Morri: You Have Nothing To Lose In The Distance Debate

Rory McIlroy is among the powerful tour pros with swing speeds fast enough to reap exponential reward from golf ball technology.
Either through ignorance or deliberate fear mongering there are several in the golf industry actively suggesting a rollback of the golf ball will take distance away from every day players. It won't.

Those supporting a reduced flight golf ball (me included) have not campaigned for, nor do we want, recreational golfers to hit the ball shorter.

Only a fool would suggest there is a distance problem among golf’s biggest constituency and, at least among sensible people, this discussion is about the elite game only.

For those of us on the pro rollback side there are two ways forward. Bifurcation (different sets of equipment rules for elite and recreational play) or a general rollback of the ball.

The general rollback idea is the one that has some people hot under the collar but the impact of such a move on the vast bulk of the population would be negligible, if noticeable at all.

The reality of the modern, solid core golf ball is that only those who generate clubhead speed above a certain level get the exponential benefits of the technology. You and me? Not so much.

Around the turn of the century, when the solid core became the ball of choice for most professionals, the distance gains at that level were immediate and substantial.

The same can’t be said for us average players, however, so it stands to reason that if we didn’t get the remarkable gains we’ve actually got nothing to lose.

In reality, most golfers will be sceptical about that fact making a general rollback difficult to sell. And that’s why most in the rollback camp are fast coming to the conclusion that two sets of rules is the only sensible way forward.

The USGA and R&A stated unequivocally in their latest distance report that bifurcation is not their preferred option but as this discussion rolls on, that position seems almost certain to change.

Bifurcation already exists, informally, in many different ways. While the rules we play under are the same tournament golf demands 'conditions of competition' to deal with circumstances we regular golfers don't face such as relief from corporate marquees.

Touring professionals also regularly use equipment not yet available to the general public and they have access to training and club fitting facilities well beyond the reach of most mere mortals.

They play under a ‘one ball’ rule (meaning they can only use one brand and model of ball during a competition round), something that would be impossible to enforce at club level where many use whatever ball they happen to find and/or win in their weekly comps.

It is not uncommon for a club player to use as many as two or even three different brands of ball in the same round, sometimes even on the same hole!

Ultimately, with the difference in skill between pros and the rest, separate equipment rules just make sense.

Geoff Ogilvy made this point beautifully during his Australian Open press conference last year where he drew an analogy with baseball.

“The major league baseball in America, they use wooden bats and every other level of baseball they use aluminium bats, and when the major league use aluminium bats, they don’t even have to touch it, it completely destroys their stadiums - it’s a comedy,” he said.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us, at least the drivers of these big hitters, we’ve completely outgrown the stadium.”

The arguments about whether or not the ball goes too far for the elite player are multiple and complex.

But what is certain in this debate – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – is that NOBODY is looking to take 30 yards - or any yards - off the club golfer’s tee shots.

That would be suicide not just for the industry but likely the game as a whole.


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