRX, and I congratulate GolfWRX on allowing this debate.

      Kudos.

      btw: I very mistakenly hit the “Report Comment” instead of the “Reply” button a moment ago. There is nothing wrong with Bye’s comment, and I apologize for the missed click.

  37. Cory

    Mar 28, 2018 at 10:46 am

    Watch Rick Shiels’ video about him testing the titleist pro 90 vs the new pro v1. It’s a very small sample size but still effective for getting an idea of how far the ball has come. Teaser: there’s not much difference. The biggest factor in distance these days is the new era of pro golfers who train and lift weights and golf club technology IMO. Like the poster above me said, make the course conditions more punishable on fairways missed.

    • Mike

      Mar 28, 2018 at 11:30 am

      +1

    • Peeza

      Mar 28, 2018 at 1:38 pm

      Agree 100%

    • Matt

      Mar 28, 2018 at 2:08 pm

      Not sure how you get “There’s not much difference.” His Driver test showed 12 yards difference and his 7i showed 6 yards. That is what this discussion is all about.

      • James

        Mar 28, 2018 at 4:44 pm

        Which is one whole club. Not the doom and gloom that the powers-that-be are crying over

  38. Jack

    Mar 28, 2018 at 10:39 am

    grow the rough up narrow and soften the fairways. problem solved

    • Phil

      Mar 28, 2018 at 11:54 am

      Agree with Jack & Man. Soften the fairways & grow the rough. Evaluate after this ….

    • Chuck

      Mar 28, 2018 at 3:34 pm

      “Grow the rough up; narrow and soften the fairways… PROBLEMS CREATED.”

      First problem; effectively narrowing golf courses eliminates the architect’s original design intentions. Angles are shut down; natural landing area challenges are minimized or overlooked. You have eliminated much strategy, and turned course management into little more than a golf simulator, banging shots down a narrow one-dimensional chute.

      Second problem; “softening” golf courses is bad in multiple ways. You first and foremost eliminate the “ground game” and the need to understand and manage the way that balls run out. It is also bad if a “softened” course cannot handle extra moisture in the form of rain during a tournament week.

      Third problem; punitive rough is a terrible way to handle distance. The right way to handle extra distance is to address the distance; not trick the player into holding back because he fears the rough on a particular hole, but still has the reserve distance to bomb it over fairway bunkers on a different hole

      I will never stop being amazed at the mentality that would regard it as better and more logical to make changes to a priceless, irreplaceable, historic golf course, simply to avoid making changes to something as forgettable as a golf ball.

      • Chris

        Mar 29, 2018 at 11:24 pm

        They aren’t talking about changing the golf course, but rather about keeping it as it is the rest of the year when there is no tournament and NOT change it with starved fairways running at 10 on the stimp. During tournament week only.

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Opinion & Analysis

What makes Bryson DeChambeau so good? A deep dive into the numbers

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I can relate, in a way, to this mad scientist of golf. When I had the idea to create a better method of analyzing golf by comparing each shot to a computer model of “scratch” performance 29 years ago, I was considered quite strange. My idea is now what is known as strokes gained analysis and has become the accepted standard for golf analysis. If you are interested in my journey, read The History of Strokes Gained on my website, ShotByShot.com.

Given Bryson’s recent success, will we all soon be switching to 7-iron length irons and practicing Bryson’s one-plane swing? I doubt it, but it is clear that Bryson is here to stay, so I decided to see exactly how his recent winning performance compares to that of other winners on the PGA Tour. Accordingly, I ran my analysis of Bryson’s ShotLink data for his three wins (The Memorial, The Northern Trust and the most recent Dell Technologies Championship). I compared this analysis to a similar analysis of all of the PGA Tour winners in 2017. For added perspective, I ran the same analysis for the entire 2017 Tour and for all the players that missed cuts in 2017.

As Bryson’s data sample is only 12 rounds on three courses, one might question how the numbers might be skewed by the differences in relative course difficulty as well as the relative strength of the fields. I believe we can agree that Bryson has won on relatively difficult courses and against very strong fields. Accordingly, I will overlook these factors.

Tee Game: Driving

Bryson’s driver is normal length. It is his irons that are all 37.5 inches long, or about the length of a standard 7 iron – why do the TV commentators always say “6 iron”? Anyway, Bryson’s unique one-plane swing produces long, straight drives. He averaged over 300 yards, 15 yards longer than the field, and hit more fairways than the 2017 winners.  Further, Bryson (Blue arrows below) had 35% fewer driving errors than those made by the 2017 winners. So LONG and STRAIGHT! Perhaps we all should be working on our 1-plane swings?


Approach shots 

I put Bryson’s approach game as not quite as good as the 2017 winners. His strokes gained relative to the field’s is not as strong (perhaps this can be attributed to stronger fields?). Bryson did hit more greens-in-regulation (blue arrows below). BUT remember he hit more fairways and made fewer errors. Finally, Bryson’s proximity when he hits the greens* is closer to the 2017 Tour average than it is to the 2017 winners.


*I look at “Proximity” much differently than the PGA Tour. The Tour’s proximity to hole includes approach shots that miss the green within 30 yards of the green’s edge.  I believe a miss is a miss and should not be counted at all.  For more on why, read my 2/26/18 GolfWRX article:Is Tiger’s “No.1 Proximity to the Hole” a meaningless stat?

Short Game (shots from within 50 yards of the hole)

Again, Bryson’s wedges are 7-iron length, about two to three inches longer than a standard sand wedge. His short game data would indicate that the extra length does not present an issue from the sand. I chalk this up to the fact that for the most part greenside sand shots tend to be full swings. It is the shape of the swing that controls distance not the length.

Chipping and pitching, on the other hand, require a myriad of different swings and touch shots. The longer shafts seem to have a negative impact here which has been mentioned many times in the TV coverage. Below (Blue arrows) show that Bryson’s strokes gained around-the-green are about half the margin from the field’s as the 2017 winners. His chipping and pitching results are nowhere near the 2017 Winners. Perhaps Bryson should consider at least one normal length wedge for use around the greens? To support this, Bryson was ranked No. 118 in strokes gained around the green, with a negative .034 strokes gained thru the Well Fargo Championship (more than half way thru the season). He has improved since to No. 63 and a +.15 strokes gained in this category.


Putting

Bryson’s putter is 39 inches long, about three inches longer than standard, and he rests the grip against his left forearm. Personally, I believe his stance and stroke look very stiff and mechanical, which may account for what I discovered in his putting stats. Bottom line, he is outstanding from fairly close range (inside 20 feet), but very average from 30-plus feet. Bryson has almost TWICE as many three-putts as the 2017 winners from 30-plus feet (.5/round vs. .29/round for the 2017 winners). This makes sense to me as stiff and mechanical do not seem compatible with “feel” and optimal distance control.

That said, his success from close range might more than offset his apparent long-range weakness. Note below that Bryson’s one-putt success is noticeably better than the 2017 winners from every distance up to 20 feet. Incidentally, these ranges represent 68 percent of Bryson’s first putt opportunities. Very impressive! I may look more closely into Bryson’s short putting technique.


In conclusion, while Bryson DeChambeau is a maverick, he has found a unique method that works for him and has now made the entire golf world take notice. Will he change golf? Possibly. If he continues to have success, and I believe he will, I can see the aspiring, young players trying to adopt his methods just as many started to learn to putt while anchoring. As an aside, I firmly believe that the ultimate ban on anchoring had little to do with those of us that were struggling with the skill but everything to do with the fast-growing number of juniors that were having success using OUR crutch.

That is not to say that anything that Bryson is currently doing could be construed to be illegal. But he is clearly being watched. His side-saddle putting was thwarted by the USGA, and more recently, his use of a compass to help read his putts. Who knows what he will come up with next? I will be watching too!

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Accra Shafts — Finau’s proto, “What is the function of the shaft in a club head?”

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Accra Shafts’ Ken Thompson and Gawain Robertson chat with Johnny Wunder on the challenges of the shaft industry, what makes their shafts the best in the business, and Tony Finau’s custom set up.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

3:45 — What makes Accra so special
5:30 — The origin of Accra
8:45 — The importance of TOUR Validation
15:10 — What is the function of the shaft in a club
17:30 — The TOUR ZRPG
23:40 — Mock Fitting for a specific player profile
31:00 — Accra Iron shafts
36:55 — Ryan Palmer
39:45 — Tony Finau
43:10 — Matt Kuchar
53:20 — S3 BluePrint Technology

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Opinion & Analysis

7 tips for senior golfers to play better and enjoy the game longer

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Have you ever played a golf course and remembered where you used to hit the ball on certain holes? Have you ever gotten to a 360-yard par-4 and recalled when you used to lick your chops because you knew a little flip wedge for your second was ahead? Ever made shooting your age your next big goal? If you have, welcome to golf’s back nine, the time when you keep seeking improvement knowing full well it will never be what it once was.

Aging is another vivid example of the paradoxical beast that lies at the heart of our game. If we’re totally honest, we admit we can’t do anything as well as we did 25-30 years ago. Yet a little voice never far from our golf ears keeps whispering, “If you just move the ball in your stance and adjust your grip, you will hit it solid again.” That’s when we need to be honest and ask, “What does solid mean at 65-70-75 years old?” It certainly isn’t solid like it was at 35 years old, but it may be more solid than the last shot, or yesterday. And as we’ll see, it just might be solid enough for the home stretch. So we keep playing and practicing in a search for golf’s version of a fountain of youth.

If you are, like this author, closer to the 18th green than the first tee, here are 7 golden nuggets for the golden years:

1. Forget how you used to play

Stay present and take what the game gives you now, here, today. If that’s 210 off the tee, get your fairway woods and hybrids out and do the best you can with your inevitably longer approach.

2. Work on your scoring game

If aging has robbed you of flexibility and strength, it does not have to affect your game from 100 yards in. Seniors need to chip and putt more than any other age group.

3. Yoga and Pilates

If you think we’re old, we are a babe in the woods compared to these ancient disciplines. The mind/body connection is vital for seniors. And… the results speak for themselves! Staying as flexible and as strong as you can for as long as you can is vital for senior golf. Oh, and walk and carry whenever possible!

4. Get properly fitted

Not only do we play senior golf dreaming of yesteryear, male seniors often let testosterone affect their game. I get sooo many seniors coming to see me who are ill-fitted for their equipment, or more accurately, using equipment that once fit their game85-90 mph clubhead speed does not likely require a stiff shaft, 9 degrees of loft or 75 grams of weight to achieve proper launch and landing conditions. Good senior golf demands brutal honesty with yourself.

5. Consider swing “adjustments,” not “new swings”

I don’t want to be a bearer of bad tidings here, but as a teacher of many years, I know this much: The swing you’ve had for oh so many years is not going to change. At least not very much. The does not mean it can’t be made more effective. I “tweak” seniors, not break them down.

6. Play forward tees

I’m a club professional, and I was a fairly decent player once. At 70 years young, I am proud to say that I play white tees measuring no more than 6300 yards. And in a few years, I’ll likely move up again. It’s just a fact of life and denying it is futile.

7. Check your fundamentals

Just because a certain grip, posture or ball position was effective once, as we age, all these may need adjustments from time to time. Swings get shorter, slower, narrow, etc. And as they do, we have to allow for these things and find new ways to complement the “senior swing.”

The alternative to all of the above is a garage sale. And as long I can swing a golf club, I will be doing so. If I want to enjoy the game, I’ll do so with lighter clubs, from shorter tees, chipping and putting my way into the hole. We’d all like to turn back the clock, but the last time that happened was, uh, never.

Enjoy the back nine. I know I am.

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