Roll Back The Ball?

The clamoring for some kind of roll back of the golf ball is becoming louder by the day.  So many big names have added their opinion from Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods.  After reading Jim’s post at The Grateful Golfer, I decided to add my take.

I think the first question is what is the problem with players hitting the ball so far?  In my view, the sustainability of golf is at stake.  Right now many classic courses cannot host pro events anymore without increasing length.  This usually changes the character of course.  Not to mention longer courses require more water, money, and work to maintain.  In the current environmental state of the globe I don’t think we should be using more of our resources.

As a golf fan I enjoy some long drives, but I don’t enjoy courses being pitch and putt.  That is just my opinion, but I think golf fans would enjoy it if we could hold big events at some of the world’s classic courses without relying on weather or absurd rough to mount a challenge to the players.

So that is the issue I see, but what is the solution?  I’ll give you a few options and my thoughts.  I’ll be the first to say that I am not going to cite hard data, but it is out there.  Do the research and come to your own conclusions.

Roll back the ball

I think this will open opportunities to return to classic courses, increase sustainability, and reduce the need to have super long courses.  The problem is that amateurs may feel like they don’t relate to pros, but do they really anyway?  I don’t relate to 350 yard drives.  If they feel this way it may hurt participation in the game.

Smaller wood sizes and increased iron lofts

In theory the ball would spin more and have shorter flight.  Also we would have irons that are closer to what they say they should be instead of a 9 iron with 7 iron loft.  Now I think it would be naive to say that the OEM’s wouldn’t fight this hard.  Everyone loves lawsuits!


It always baffles me how pros get so much roll at courses they play.  I never get that at my home course and I don’t feel like we over water.  Somethings can surely be down to slow down the fairways.  If this results in more water usage though it may not be worth it.

I think the best fit is some type limited flight ball.  The other options are fine, but less clear cut.  We can standardize the limits on the ball so all the manufacturers can still compete.

This ball still gives the advantage to longer hitters, but they won’t hit it 350.  The problem I see is where to stop using it.  Do we go to just pro events or down to college?  I certainly don’t want to be limited since I may hit it 260.  So the answers are not easy, but I think we have to start having the discussion.  Let me know what you think.


12 thoughts on “Roll Back The Ball?

  1. Jimmy

    Thanks for shout out. I think limiting the gall is a good thing for the pros. Leave the amateurs alone. Anyone making their way to the professional ranks will adjust accordingly, but us mere mortals will all the help we can. I also like your thoughts on the course conditioning, I think that this an issue, but not sure how it could be fixed. A couple of friends of mine are superintendents and they take great pride in the condition of their courses and depending on the roll depends on the make of the soil more than the amount of water. Great discussion piece though.


  2. Jimmy, I say leave the ball alone. Start growing the rough out in the current fairways at 300 yards. Guys would have to make a choice to bomb it into a tough lie or layup back of 300. Presto, cheap sustainable fix.



  3. Jimmy,

    I agree the ball should be scaled back. It wouldn’t take much. Even 10% turns a 300 yard drive into a 270 yard drive. Wedges and short games probably wouldn’t see a huge effect. I don’t think courses should have to lengthen or change their setup to accommodate technology getting out of control. Unfortunately they let it get this far and now it’s a very complicated task. Will be interesting to see what happens.


  4. Hello. Thank you for posting your thoughts on the matter. If you would be so kind as to permit me my five cents on the issue, I would appreciate your deference in allowing me to share my thoughts.

    Firstly, what the pros do and how they do it should have no bearing on our games. They represent less than minuscule portion of the general golfing population. Seeing the sport through that lens only exacerbates a problem that is already throughly ingrained throughout golf – that of their undeserved and overweighted influence on the game. It’s the same thought process that the industry exploits in order to influence people to spend exorbitant and unjustified amounts of money to achieve the supposed results the of pros, when the fact of the matter is that they specialize in the game and much of what occurs on the circuit and is presented to the public is highly manipulated (such as “tour issue” clubs and balls being different from mass market clubs and balls in quality, inflated reported yardages through television broadcasts, etc.).

    Like most every other sport, golf was created for the purposes of physical exercise, mental diversion and, most of all, camaraderie. However, in the over-commercialized ambiance we live in, everything, even typical players are judged according to “tour” standards when such a mark is unachievable for many due to plenty of factors, including physical limitations and time constraints. It’s an unrealistic mark.

    Hence, it is for this reason that I encourage typical golfers (I hate using the term amateurs, as it has become a term of derision within the pro ranks to describe the majority of golfers) to play to the best of their abilities and even ignore what is happening in the professional tour, as it should have no bearing on their individual abilities.

    That being said, at the risk of sounding contradictory, I agree with the spirit of your writing. The game the modern pros play is vastly different from the game as it is meant to be played. Such a thing is impacting the sport negatively by skewing the essence of the game and making it even more economically burdensome. Longer courses mean higher greens fees for the golfing population. Higher paying contracts for players means more expensive gear for the rest of us. Higher cost means less people playing which correlates to closing down more courses, etc. It’s all cause and effect.

    I could say more but this comment was getting long in the tooth.



  5. Hi guys,

    Interesting reading your thoughts on limiting the ball and therefore the distance Tour Pros hit the ball.

    Firstly I should point out that I’ve only just signed up on here so I hope I’m not too controversial but I couldn’t disagree more!

    Last year’s season ending PGA Tour stats and OWGR show only six of the world’s top twenty players appear in the top twenty average driving distance.

    Surely that highlights that distance can, and only can, be an advantage but six out of the top twenty, in my opinion, isn’t enough to warrant worrying about the distance the Tour Pros are achieving with the current golf ball.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I think we are looking at the issue in two different ways. The issue is that courses are getting longer and taking up more space. Distance will always be an advantage, but it shouldn’t be a factor that renders courses unplayable for pros. That is my main reason for limiting the ball. The game needs sustainability and longer courses aren’t the answer to that.

  6. Ryan

    I have to disagree, also. Athletes are getting better in all sports, but we don’t see the same “sky is falling” reaction in other sports. Certainly, there are differences in the pro and amateur ranks in a games, but I feel like golfers take it to an absurd level. I have never seen anyone in a pickup basketball game say that we should only use the NBA 3-point line, but yet you see people all the time that want to play from the tees that the pros play from. I personally enjoy seeing 350-yard drives, and I don’t want that to go away. Just like I wouldn’t want to see an 11 ft goal in the NBA, because they are dunking too much.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I don’t really agree with the NBA analogy because that refers to the court size, not equipment. I want to protect golf courses from getting longer and taking up more land/resources. And as for people playing the pro tees, ugh! That is a big cause for long rounds.

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