The Ball Debate


#1

Am I alone in not understanding the current state of the golf ball debate. I don’t get what rolling back the golf ball does. It certainly doesnt help ams. And if this is only for the pros again who cares. So what if golf courses play under par. Guess what, big hitters will still have an advantage with a shorter golf ball. I get it that courses don’t really play how the architects originally intended anymore but so what. Firmer greens and rough length have proven time and time again to limit low scoring. Also no one wants to talk about the increases in club head speed and training regimes the last 20 years. No doubt that tech has played a big part in distance gains but that doesn’t roll back the every year increases in club head speed.


#2

The debate all depends on how you come at it. You’re right that distance will always be an advantage whether you roll it back or not. The issue is not scoring at all in my mind. The problem is courses feeling like they have to keep up with pros by lengthening holes. It sets a bad precedent with limited room for land. Bigger courses require more water, money, and care.

The courses not playing like architects intend them is important to some. It is boring to me to see someone bomb it down and wedge it on a 480-yard par four. Some more strategy and shot making would be good.

Lastly you are totally right about other changes. The driver tech and other advances are just as much to blame. The ball, however, is the easiest thing to change so I think people latch onto it. Happy to keep discussing, it’s an interesting topic.


#3

I agree that I don’t really like watching the tour stops that have guys hitting driver wedge and going 5 under every round. But the premium courses and designs still hold up and offer good tests. Riviera is only around 7,200 yards and plenty of guys were shooting over par.

And yes some courses are being built much longer which does require more land, water etc. but again that’s a design choice. There are plenty of ways to design courses that punish bomb and gougers if they get wayward.

In my mind a lot of the arguments against the balls are coming from the old guard that haven’t excepted that golf and golfers have evolved.


#4

I think it is indeed an issue that courses are either running out of room or becoming obsolete due to lack of yardage or layout. Whether or not that is a ball issue or club issue as you stated is up for debate. I think this is truly only an issue with courses that the pros play on and really doesn’t affect 90 percent of amateur players or courses. This whole thing seems to be a big non-issue that certain players and analysts seem to have focused their energy on for no real reason, if you ask me.


#5

I think a lot of people miss the fact that us amateurs would still use the same balls we do today, only the pros would use a new and slightly reduced ball to bring older courses back into play.

Sure clubs are better and players are fitter and stronger but this is the best solution. Drivers are already limited, let’s limit the ball too, even if only limited by 10% it greatly increases the amount of courses they can play on tour.

Nascar uses governers to limited speed and certain tracks, MLB uses wood bats, NFL and NBA regulate the psi in a ball, tennis also limits the ball. It’s not crazy or unusual and it’s time to do it before Augusta National needs to buy the entire city to stretch the course more.


#6

I think the @thefriedegg posted a longer dissertation on this topic, but the link below is helpful.

http://www.friedegg.co/archives/the-golf-ball-debate?rq=Golf%20ball


#7

This is the litmus test that I at least feel the debate hinges on. If pros that are not prodigiously long are able to be presented with a scenario like this, it fundamentally changes how holes set up across the board.

There’s a reason pros would prefer a wedge in their hands. If changing the ball can make a scenario that would normally yield a wedge into a PW/9 iron, and a scenario that would normally yield a mid-iron into a long(er) iron, we are balancing the field without having to penalize long hitters.

I for one am sick and tired of seeing players only have to use 4/5 iron or more on primarily par 5s. The challenge of holding a green with a longer club is what should be determining proximity to hole, not who’s wedging it closest when everyone is playing from a yardage of 120 or less.

That’s not to say there shouldn’t be holes where a massive drive will yield a close and favorable approach. But this debate has arisen because we’re seeing this scenario play out on MOST holes these days, not the few that are considered “gettable” and need to be taken advantage of to score well on a given day.


#8

I am familiar with a ball test that was done with a sample rolled-back ball.

Where the current ball exponentially rewards players with faster swing speeds, the “rollback” ball does the opposite, so a 120mph swinger will lose quite a bit of distance, but still hit it noticeably past a 100mph swinger, who will lose some but still be past an 85mph swinger who will lose basically nothing. Seniors and juniors have been found to even pick up distance.

And because that ball spins more, the room for error at 120mph is less and, voila, the best players with the highest swing speeds are still rewarded - perhaps even more than they are now, where bombing it down there has lower risk due to how much harder a ProV is to hit significantly sideways than a Tour Balata was.

That all sounds pretty good for not affecting the amateurs and for ensuring the best of the best don’t have their advantage reduced.

And just like that, 7000 yards is plenty again. That makes a heap more great old courses relevant for the pro and elite amateur game, reduces the amount of maintenance a course needs, reduces the water and chemical inputs, new courses need less land (all of which reduces cost), makes the game faster… I’m struggling to see downsides here.

The MLB just banned aluminium bats rather than having to rebuild every stadium, I don’t see why this is so hard for so many in the golf community to grasp.

I mean, Augusta National just had to buy part of a neighbouring course and is moving a road to accommodate how far the ball now goes thanks to ball and club tech. The Old Course, when it hosts The Open, has to put three or four tees on other golf courses or in neighbouring paddocks.

This. Is. Insane.


#9

I think I heard the announcers say that Phil is hitting the ball farther than ever. He’ll be 48 soon. That’s ridiculous.


#10

Agree with all of this. Bring the ball back, the long hitters will still be the long hitters but will eliminate the lines they take and bring the courses back to what they are intended to be, bringing hazards back into play and actual strategy.

Then they can go back to widening the fairways to create angles and making the game about what it is intended for, which is precision and execution.

Side note: Combining strategy and precision with top tracer will provide a fundamentally better broadcast as well, the future of golf is bright!


#11

Yeah like most have stated, the problem lies within course design. Hazards being strategically placed, risk/reward landing areas, and lines into greens are seriously being compromised due to some players disregarding all the trouble and landing in areas that were never meant for balls to be on certain holes.


#12

Lots of great stuff in this thread, but the above one sums it up for me. The fact that we are modifying the “stadium/field/court/course” at a cost of millions & millions of dollars in fear of a powerful equipment manufacturer lawsuit is preposterous.

Bifurcation is one way to go. Titlelist can still market the ProV1, amateurs can still play the ProV1, pros can still promote the benefits of the ProV1, pros can still USE the regulated ProV1, and course designers don’t have to talk about building 8000+ yard tracks.

I hope the USGA can get it done. We should always listen to Jack. He has earned it.


#13

If we made it so that the average course on tour plays around 7000 yards and then amateurs played the tees they should be playing then it won’t be an issue. In fact if the ball got a little shorter then it wouldn’t go as far off line either.

My dad is 66 and has lost a little speed over the last 15-20 years. About 4 years ago he said “I have never hit the ball as far as I do now.” He is backing up tees now. At 66 he should be moving up and so should a lot of other people.

If I hit it 300 and then all of a sudden I’m hitting it 280 I’m totally ok with that if it means that my playing partner/competitor is. Everybody wants to hit it farther but the reality is that if we want to enjoy it more and make this game last longer then we need to regulate the ball at all levels. It might hurt some egos, mine included, but we should just move up tees if you want wedge/9 iron into every green.


#14

This is not a new concern. MacKenzie and Flynn among others were rallying for ball reform pre-Depression.

The biggest issue is whether we bifurcate or roll back for everyone. I think we roll back for everyone, and short hitters move forward a set of tees.

The same course and same rule for all is an integral part of golf. If we surrender that, I feel our game will be poorer.


#15

That’s a big ask to get people to play the proper tees, but I see your point. I am not a huge fan of bifurcation usually, but many already do it through gimmies, drops off roots, etc. Additionally, we are playing the same course in name alone. Pros are so much different. It’s a tough issue. I for one would still play the regular ball because I don’t hit it a long way, but where is the line drawn?


#16

When great difficulty exists in determining where to draw the line, perhaps the best solution is not to draw a line at all.

The more I think about it I see more sense in a universal roll back, and flaws with bifurcation.

No one has given me a good catalogue of the problems encountered if we play a shorter ball and move forward a set of tees. Faster rounds and the issue is dealt with for the next generation and beyond.


#17

If you’re a shorter hitter but play with others of similar skill do they outdrive you? If so, then it sounds like nothing would change except everybody would move up a tee or the group would be playing a long course at 6800-7000 yards.

I’m not trying to call you out but a lot of this has to do with egos and people wanting to hit it far. It is a lot easier to add a forward tee then to add a back tee.


#18

Well said. I think the focus is just as much, if not more, on space as it is on scoring. Some folks I know get heated about this, insisting it is just a way to nerf the long hitters.


#19

I’m not sure I understand, but maybe I’m reading it wrong. I agree, I think people should move up. I have no ego when it comes to distance. So I’m not sure if we are disagreeing :rofl:


#20

Can someone tell me what course other than Augusta has to change to accommodate the pros? I would add that I don’t think Augusta has to change but they obviously want to and have the money to. TPC summerlin as an example isn’t going to do anything to change and guys shot 5 under a round there. If we roll back the ball there will just be someone in 10 years that hits it farther than everyone else past all of the trouble again. The powers that be need to lean forward, embrace technology and look for real answers. Have yet to hear anyone in golfs power structure suggest changing par on some holes. I think that in itself is very interesting. If distance is such a concern make some par 5s at certain courses long par 4s. Again so much of this is only an issue for the pro game. These might not be good suggestions but I am sure better ideas exist than rolling back the ball. Blaming the golf ball for everything is too easy of an answer.

Golf is hard enough for amateurs. Rolling back the ball for them is a very bad idea and I think would threaten the future of the game as much as any other issue.