The Ball Debate


Jack had some great comments about the ball, pace of play, and course design this week.


A lot of these course suggestions still involve editing, course changes and hell of a lot of money and maintenance work to change set ups between professional tournament play and club members conditions.

Limiting the ball is an easy, low cost solution and will protect the venues and cost of golf course construction/maintenance going forwards. Its not about stopping long hitters or trying to even up abilities.


I used to be against bifurcation because a singular set of rules puts into perspective how good the pros are compared to the rest of us. And because golf is expensive enough, was in favor of an all-around rollback. Otherwise, course expansion = $$$$ which gets passed onto us.

I’m now much more favorable for regulating the ball for the pros, and albeit a small market, make them available for amateur use too. Letting manufacturers go crazy will make the game more enjoyable for the vast majority of amateurs. But for those who want a similar test to the pros, or want to make a course play more representative of it’s original design, we can use the rollback version.

If the USGA does it right, handicaps can work with the different ball types too, so there’s always an even playing field and we could all still mesmerize at the pros ability and athleticism.

My idea would be to simply make the ball weigh a little less. Less weight would translate to shorter distances and more spin. Players can still optimize their distances with trackman and endless adjustability options, but the end result will still be shorter distances. Also, more spin will translate to the optimal launch angle being lower to maximize distance. This will take some of the drives just bombed up and over trees out of play and force the player to curve their tee shot around it or play out with a shorter club. The ball spinning more will help them curve it, but the skill to actually curve a ball a certain amount will come back into play.


Charles Barkley said “tiger-proofing” was racist. One of my favorite hot takes of all time.


Chuck is the takesmith of our generation we are truly #blessed to have him. Funny story is he played a round of golf at the course I worked at in Calgary when I was going to school, it was probably 4 or so years ago now, I worked the open shift and saw his name on the teesheet for later in the afternoon, but I figured it was just some guy making up names to be funny. Finished my shift and went home didn’t wanna wait around for an hour an a half to see if it was actually him, turns out it was, took pictures with a couple of the guys and by all accounts was awesome. It was one of the few days were I didn’t go play or hangout after and I’m still kicking myself for missing out.


I’m completely lost as to why anything needs to be done. As long as everyone is on the same playing field, who cares? Change the game, not the technology. The NBA moved the 3 pt line when shooters become sharper from long range. The NFL moved extra points back further when a chip shot from the 9 yd line became a blooper when missed. Why would golf making long exciting ball flight shorter and “the way it used to be”? Make the rough thicker, the fairway tighter, the bunkers more penal, the doglegs sharper. Par means absolutely nothing to tournament golf. The winner is crowned by measuring how well he fares against the other competitors, so who cares if that is 72 shots, 59 shots, or even 49 shots?? It’s all relative and everyone has the same technology.


I don’t think the “roll the ball back” argument is about scores. It’s a spectator sport that is more compelling and thrilling when the players have to navigate the course, using all the tools in their bag (literally and figuratively). I think it was interesting when there was one dude that could hit it over all the bunkers because I wanted to see if that one unique skill set could get it done against the best in the world. Too many of the players today hit it over the bunkers and over the water hazards and we get to see a wedge contest. It’s just not as interesting IMO.


Go back and read the posts about resources and course design philosophy, etc. That is the proper way to come at this debate. Higher rough, tighter fairways, and more penal courses is not the answer.


You are right. Ball change is easiest.

There is a fundamental issue impacting the courses we play today. Top membership-based clubs attract big money members. These big money members want to join courses that are played on the TOUR. These courses are tight (and shrinking - greens and fairways) with challenging rough and penal hazards throughout.

If the TOUR made a shift to play wide, strategic golf courses full of risk/reward options, the membership would enjoy actually playing their courses more than they do today with much less change from tournament play and membership play.

At this point, memberships are paying hand over fist to maintain 36+ teeing areas that are NEVER USED besides when the tour comes through.

In my opinion, it seems the membership will get the best bang for their buck if a middle ground were to be established (mix of ball roll back and playing of more strategically challenging courses).


Tiger golf traveler, I respectfully disagree. For pro tournaments higher rough, firmer greens are the answer and by far the easiest answer. Again for pros only. When the tournament is finished courses can water the greens and cut the rough with no long term negative effects to the course. Look at the Honda this week. Very few drivers being hit because the pros could not hold the greens hitting from the rough. The short length of the golf course was not really discusses once. When the premium is back on fairways you see guys throttling back and being more strategic and ultimately paying a penalty when they got a little wayward.


To counter your point about the Honda, Justin Thomas average driving distance this week was 320.9 yards (335.5 on Sunday) hitting 55.36% of the fairways. Last week at Riviera, Bubba averaged 304.1 yards off the tee hitting 57.14% of fairways. Seems they were not throttling back with the driver at all. When the ideal landing area is not 335 yards out due to angles/strategy, that is when we see the pros throttling back on the driver.

Would you want to play PGA National in the next month as they work towards normal conditions after watching that drubbing of a tournament this weekend? I sure as hell have zero interest in paying $215 to play that course.

The money and overall health of the game lies in the 99.9% of people that are not professional golfers. We all want to play the same courses as them so we can be a “pro for a day” if you will.

Courses like PGA National will make an amateur want to hang up the sticks for good. Now you give me Riviera (with generally similar scoring at the pro level as PGA National) and I cannot wait to play.

Why build, play, and reinforce PGA National style golf when we can have similar outcomes (and much more fun tournaments to watch) at strategically challenging courses all golfers can play and enjoy?

With you @tigergolftraveler all day long.


JTs numbers were terrific and that’s why he won. That’s not field averages so cherry picking one of the top strokes gained off the tee guys distances is not a good argument. Also actual distances mean nothing. One of the main arguments against distance is that it takes away the strategry of the game. Bottom line All the pros hit less drivers at the Honda then on a normal course. That’s strategy. My point in mentioning it was that if it was just bomb and gouge they would have just taken driver on every hole. Instead some holes had them hitting long irons or woods off the tee to put themselves in the best position to attack flags.

As far as average guys playing the course, there are many people that pay a premium to play the course in the same condition the pros play it. Others choose not too. That’s fine. All the course has to do is cut the rough and add water to greens and course goes back to normal. I’m not advocating PGA National as a great course. Simply pointing out that this tournament was a great example of how rough and firm greens increase pros scores and steady dramatically and in my opinion is a much better option than rolling back the golf ball.


It is the answer to scoring, on that we do not disagree. But to me the course this week is not a a good example of architecture. It was not an interesting tournament from an architecture/course standpoint in my opinion. I think we agree on the way to keep scoring in check, but that isn’t my original point, which was what I was referring to with that post. Overall, I think we agree on the scoring side, but maybe don’t see eye to eye on the reason for the ball rollback. To me it is to preserve good architectural philosophies and minimize the stretching of courses, similar to what @sundaybag mentions above. All that being said, still enjoying the debate and that everyone has been cool on what is an admittedly divisive topic.


I just cannot attach to this philosophy as to what you claim strategy to be. Hitting more driving irons or fairway wood (that goes 300 plus anyways) does not equal strategy. This is forced for them. On courses like PGA National, they know when walking up to the tee exactly what they have to do. There is no thinking involved. Zero. Penalty for being short and in the rough is still way more penal then being long and in the rough. Why shouldn’t a miss with the big stick be MORE penal due to horrible angles? We are just helping the long hitters here as everyone will hit it in the rough!

When all players attempt to hit the ball to a similar landing area on all 14 holes requiring a tee ball, that brings no interest or strategy to the game. Now if you give three or four different lines off the tee that all require a different shot length, different risk/reward comparisons, prompting multiple different clubs/landing areas to be selected from the tee across the field, now we are talking strategy ie) #8 at Riviera with the barranca running down the center.

When we discuss lower tournament scores and the “bomb and gouge” we are already looking at the top players in the world/tournament, so why would using the example of two separate winners not be an accurate example? The field is the field - they aren’t the ones driving these low scores or stirring up this conversation in the first place.


Ok we are getting somewhere. In no way am I suggesting that PGA National is a good architectural design. I think the really great designs still hold up even with today’s distance. Riviera was a great example of that. Pebble Carnoustie the old course. They still hold up. The mediocre courses are mediocre with or without a rolled back ball. And yes forcing someone to hit an iron off the tee is not necessarily strategery, but the part about having to hit the fairway is. There has to be a give and take and my whole point is that I think the better solution for the pros is rough and green firmness not rolling back the ball.


Exactly, and that last point is where we will just agree to disagree.


I’m all in on making the greens firm but hey guess what mother nature sometimes isn’t and its tough to rely on. Also if that is your main defence you run the risk of over stressing the greens, and sure that doesn’t matter for the Tour pros who are gone by Sunday but it hurts the members or public players who play there the rest of the year.


Smothering a course in rough @sptorgan does little other than make golf boring, and often times reduce the escape to a chunk out. Narrow fairways reduce options, deprive the most skilled and / or daring players of the chance for a risky recovery shot. Lack of width makes it easier for the pro players in many ways. They don’t have to think, and they see the line. Distorting courses by smothering with rough, and narrowing fairways does artificially produce what some see as a higher and more palatable score. It isn’t really golf, and the lifespan of that sort of product as entertainment is limited.


Wish it was possible to love a comment.


To be honest you just flipped me. I have been on both sides of this debate. I have been on grow the rough, make greens faster, and tighten the fairway lately. You are right. I didn’t think about growing the rough just makes everyone play the same way. Also in that circumstance wouldn’t the longest guy have a bigger advantage because he can hit his driving iron or whatever further?He would have less club into the firmer faster green giving him a massive advantage. Allow for angles and shorter guy can make up for longer clubs with better lines and other things.