The Ball Debate


Hey Matt, thanks for the detailed response. You make some very good points here. I would say though that the increase in irons can be attributed to the degrees of irons changing. Take a pitching wedge for example, they are now about 46/47 degrees standard when they were 49/50 degrees just 5 years ago and from my knowledge some pros are bending to 45 degrees. But again it plays into your point that the ball makes this possible, it is the smart choice to change the ball rather than everything.
Time to enjoy the masters!


This about sums it up. It boggles the mind why so many have such a hard time understanding this, it’s really not that complicated.


I think your 5 years thing is a decade plus short, you can look back at the specs the last iron I could find with a 49* pw was the 681 which was '01 stock was then 48* till about '08 and now like you said is typically 46/47. Now obviously we can’t tell what guys are playing now, I do know back in his titleist days Phil was playing off a 45* wedge so loft creep wasn’t unheard of. So yes playing off 49* was common but that was 20 years ago, not 5


I should have checked my broad generalization :slight_smile:️! oops. I deserved to be called out!


I think that people think that playing the ball a pro does makes them so much longer, when in reality, it’s the swing speed and ball speed that is making them so much longer than normal golfers, the ball not curving as much due to ball, shaft, driver heads is what has made such a difference. Tour players aren’t afraid to go at it because they’re misses aren’t as bad as they used to be. Regular golfers thinking that the ball being scaled back is going to make as big a difference to them as a pro is a joke really. You’re probably already playing from tees that are too far back anyway, move up to a more appropriate yardage and play with more control. Just because you can swing out of your shoes and occasionally hit a drive 280-300 yards doesn’t mean you should try to on every hole. If the ball does get rolled back it’s not like we all aren’t going to suddenly stop buying whatever the companies come out with to replace it…


Bumping this up because the USGA distance survey is live. Link below:


I also think that there are lots of pros playing traditional lofts who just can nuke the ball. If rumors are to believed Cat plays extremely weak irons and still can hit his 6 iron 200 yards


So just a comment on the distance the ball travels and the “make the ball spin again” slogan that I’ve hard from @Tron. If we’re trying to make the ball go a shorter distance then yes adding some spin to the ball will achieve this but realize that players will adapt. Everyone will start using the low spinning drivers and cavity irons that spin less than players irons and we will be back to where we are currently. If “make the ball spin again” is arguing that increased spin will create more punitive misses on the golf course because the ball will travel further off line and therefore players will be discouraged from swinging as aggressively I believe that logic is flawed. The spin rate and axis of rotation are entirely independent. In fact in an experiment if you were able to hit 2 balls, one low spin and one high spin, exactly the same such that the only the spin was different the high spin ball would be closer to the target line because it would travel less distance in total than the low spinning counterpart. Perhaps there’s another argument that I’m missing but I don’t see how making the ball spin more is going to significantly impact the distance the ball travels.


I guess I am in the minority here but I don’t think the ball is the biggest issue. I think it’s the driver. Look at how big these heads have gotten compared to 1992. The ball looks almost the same, except for some core structure and 3 piece or 4 piece technology. Clearly we want the pros to hit the ball less distance with their driver. When Rory unleashes a drive we’d be happier if he only gets to the bend in the dogleg instead of carrying the trees to get within 60 yds of the green. That’s the way the hole was meant to be played.

If Titleist, TaylorMade, Callaway make ‘pro’ balls that don’t go as far, nobody is going to buy them. Why would you buy a ball that is designed to not travel as far and spin like a balata so you can have longer clubs into your greens. It’s going to be a lot of effort for these companies to make something that only the pros use.

I don’t know what the solution is here, but maybe the club head size is too large. You can miss it further off the center and still hit it just as far. I’ve hit plenty of drives that were missed off center but still traveled within 5 yds of my max distance, whereas if I do that with my 3 wood, it’s vastly different. Maybe they should limit the clubhead size for ‘pros’ to mitigate the distance the ball travels. It would basically be like a 3 wood or slightly larger. For the average consumer, it would be another product to buy that is like an ‘enhanced’ 3 wood. Play what the pros play. You can still have your driver (the pros can’t), and you can whale on your 3 wood like you’ve never done before.


Really well expressed, and an important point.

Peter Thomson was an advocate for doing away with the tee. That’s maybe one solution. Maybe not. They’re all somewhat unpalatable to most I assume.

I play wth either hickory or persimmon more than contemporary clubs these days. It is plainly obvious that driver technology has changed the game ENORMOUSLY. For a century the driver was the most risky club in the bag, and the least forgiving. Today that situation has been turned on its head. Driver is often the least risky play, and provides huge distance.

In a perfect world I’d like 325cc max with reviewed CoR and a 43inch max shaft length, as well as a ball change. But that is never going to happen!


I think the ball debate is one of these internet echo chamber things. The content producers in this network seem to have very strong, identical opinions. There are probably some pockets of people who feel fairly strongly that the ball should stay the same. Then there are the 98% of golf fans who aren’t even aware that there is a debate.

It’s like Twitter. People who are on Twitter think it’s really important. It drives opinion, gets people all worked up…whatever. But basically 95% of people have no presence, dont care about it at all, and are not represented because they are doing other things besides Twitter.


The distance debate was lost many many years ago when the R&A and USGA allowed “woods” to be made out of metal.

If “woods” were still wood, the ball wouldn’t be a debate.


For anyone still arguing about the effect of the ball or driver for that matter you must see this video. It is also a great video to see the actual numbers

ENJOY :+1:


Very cool video. Have to believe that the persimmon/balata numbers would come up a bit given some more practice, but definitely shows that both the ball and the club contribute. What I found most interesting, though, was the comment from Lucas that he couldn’t swing as hard with the persimmon because of the smaller head and reduced forgiveness.


Great video. Really shows how much the equipment has changed the way the game is played.


I’m going to skip to the end, make this post, and then go back to the beginning and read every post.

But, right now, I almost totally “get” the first post, and it’s a lot of what I’ve been saying. Yes, the Old Course is a pushover with no wind… but they usually have wind, and the pros are still playing a major on a multi-hundred-year-old course. Oakmont is still a beast. The pros still play at Pebble Beach, which doesn’t really top 7,000 yards.

AND, bigger yet… PGA Tour pros are a ridiculously small portion of the players. 6500 yards is more than enough course for, what, 95% of golfers?

And don’t get me started on bifurcation. “Oh, just bifurcate.” No thank you. Golf is not like other sports where there are multiple ruling bodies and pretty firm lines. College players and good amateur players compete in majors in golf; they don’t pull some amateur baseball player from the stands and let him play third base in a game in the World Series.

And back to the PGA Tour, two things:

  1. On TV you can’t tell whether the guy hit a 4-iron to the par four or an 8-iron. All you see is a guy hitting a ball, a ball against the sky, and a ball landing on the green. A shot that lands at 10 feet is more exciting than a shot that lands at 30 feet, and the 10 footer is more likely with an 8-iron. Thus, those who say golf would be “more exciting” if pros had to hit longer clubs into every hole… I don’t know what they’re talking about. Only those of us who know that was a tougher shot would find the 30-footer to be a better shot than the 10-footer, but even we would probably say it wasn’t any more “exciting.”
  2. People on the other side of the table will often talk about how many courses the PGA Tour can’t play anymore. I’ve asked for a list of these courses, courses that can’t be played because they’re too short, and the list is really, really short. Some courses can’t be played because they don’t have the infrastructure to host a modern major championship, for example. Cypress Point? The list gets really short not long after that one. So it’s not like we’re “losing” a bunch of courses every year that the PGA Tour simply can’t play because they hit it too far.

Also, we’re up against the limits of what the regulations allow, but also approaching the limits of what the human body can do. Even the long drive guys don’t often hit it 380, and their grid is pretty wide AND they have multiple attempts to do it, and that’s their SOLE job in golf.

So, yeah, I think among small circles “the ball goes too far!” debate can reach a fever pitch, but to most golfers, the vast majority… they don’t really care.

Now, back to actually reading every post in the topic. :slight_smile:

Edit: One other thing: the idea that having to hit a 4-iron to a green involves more “strategy” or something than having to hit a 9-iron to the green is bogus. As is the idea that longer courses cost much more - move the tees back, and you’ve still got about the same area of tee, green, and fairway to water. You might have a bit more rough between the tee and the start of the fairway to maintain, but that’s about it. And, nobody is forcing 99% of golf courses to add length, as again 6500 yards is good for a LOT of golfers.


I’m far from certain technology has been maxed out with ball technology.

Take a look at this for some context - fractions of a millimetre. These guys can do almost anything!


Titleist, Callaway, etc. could make a ball that goes 10% farther right now. It wouldn’t be legal. There are standards and regulations re: ball speed, distance, etc. There’s the ODS (“Overall Distance Standard”) and other regulations.

So, though science likely has answers… we’re pretty much at the limit of what balls are allowed to do.


I’m not convinced that is the case. Regulators and many others assumed we were at the limit fifteen years ago. We clearly were not. Driving distances have increased - albeit not just due to the ball.

If we pretty much were at the limit in 2003, manufacturers have been complicit in gross fraud for more than a decade, in billing each new release of their latest premium ball as flying further than the last.

The ODS as written in 2003 is able to be exploited by smart engineers and designers.

I am not suggesting driving distance gains of the last 15 years are solely due to ball technology - far from it. But to think there’s been zero yardage gain from ball design refinement through the last one and a half decades would be naive.

And it is similarly naive to assume there isn’t another breakthrough ahead that will see a further flying ball which complies with 2003 legislation. There is no limit to science.


So in reality there is no issue with guys carrying it 315. It’s a skill and they have an advantage, whether hitting a driver or a mid iron on a par 3.

The problem is when they play a tour event at a course layed out 100 years ago. Aronomik for example. All the trouble off the tee is at 260 to 290 and it is actually easier for a lot of players to hit driver - effectively a risk free shot.

Personally feel that technology could roll the ball back for the really long guys, but that could taper off so that the shorter hitters and amateurs are not really effected.

Alternatively give the pros a different ball. It’s a different game they are playing anyways.

But to what end… well what it would do is squeeze the fields up and give more guys a chance to win tournaments. Creating more exciting finishes and more interest in the sport.

All of a sudden major champs like Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk are potentially competitive again 20 weeks of the season, not just 2.

Look at the Open at Carnoustie. Distance was basically not a factor and it meant there were about a dozen guys in contention and the Sunday was very enjoyable.