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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

Inside the ropes with the fittest on Tour

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Before the world hit pause, I had the awesome opportunity to go out to Torrey Pines and the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open and spend the week with former champ Scott Stallings.

The link was fitness, and this was my opportunity to go and learn from the best about all aspects of performance.

That’s how I got to know Scott a couple of years ago—a similar path to improved health and fitness directly, and indirectly, linked to golf performance.

So, what does a week on tour really look like from the player’s perspective?

Pretty busy.

I flew in late Monday evening, and Tuesday at 8 AM, it was time to meet up with Scott—in the gym of course. Scott, Adam his trainer, and a couple of players were already fired up and ready to go.

A one-hour session of dumbbells, med balls, kettlebells, and sleds finished with a “vanity pump” session that was more than enough to get a serious sweat going in the California hills.

After freshening up with a solid post-workout breakfast, it’s time to hit the course. As a past winner, Scott knew all about Torrey As a newbie from England, I can tell you that place is as good as you think it is!

Scott joined workout partners Trey Mullinax and Scott Brown, as well as Sepp Straka, to go play the North Course. At this point, it was clear the players were feeling out their games as much as they are the course—a couple of challenges here and a few extra chip shots there, the mood is pretty laid back as the players do their thing.

Off the course, and it’s time to refuel again. This kind of schedule is asking a lot of the body. Then you guessed it, it’s back to the gym. This time it’s a lighter focus to let the body wind down and only around 40 minutes long. Then its time to loosen up, get a massage, and the day is largely done.

In the current age of performance tracking and performance data, sleep and recovery are almost as important as anything else going on here. Scott is at the forefront here as well, being one of the first to use the extremely popular Whoop Bands to track a whole bunch of physical data. Keeping yourself in the green can be a pretty big deal if you want to feel and perform your best!

Wednesday is pro-am day, and with 36 holes at Torrey, everyone is in. An early tee time means no specific gym work in the morning, rather a quick functional mobility session before heading to the range—increasing the heart rate, moving the body and basically waking up all of the movements patterns needed for the body to hit the range to start getting dialed in.

After the “steadily paced” round, Scott fuels up ready to hit the gym with a different workout partner. A certain curly-haired Irishman got in touch with Scott to set up an early season workout to gauge performance, maybe learn a few things, and for sure do some work!

Fitness on tour is a continuing revolution, with almost all players now understanding the huge benefits of increased physical performance for their games but also for their health. The benefits of increased speed, fitness, and overall performance, when you’re playing at the highest level seems fairly straightforward. But players also have to consider their schedules, travel, work demands and a bunch more stressors that affect mental, physical, and hormonal function.

Having earned his reputation through an accelerated journey from poor health to fitness junkie, Scott is more than happy to spend time with other pros talking all things, health, fitness, and performance.

This is how the game will continue to move forwards and also how it will feed down into all levels of golf. There is a clear spectrum emerging within this for the golf world: using golf as a motivating factor to get in better shape and overall health all the way up to using specific fitness work to further golf performance.

Basically you gotta be doing something!

Anyway, fresh from an all out sweat session, it’s head down and prep for a Thursday morning tee time—same deal, physical therapy, good nutrition, and as much rest as possible.

With a 9:10 AM tee time Thursday morning, the preparations are much like that for the pro-am and the body is ready and warm headed to the tee.

Then, it’s go time. Stepping onto the first tee in competition and everything changes. This was one of the most noticeable and impressive things watching Scott and all the other players in this incredible field.

There is a visible, almost palpable, change in demeanor, and it’s all-out competition mode.

This is a part of the mental toughness and preparation learned through years of hard work and the desire to do what is needed. This, in my opinion, is where all golfers can take so much from the best in the game—just compete and grind to get the best score possible whatever the circumstance. Don’t over-think technique, don’t overreact, just play each shot as best as you possibly can and count them up at the end.

Scott is also playing the first round on the brutal, but incredible, South Course in tough conditions and posts up a 1-under 71 to sit nicely on the leaderboard after day one. This was a mentally and physically challenging day with high temperatures, a tough course and an incredible field. On course nutrition, and even more so, hydration, are on point and the hours of work in the gym all stack up for optimal performance.

After a good day’s work, more food, and just enough rest, we hit the gym for my last workout at Torrey: 30 minutes of hard effort including rowing, stepper, med balls, and squats—there really is no holding back.

Training is always individual and even more so at this level. Training hard after a five-plus hour round of golf is no easy workload, but it depends on the body. If you are consistently putting in the work, it feels best to keep the body operating at that level. If you’re not doing all that much and decide to do this mid-tournament, it is not likely to end well!

And that’s what it is all about: finding how you can be your best in all areas! For a Tour pro, it’s probably not as easy as you might think. Balancing performance with all the factors listed above, the grueling (normal) season schedule and the time taken to be at this level requires huge commitment and consistency on so many levels. Scott has shown this better than anyone with his newfound commitment to health, fitness, and all things performance.

I took off back to the UK Friday, and Scott went on to play the weekend finishing in the top 50. Each of the four competitive days required the same level of physical commitment, and every day Scott was in there getting the work done.

Gaining this direct insight into the week of a PGA Tour pro gave me a new appreciation for the time and work required as well as an even greater foundation to help to continue and develop the relationship between health, fitness, and golf at all levels.

It comes down to attitude and effort. Rent is due on both.

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Opinion & Analysis

So you wanna work in golf media…

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I get this question all the time: “So, how does someone get a job in golf media?”

Hmm…I could give you a bunch of tips, ideas, resume suggestions, etc. I’m not going to. All I know is how I got here. It’s a story of passion, initiative, blind luck, God, and desperation.

I feel like in the telling of how I got here you will see a path but not the only path.

My story—condensed into the point golf gear took over my life.

It’s 1993, and I’m a sophomore in high school at John F. Kennedy Memorial in Burien, Washington. I was a baseball player my whole life, and for whatever reason that summer, I decided it wasn’t for me anymore, and I wanted to go scrub clubs, pick balls and have the occasional lung dart with my buddies at the local country club. At that time, golf was something to me just shy of an afterthought. I had played the occasional short 9 as a kid, went to a camp or two, but in all honesty, it was just another game.

Fast forward to my first week working at Rainier G&CC—the second assistant was a guy named Mike Montegomery (DOG at Glendale CC now), and he took me to the range to help pick balls and hit some into the net. After about 30 mins of pounding balls, I was hooked. Hook, line, and sinker.

I’m an obsessive person by nature, so when I get into something, it becomes a bit scary—I want to know everything. That’s when the equipment junkie revealed himself, and it all started with a trip to the dentist and an issue of Golf Digest.

This one…

Golf Digest, February issue, 1993

This magazine started the whole thing. No, it wasn’t the fact that Phil Mickelson graced the cover, it was the advertisements. The color codes of Ping, the black and gold of Cobra, Titleist Tour Balata, Founders Club, and on and on. Everything looked just so damn awesome. I wanted to try, see, touch and feel everything I could. And I did. From that point, until even today, golf and golf gear dominate a good chunk of my thoughts every day.

Lesson #1: To do this job well….you have to obsessed.

Now we are in 2005. I’m working in Irvine, California, for LendingTree slanging equity loans to the A paper client,s and in the search engine, I type David Duval golf clubs…

Before I go further it must be acknowledged that my good friend Nico Bollini and I used to spend HOURS on Getty images and at the local Wajamaya scouring pictures of players bags in Golf Classic magazine and any close-ups Getty would catch. Instead of going to parties and chasing girls as normal people do, we were trying to see what shaft Ray Floyd had in his Bridgestone J’s driver.

Back to DD. I type in “David Duval golf clubs,” and I land on this weird forum thing called BombSquad Golf. It was a site that not only talked gear in-depth like Nico and I did, but they had some dude taking pics at tour events. It was golf porn. I was in. Eventually, BSG became nothing, and Richard Audi and GolfWRX.com took over. That story is very well told, so I won’t go into it.

That fueled my golf junkie for a long time. It wasn’t until 2012 and the urging from my then-girlfriend that I began writing for WRX. Since I was on the site so much and had so many opinions, she jokingly said, “You should write for them,” to which I replied, “I should.”

This is where luck comes in. I found the contact info at the bottom of the site and ended emailing Zak, the editor at the time.

“Hi Zak,

My name is John Wunder and I am extremely excited and interested in writing for Golfwrx! I have been a member of this site for over 6 years now and I have always admired the professionalism and in-depth coverage that your site provides. I am what they would call in the golfing streets a “Junky”. Tour news, college news, equipment trends, companies, in the bag info, history, etc. You name it, I know it. I’m a lifer and the only thing I have left to do to get my fix is either learn how to putt and play the mini-tours or start writing. Unfortunately, even the belly putter was of no use to me so writing it is! As writing goes my experience is limited with the exception of the occasional Facebook comment but my knowledge of the game and its culture is undeniable.  I’m dying to be apart of this thing and if I had not been scrolling to the bottom of the page I would not have noticed the link to you. Maybe it’s a sign from the Golfing Gods, you never know. Any information you can give would be much appreciated.  I Look forward to hearing from you.”

Lesson #2: You won’t know what’s possible until you ask.

Eventually, Zak gave me a shot and from 2012 to 2018 I wrote roughly 30-40 articles for WRX. For fun, for free, for the love of the game. I wrote opinion pieces, did some video articles, reviews, tournament recaps, etc. Every time they asked, I said HELL YES. Why not? Golf content is what I think about all day anyway. It requires no real study or extra work to execute. It’s something I can just sit down and do, sometimes quickly.

Now we find ourselves in 2018. It’s late January. My son Seve had just been born and my main source of income at the time (film/tv) was slow and unpredictable. I had two months of savings left, no consistent income coming in to speak of, and with two kids and my girl that I am supporting. Things got scary. Desperate is a better word. In that desperation, a decision was made. I wanted to finally do the thing I’ve always wanted to do. Work in the golf business.

I sat down and mapped out my plan…

Lesson #3: Don’t be afraid of desperation. God can be found there.

But how? What can I bring to the table?

Remember obsession? Remember the power of asking?

I knew my knowledge of the tour and golf equipment was abnormal, to say the least. It still is. I knew that I had a Rolodex to choke a horse, and I had the email of someone at WRX that I could plead my case to. The editor at the time, Andrew Tursky. My email to him was very similar to my email to Zak. I plainly told what I wanted to do, why they needed me, and left it at that.

The term the squeaky wheel gets the grease is so true in my case—every job I have ever chased, there were two things I made sure were in place…

  1. I knew my passion equaled my knowledge
  2. I was willing to hear NO multiple times until the right YES came along.

Lesson #4: Know where you want to go (and tell people).

That email turned into a face-to-face with the GolfWRX brass, to a “yes we will hire you,” to getting a job doing what I love.

The job I was hired for has mutated into something way different. Every person at GolfWRX.com does multiple jobs—there is really no definitive titles or boxes we fit in. It’s a passionate, nimble crew and to a person, everyone is a golf junkie degenerate, including the owner, Rich. That was the deciding factor of going down this path. Yes, I wanted the job, but after meeting Richard Audi and discovering he was just as crazy as I am, I knew I had to work for that man.

The moral of the story is this: Golf media is not a box anymore. You don’t need a degree in journalism or your doctorate in Bill Shakespeare.  It’s the time of the hustler. So, if you have something to say, say it, something to show, show it, and most importantly if you want to get in, ASK. ASK. ASK. Someone will say yes eventually and when they do, what you do with that YES is up to you.

Hope this gives you a hint that like anything else, there is not one door, there are multiple. Knock, scream, kick, and do it with some fire.

Lesson #5: ANYTHING is possible if you want it bad enough

 

 

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Instruction

Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes

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There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.

 

One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.

 

Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

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