Fansplaining: The Distance Debate



The past few days have been pretty fascinating from a “distance talk” perspective. This whole topic seems so confusing from the outside looking in, so we tried to round up most of the aspects of it for our first Fansplaining column:

What other questions come to mind for you guys?


The amateur stats at the very end of the post are crucial. If my distance gains are truly minimal with the latest balls, then we can roll back the ball for everyone and I won’t really notice a difference. This would mean manufacturers’ profits won’t be impacted at all since all of their revenue comes from the average Joe and I won’t have any reason to be upset. Seems like a simple solution…what am I missing? Why are we making this more complicated than it needs to be?


Main issue with bifurcation is the sales that golf manufactures get from the pros sponsoring their equipment/ball. For example, Soly’s latest ad on the podcast about how Michelle Wie and Phil used the new chrome soft. If you go the bifurcation route then those ad sales plummet.


To the companies that are so outspoken against bifurcation (Big Acushnet), wouldn’t it just make them even more money? Another product to sell and market? I would think they’ll sell just as many ProV1s as they do now, plus you’ll have people buying the “professional” version just to see how they compare. Maybe I don’t get it, but seems like a win-win.


Clayton’s podcast (48:30 mark) gives great insight to the first bifurcation.

Unrelated point: I’m not buying the whole “these guys now are all better athletes” narrative. Just not buying it.


oh wow its after 5 I can leave work now… thanks DJ


Augusta has the independence and financial resources to force players to use a tournament ball. Instead they keep “solving the problem” by buying land and pushing this discussion in the wrong direction.


Also…I don’t buy the whole “Telling the leading golf manufacturers that they have to intentionally make their product less effective obviously comes with a host of problems” argument. Ok technically a rolled back ball is less effective, but that only matters relative to your competitors. If you’re the only one using a “less effective” ball that’s a problem, but if everyone is using the same ball then it’s not “less effective”. This is like complaining about a tee being moved back because it makes your driver “less effective”.


I won’t really notice a difference.

Yes you will (if I’m understanding this correctly)…

Let’s say you have a 420 yard par 4… If your average drive is 200 yards you have ~220yds into the hole… if they role the ball back 20% your average drive is going to be ~160 yards… leaving you ~240 yards to the hole… now the course just gets longer… and harder. Multiply this by 18 and golf won’t be as fun for you/ the other average guy/ girl out there.


See the end of the post: The USGA has been measuring driving distance in amateurs since 1998 and even in the best players (6 handicap and better), numbers have fluctuated and only increased from 233 yards in ‘98 to 235 yards in 2017.

If we go back to the balls that we played in '98 I lose 2 yards. I won’t notice that difference.


20% is an absurd number, I think in the 7-10% range would be good. Peak speed is relatively stable just like peak velocity in the MLB is relatively stable. Just like in the mlb though more people are now able to get close to the top speed.


I support the idea of a roll back without understanding the science of a roll back. Can a ball be manufactured to simply limit carry distance?
If a ball can be created that reacts like a balata but is more durable wouldn’t PGA players become more creative, be able to shape it, be scared to go after a drive because it may spin off into oblivion? If so, I want that!


People arguing about the sales, I see your point and you could make a valid argument . However, walk into your local golf shop and ask everyone buying clubs what clubs John Rahm is currently playing, or what ball. I guarantee you that most of them couldn’t tell you. Consumers buy the brand and this wouldn’t keep companies from promoting players using their products The industry will adapt.


@brolock - you forgot the part where amateur players move forward a set of tees, and play faster. The course is shorter, needs less water, fertiliser, pre-emergents, mowing, and $$$.


Another thing worth remembering - the R&D labs of major ball manufacturers are mightily intelligent. If they are asked to manufacture a core that impacts distance gains for pro players yet spares the losses for slower swingers, they can do it. They experiment with dimple depth and patters, shell materials and thicknesses, and millions of other variables. The effects they can scientifically dial up through tiny tweaks of ball design and manufacture are amazing. Regulators need to be cognisant of this, work with the manufacturers and be true to the intent of the 2002 distance agreement.


On my launch monitor I can’t tell if I’m hitting a cheap Wilson or a ProV. I can tell the difference in feel/sound but my strike varies much more than the difference between the balls. For this reason I don’t think the normal guy will notice much difference. I will gladly give up some distance, move up the tee, and hopefully not hit the ball as far into the woods when it goes bad. I can play faster, and hopefully enjoy my round more. I would hope they also don’t need to defend par anymore by growing up the rough and narrowing the fairway for the 1% that plays the course and it’s too easy because they can hit it long. I would hope it would make the course play longer for them so they can widen the fairways and make it even easier for us average guys.


I think feel/sound are basically the same thing.

All I know for sure is this: I’m way longer than I was 10 years ago. And I’m old. At least for this message board.


For me, and please don’t be too harsh on me, I don’t understand the whole change the ball across the board argument because “the average amateur can’t compress the ball” and it won’t impact their distance significantly. What if “I” can compress the ball and distance is a big part of my game, but my short game and putting aren’t as good, and now the best part of my game is being penalized. That just doesn’t seem fair. Why should I be penalized for being able to hit the ball far but a guy who can chip/putt good isn’t penalized. Should we also implement something to penalize people with a good short game?

At the end of the day I think being able to hit the ball far and straight is just as much of a skill as being able to read the game and having “touch.”

Just my two cents, thanks!


This is a great debate because every solution has one, two, three, or more good counter arguments.

As far as the two main solutions go:

Bifurcation: we’ll play with a ball for the pros and a different ball for the 99.99% - I personally don’t get/want bifurcation because I love playing the same game as the pros. This is what separates golf from other sports. We’re playing the same sport as the best in the game and can compare ourselves to them on a level playing field. Yes there are differences between “them” and “us” but there is no game/sport like golf. It’s a driving force behind the popularity in the game and one of the reasons that keeps me coming back for more.

Roll back the ball and everyone will use the same ball because amateurs don’t compress it and won’t lose that much distance- Well what about the large segment of amateurs who do compress the ball and would lose significant distance? Why should being able to drive the ball far be penalized, but amateurs who don’t compress it won’t lose very much distance? That’s a skill just like being able to hit the ball straight, having good short game touch, or being able to read greens and putt well.

I understand we don’t want the game to be solely about distance and we don’t want many of golf’s greatest courses to be obsolete. But it seems as though only one facet/skill of the game is being penalized.

Maybe I’m wrong and I know many golf purists will disagree. But I love pulling out the big stick and ripping one down the middle and having a shorter club. It makes the game fun for me seeing how far I can pummel that little dimply ball down there.


Just bifurcate already.

The best golf balls (manufacturing-wise) will still be the best golf balls. The pro ball will simply go 20% less far. Golf ball companies can still innovate and market within that realm. ProV1 can still be the “best ball”, Titleist. Even if there’s a 100% version and an 80% version.

And the “we can compare ourselves to the pros, unlike other sports” debate is so antiquated. You really can’t. When does the average amateur play the same exact golf course with the same exact conditions that a pro does? It’s extremely rare these days. Beyond that, the disparity between the average Tour player and the average amateur is only getting wider and wider, so the comparison argument only gets more and more ridiculous over time. This isn’t the 1930s anymore where amateurs can legitimately win a major and compete with pros consistently.

Let amateurs play the 100% distance ball. Force pros to play the 80% ball. Bring back the great classic courses.