The Ball Debate


Interesting perspective, to my limited knowledge, enough courses change pars on some holes (the US open an obvious example) that this is not out of the norm. What this doesn’t do is bring the design or strategy back, save on land and therefore water and therefore money, its expensive enough to play already.

Amateurs - as suggested above in the thread, they might end up gaining distance… if that is true and you were referring to distance specifically then it may be a none issue. Also suggested and currently valid, they can move up a tee box.

To me the simple easy answer is sometimes the best ones.

The not talked about, unless I missed it is the effect it would have on the Women professional game? I’m interested to hear some takes on that. Would it have any effect at all?


Personally, I don’t care one thing about score. It is more about size/length of courses. You’re right that someone will always hit it long, but it if you rein in that tech a little bit it stops people from hitting it 350+. The advances in fitness, drivers, and the ball are all the cause of the distance. The ball is the easiest fix. I’d be alright if it spun more too so guys couldn’t wail on it with no real fear of it veering horrendously offline.

I’d be curious to know what real answers you are thinking about? I agree that courses shouldn’t change and for the vast majority this isn’t an issue. But people are influenced by the pro game. If architects continue to build courses that are thoughtful and not brutally long then we should be ok even with the current tech.


Cherry Hills is an example of a course that used to host US Opens, but has run out of space to do so. Even at 7500 yards the course is too short for current pros given the elevation it plays at. The added length also takes away from the room the course needs for the rest of the infrastructure needed to host a major.

Shinnecock is playing almost 500 yards longer this year than it did in 2004 to accommodate the added driving length. I’m sure others could give more examples, but those are just two off the top of my head.


Cherry Hills is an interesting one. Palmer famously drove the first green in 1960. When the BMW visited in 2014, today’s players attempted the shot with equipment similar to Palmer’s club and ball. None could do it - Rory came closest, putting it into the green side bunker. With their modern equipment, guys hit the green with three wood and hybrid.

If that doesn’t tell us something needs to change, I’m not sure what will.


Have to remember, it’s not just renovation or modification of existing courses. It is also the amount of land required to BUILD or construct a new championship course. Erin Hills is a great example. They wanted to build a championship course that could host a PGA Tour event. And not just any PGA Tour event…they wanted to host the US Open. In this day and age, that means it has to be LONG or very penal. So…they made it 7,800 yards from the black tees…and it played even longer during the tourney. And the pros guys absolutely dominated that thing. JT shoots a 63 one day and Koepka shoots 16 under to win.

Building a new course with that length means higher initial build cost, more maintenance, irrigation lines, materials, staff, equipment. The list goes on and on and on.

And all of that is passed along to you in the form of green fees. $295+ for 18 holes.


Shinny just added almost 500 yards to host the US Open this year


And narrowed fairways!

It is this sort of egregious (shoutout @Tron) manipulation of course presentation and dimension that has been the inept and inappropriate response by the game’s governing bodies to the modern ball. And it is something viewed as acceptable by many!

Alteration of gems such as Shinnecock is not a valid recourse when hoping to address the distance issue.

We can’t take TrackMan away. It doesn’t seem club reform is on the agenda. We can’t shrink or weaken players. We can’t make the wind blow on cue. The ills of stretching courses are well documented above. But we can alter the ball…


I am going to jump into a debate that admittedly is over my head, but hope to still put in my two cents and maybe get enlightens along the way. First off, why can’t we put more stringent regulation on newer golf balls and make today’s golf ball the regulation. Nothing changes for anybody from here on out so no one loses anything. Might make things more palatable.
While I do understand this conversation is about equipment, I feel that golf if going the way of many other sports. How many baseball teams play small ball? If you watched last years World Series it was all about the long ball and people loved it. How many set plays do you see in basketball? Not as many as you used to. With steph curry and many others we are seeing the 3 ball become way more of a factor than initially thought. Golf is a much different game than these sports and because of that the reason I enjoy it so much, but if you want more people to watch golf and potentially play, the long hitters are the ones who are going to draw the crowds.


First, I think your point about capping the ball where it is today is a valid option. One problem with it: If we keep the ball the same as it is today the courses being played on tour are virtually maxed out. Same as my points earlier, if there are restorations/renovations/new builds, they have to be long…even with today’s ball. If you scale it back 10~15%, it opens up a lot more possibility.

To your point about other sports…all of them have strictly regulated equipment. They aren’t changing the stadiums or moving the 3 point line or the height of the basket to accommodate athleticism. Nor should we in golf. We are having to modify the infrastructure to accommodate the equipment. Regulate one of them (equipment) and let the other one (athleticism/fitness) define the upper ceiling of the sport.

I have NO problem with Stanton and Judge being bombers in baseball. That’s a skill. There is still a huge disparity between the bombers and the typical high OBP guys. In golf, basically EVERYONE has become a bomber…not because of athleticism, but because of equipment. There are only bombers and very few high OBP guys.

From @thefriedegg
In 1997, the average driving distance of the world’s top 15 players was 272.23, and their average driving distance rank was 77.07. In 2016, the average driving distance of the world’s top 15 players was 302.75, and their average rank in driving distance was 19.5


I think looking at some individual players that were long in 1997 is interesting.

Phil would have been 27 in 1997 and was 5th on tour with a 284.1 average drive. This year at 47 he’s averaging 299.8 and last year he averaged 293.5.

Tiger was second on tour in 1997 with a 294.8 average drive. So far this year, after multiple back surgeries and at 42, he’s averaging 297.9


This certainly makes sense and people are going to be offense in baseball (chicks dig the long ball) and high scoring teams in basketball, but baseball and basketball evolved to where they are now due to shifts in strategy. Rather than playing the game they always played it, baseball teams started looking at probabilities and expected runs scored in situations and realized they were giving up outs by bunting and moving guys over in most instances. Same with basketball where teams realized if you can maintain a certain percentage from 3 your expected points scored increases and it is more efficient in the offensive sense.

In golf, the long hitters will still be the long hitters with the rolled back ball and they’re always going to out drive the normal weekend hacker. There will be an adjustment period, but with more courses opened up to tournaments and long obsolete hazards brought back into play, I think it will make the game more interesting overall.


Really enjoy the banter here.

Longer rough, narrower fairways, longer courses - all the “tiger proofing” initiatives won’t address this problem but continue to play into it. I am an advocate for a ball roll-back, but do believe there are other ways to do this.

My suggestions:
Short grass and firm and fast conditions everywhere - even if that means less “greenery” on the TV. This is especially important around the greens. ie) Chipping struggles at the Hero World Challenge. All sorts of clubs were hit around those greens and many to no avail. Give a pro a lob wedge and a fluffy lie in the rough or out of a bunker and they are thinking about making it. With wide fairways and no rough/minimal bunkers around greens, the ball will get rolling. With well placed hazards and unique nuances in fairways, balls will find poor angles and hazards more often. Pro’s hate nothing more than to see the ball rolling as the result is out of their hands.

Make pro’s think! This is the anti-tiger proofing solution that will make little sense to some. If you have a narrow, tree lined fairway with thick rough all around, what is your shot? Down the middle. That is all the “thought” that goes into the shot.

If you give a pro a wide fairway with multiple attack options and risk/reward lines, you are now making them think. Add firm and fast conditions and now the pro has to think about how the ball will act once it is on the fairway - now we are really narrowing in landing zones! In the recent Yolk with Doak pod, he mentioned a quote from Pete Dye that went something like this - “If we get these dude’s thinking, we’ve got em”.


It’s a disgrace! Not only should we roll back the ball, we should also take away the 3 point line in basketball, no more dunks, no more passing in football and not allow fighting in hockey.


I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. Maybe capping the ball currently and grow up the rough for the tournaments. Cut it back down after it’s over so we can still play same course they do. Make it a bigger penalty for the tour pros to not hit the fairway. Let them hit it long. Once in a while a guy will get hot and hit all the fairways and go really low but it will reign in most guys. Make it much more risk/reward. Sure you can fly all the bunkers but the rough up there is ankle deep and the fairway is narrow. Maybe eliminate the rough in the landing zones of the shorter shots and allow for better lines in. But in the end this will still help the longest hitters. They can hit their 3 woods, and driving irons further also. Distance is a skill and it needs to be rewarded. They will always have a shorter club into the green. I would hate to see the ball rolled back for us regular guys. Golf is hard enough as it is.


Golf is currently the easiest it has been at any time in the last century, possibly EVER. Greens are flawless, drivers are huge, hybrids abound, balls fly far, land soft and we have raked bunkers, GPS and video aided instruction often assisted by launch monitors. You want hard? Go back a century for some perspective. The game was no less enjoyable or popular.


Bernard Langer said he’s hitting the ball further than ever before…he’s 60. that ain’t right.


The USGA is 0-2 in this era. Does anyone remember the groove rule? I don’t have the data, but I would bet scores have stayed the same if not gotten better for the pros since it was implemented in what, 2009? What about anchoring putters? Zero difference. If they roll back the ball, the lowest score will still win. The best players will still win. The guys who are long will still be long relative to the competition. The only change will be that we see more mid irons hit on tv. Does anyone really care if they hit a 6 iron or 8 iron into a par 4? If they do a limited flight ball for the pros, it disconnects the average player from the touring pro. Part of what makes golf special is we get to go step into the batter’s box at Fenway Park, take the field at Lambeau, etc etc as is now. Disconnecting the regular person from that would be a shame. The USGA need to find another way to grandstand themselves into relevance.


I hate all the “ball goes too far” talk. No more Gary Player and all the other geezers whining about the young guys who have utilized physical fitness and trackman. I didn’t see anyone complaining about “Tiger proofing” courses 20 years ago?


Seriously, the USGA is on pace to be the NCAAs equivalent of villains in the sporting arena. What’s next…are we going to ban Monster energy drinks for pros? #sugarfree


Maybe watching professional Drive, Chip and Putt contests are enjoyable for some. It’s just not for me. I do like watching guys hit long irons under pressure, because I know how hard it is. I like watching them shape long irons into well guarded greens, because nobody in my weekend game can do it on demand, so it’s cool to see. It just makes for a better viewing experience, IMO.