Fansplaining: The Distance Debate


@MGolf nails it.
Two levels of golf ball. Nobody is touching your golf balls.

Professional events all use a tourney ball. Everyone else can go with whatever they want. There was a time when Euopean/Aussie players used a smaller ball, but the American game regulated a slightly larger ball that was 20 yards shorter, so this isn’t a novel concept.
Other examples:
Aluminium/wood bats.
Euro basketball/ US basketball.
NCAA football size/Pro football size.
NASCAR restrictor(sp?) plates
WCW allowing folding tables from 3rd turnbuckle/AWA did not.

Honestly, the folks screaming to defend the ProV1 remind me of the rube NASCAR fans that yelled at me for driving my Audi to a race in Pomona.


I think it would be helpful for someone to walk through a few holes from courses now considered “obsolete” and detail what effect a 20% reduced ball would have on DJ, Spieth and another shorter hitter. Driver currently goes X number of yards, with a new ball it goes Y. The current approach shot is a flip wedge after bombing it over trouble. The hypothetical approach shot is now a mid-iron, etc. Someone like @thefriedegg could do a much better job than me detailing how this would lead to a variety of approach shots, drives that have to negotiate existing hazards, etc.

The trickle down benefits of cheaper course maintenance, cheaper greens fees and pace of play are all easily quantifiable. What seems to be the consensus concern is the fear of the unknown.


I remember listening to a podcast (maybe NLU) where an older player talked about the big vs small ball. There was regulation for the pros so aspiring amateurs and college players started playing with the pro ball. Eventually it trickled down through all levels.


13 at Augusta has become a mockery. The lines Bubba and Sergio take just ruin the design. The green is now the singular defense.

Also @Lazstradamus it’s crazy to me people are concerned about Amateurs in qualifiers etc (as @Soly wrote). Every tournament has governing rules and/or local tournament rules. Distance devices, carts, what a damn bunker is and isn’t! I have no sympathy for the amateur (myself( included who wants to try to qualify for the US Open and is told I must play a conforming ball - if I think I can qualify for the US Open then what kinda hack would I be to then say I’m at a disadvantage because I now need to play a professional ball. It’s not like they allow different tees.

Sidebar: which player gets nailed for using wrong (illegal) ball first and then claims it’s too hard to know the difference and he didn’t pack his bag blah blah blah ?


OK, I’ve read this thread and understand further A) my ignorance on the nuances here and B) that there won’t be an answer that is ever comprehensive.

A question for the group, specifically interested in @Lazstradamus response … are we too far too gone with tech? Said differently, if we rollback a ball, is there still enough tech in custom clubs / physique / technique that would still overpower courses? Take your example of Cyprus, would rolling a ball back be enough to keep a pro/elite am event authentic there?


I won’t use his name, but it’s going to be hard for him to transfer to Augusta State this time.


Not sure, I’ve thought about this too. A 7% rollback would make a 7,600 yard course play 7,068 yards. Cypress may be a bit too short at 6,600 for a Tour event unless there was a significant rollback.


Unfortunately, Cypress likely can’t handle modern tour crowds/infrastructure anyway. Probably not the best example to use.


Right, two thoughts on that:

  • unless I’m reading wrong, the OEM can’t do a literal 20%, it’s more taking tech out that would eventually increase spin

  • Cypress is an extreme example because it’s mid-6’s … let’s then use Merion as an example then, been played in the major rotation recently…but needed significant conditioning by USGA. Would rolling ball back only truly ‘fix’ Merion?


Interesting question. I wrote an article about playing with a set of clubs & ball from the late 80’s vs. today’s equipment (you can see it in my profile, but I’m not going to link to another golf blog here.) I’ve continued to buy (way too many) old clubs and can tell you when you get a reeeeaallly good persimmon, it goes hard. See Davis Love with a Titleist Professional and persimmon for evidence. I would bet several guys on tour could hit a persimmon 350 yards with a ProV1. That said, if you give the tour guys Titleist Professionals from 1995 and they’re still going to be hitting par fives in two and crushing it 300+ with regularity. But the misses will be much bigger because the ball spins more.
So, to answer, yeah, the drivers are incredible now. But if the ball spins more off the face, taking a big rip at it brings lateral risk into play. And we’ve quickly forgotten that the game regulated wedges just a few years ago because the tech in the grooves was crazy good. But wedges aren’t about distance/threaten our manhood so nobody cares.


I love this topic but as with anything today, it’s caused a lot of smart people to say stupid things. I am certainly a big proponent of bifurcation on many fronts.

I don’t know why when a rule changes, it has to impact everyone. My father used a belly putter and since the ban, he’s gotten worse and more frustrated with golf. That seems like a heavy price to pay to prevent Tim Clarke from making cuts. Imagine if they outlawed the claw grip (and I’ll do you one more, vacated wins by people using the claw/belly putter a la the NCAA). Bye bye Adam Scott’s Masters.

Likewise with wedges - sure its probably not as big a difference - but did amateurs really need to be forced to buy new wedges that make the game ‘harder’ for them? The pros know how to impart spin on the ball and control the spin and the groove change separates the best golfers from the average on the professional level.

With the ball, rolling it back 10% or so would still benefit the DJs and Rory’s just as it did when Jack was playing. The longest hitters will always have the shorter club in. In rolling the ball back you could create a ball that spins more, hence making it harder to hit straight. There is no reason to penalize the amateurs with a ball that flies shorter and more erratic. That 84 will turn into a 91 and more frustration and less enjoyment. And you may say you would move up a tee but you aren’t. If amateurs play the white tees to begin with, they aren’t ‘swallowing their pride’ and playing the senior or ladies tees - sorry.

Professionals spend all their time perfecting their craft. They will always be better than amateurs no matter what field its in. Turbo tax was created to help the amateur tax preparer. Tax professionals will still use the classic forms since they understand them. Point being, the amateur needs help to perform similarly to the professional.

Manufacturers will still make a boat load of money. They can still push their same marketing campaigns. If you remember, TItleist was pushing the swing speed argument for every club. I’ve seen a few arguments for the compression of the golf ball. If you’re telling me the ball doesn’t compress at lower club head speeds, then pros must not be able to compress the ball with a 9 iron. Titleist can still create ads with pros for the amateur. And they can still make money doing so.

I just hope the powers that be figure it out so us fans and players can continue to enjoy the game and the professionals can play more interesting courses.



  1. Nobody’s coming after the amateur ball.
  2. I play with guys who still use belly putters. Your dad should, too.
  3. Nobody’s vacating wins.
  4. Compressing a ball with a driver and a 9-iron are totally different things (not to mention one club has grooves, the other doesn’t)
  5. Larry Bird is not walking through that door.

Relax, man. It’s all good. Use you long putter, get a hummingbird ball and some old Ping Eye 2 wedges with uber-deep grooves. You’ll still shoot the same score. And that Tim Clark reference was gold.


Feel like the purpose of the distance control measures is muddied: in my view, it’s not to make the game harder, it’s to preserve the integrity of courses and setups at a professional level.


In reality it will make the game more fun! You’ll be able to hit more of a variety of shots and have to think your way around the course.


To all the people saying just bifurcate and have two balls…

The USGA and R&A stand by a foundational pillar of golf: everyone plays under the same rules. They don’t want to change that. It allows a 20-year-old living across the street from the club he caddies at to compete in a US Open against a pro that won 6 majors to that point and win. It keeps that opportunity for any of us to qualify and go walk out on the first tee of a US Open or Open Championship.

No buying new balls.
No having to adjust.
No testing to see if people are using a “juiced up ball.”

For history, for convenience, and for simplicity (something the new rules next year are all about), it makes sense to not bifurcate.

I have a whole defense for a 7-10% rollback, but I need a day to write it.


Spend the 80 minutes to listen to this. Everything I could say as a defense of a 7-10% rollback is said in this podcast. Mike Clayton, the man on the NLU podcast 111, is a guest on it. It mentions that while the distance report doesn’t really say anything note-worthy, maybe now is the time to act on a problem that should have been addressed 20 years ago. A factual listen, I promise.


What is this notion that the amateur caddie across the street can’t do as the pros do? Here is what I’d tell that person, or anyone that is stuck in the “well it’s not the same for both anymore” camp. Play with the equipment the Pros use, always! Go to the store, and instead of buying ProVs buy Professionals. Don’t play from 6800yds play from 7300yds. Don’t drop laterals, go back to the Tee. Don’t take a cart, walk!

And if you aren’t good enough to compete with Pros or qualify for professional tournaments with the equipment a pro has to use, you shouldn’t fancy yourself good enough in the first place!!

Do people realize that arguing that point is like suggesting we let all NBA rookies use a shorter 3 point line because that’s what they had in the NCAAs?

It’s coddling the amateur who has no business playing Pro events anyway. I’ll go after myself here - I feel like a total clown when my buddy insists we play the farthest possible tees. I’m a low single digit cap but honestly have no business playing 72-7500 yards. The same can be said about a ball - if I truly wanted to play like a pro, I’d step back to their tees, be forced to use their ball in the future and my 75 would turn into a 87. And that’s probably exactly what it should be! There is nothing unfair about that. If I was as good as a pro I’d have no problem adapting. If I’m not as good as a pro I don’t belong in the US Open qualifying scene to begin with.


Is this a good thing for the weekend 15 capper?


The wedge rule didn’t impact everybody the same. The new groove rules went into effect immediately for PGA events, amateur events run by the USGA and R&A were not impacted until 2014, and it will not become part of the rules of golf until at least 2024. You can post rounds with the old grooves to your handicap until at least then. Another example where the rules are already different for pros and ams.


Good point. I am going to assume that most, if not the majority, of people on this forum are avid golfers (<10 hdcp.) who seek to play more than just a few weekends a month and are truly hobbyists with golf (seeking improvement, understanding the craft and nuances of the game, etc.). A rolled back ball would be a welcome challenge to many of those avid golfers, but above 10 and you are getting into a territory where it MAY not be as appreciated as the ability to smoke a drive with your #jailbreaktwistfaceribcor smacking a low spin ball.

I know that’s a generalization and I apologize if I mischaracterized a slew of people here, but I’d have to think the correlation between handicap and openness to this idea is somewhat strong.