So in my article yesterday, I talked about the ongoing saga that is Patrick Reed. I have the belief that the astonishing tales of Reed will never come to an end. Unless, social media and television coverage of golf events cease to exist.

But, as fate would have it, there’s another story in the “here we (bleeping) go again” category. With this story I’ve almost reached the precipice where I want to bash my head off of the wall. The distance or roll back the ball equipment debate. A topic that has emerged, once again just the other day.

Opinions are like rectums. Everyone has them and I’m no different.

Among the changes that the USGA and R&A wish to make include limiting drivers to 46″ in length, golf balls that fly a shorter distance, and drivers that don’t feature faces or construction that offer a high C.O.R (Coefficient of Restitution) which is is defined as “the ratio of the final velocity to the initial velocity between two objects after their collision”. Also being proposed, is limiting the amount of Moment of Inertia (M.O.I) or resistance to twisting – see forgiveness- like we see in the current generation of drivers. I’d be remiss if I failed to point out that the recommendation is for golfers at the professional or elite amateur level.

Now, to me it doesn’t matter which side of the fence that you stand on. Maybe you’re all for golf balls to be rolled back and the golf equipment to be reeled in for the matter. Or maybe, you like things the way that they currently are. To me, there is no right opinion because there are solid points and counterpoints to each argument.

Personally speaking, I think that at this point it would be counterproductive. Golf manufacturers have spent countless time and resources for R&D purposes. Technology that has made the average golfer, you know, the golfer that actually purchases the equipment and indirectly pays for the players equipment contracts out of their well-deserved paycheques. Basically, you’d now be asking all of the manufacturers to produce equipment specifically for the masses and the professional/elite amateurs. Talk about resources.

In doing research for this article, I looked to see how much the average club golfer has been affected by the advancements in technology. Initially, I was looking to go from a 2000 -2020 timeframe. While I was not able to find that specifically, I was able to find a chart for handicaps between 1991-2017. Even better. Guess how many strokes difference between the two bookends? For male golfers it was a whopping 2 strokes. For female golfers the numbers of strokes shaved off was about 4 strokes.

Source: Golf Digest/USGA

In 2016 the golf equipment was pretty freaking good. Drivers with big M.O.I and C.O.R. numbers. Who remembers what the leading equipment was in 1991? In 1991, John Daly played a tiny Cobra driver and hit flat out bombs with it, averaging 289 yards off of the tee. A year earlier, the distance leader was Tom Purtzer and the difference was staggering from 1990 to 1991. But, this goes to show that you’re just going to have guys or gals that are longer than others. It’s just the way that it is.

I’ve stated before that there’s a similar comparison when it comes to softball. When I was still playing, bats were getting hotter and hotter and the softballs flew out of the park. That’s if guys didn’t shave and roll their bats. The golf comparison would be in terms of thin faces that rebound more. Where I played my league games, they rolled the ball back (they employed a RIF or “mush” ball) because houses were always getting hit. Guess what? Some guys were still able to hit the houses. It’s just nature that some batters or golfers will hit the ball further than others, no matter what.

The Cobra driver that John Daly used to win the 1991 PGA Championship (Photo Credit: PGA of America)

There’s a hill that I’m willing to die on. The issue isn’t golf balls or the equipment. Otherwise, wouldn’t we all be averaging 285-300 yards off of the tee? No. I’ve long said that this debate is all about the “Top 1% of the Top 1%” of golfers on the planet. This issue is in fact, a non-issue with your typical club golfer or recreational once a year hacker. If they are so worried about distance, for starters, it’s time to look at the courses and how they’re maintained. The difference in equipment used by superintendents and more notably golf course labourers is night and day looking at equipment in 1991 versus 2021. Not to mention other factors like training, player development, fitting, and so on.

Just the other day, Rory McIlroy sounded off in what was a very passionate and eloquent press conference. In my opinion, he is right on every point. See the video below.

To the R&A and the USGA, rolling everything back now for those that support the industry by paying green fees, membership fees (to your organizations), and buying golf equipment this would be egg in the face. It would be detrimental and quite honestly, you wait until 2021 to realize… Oops! Did I do that that? You had to smell it coming. Rory is right, the panel has been a colossal waste of time.

So, how do we combat distance where the issue is. Have the players in these professional and elite amateur events play shorter, tighter golf courses. Not “resort courses” with expansive fairways that are 50 yards wide with not a hint of rough. Golf courses that place an emphasis on shotmaking. Let’s adjust the par for a course and make them a Par 65 or something. Put more irons into their hands. But, in no way am I suggesting no Par 4 or 5’s would exist. Watching tour players drive the golf ball can be fun, but striping irons into tight pins on small undulating greens is more fun. More skill is involved in that than say “bomb and gouge”. How about narrowing the golf course and growing out the rough to punish a miss? Let the greens have a little “fuzz” on them and let them get firm.

Would regressing back to a golf ball like this Knudson be better in the grand scheme of things?

Moreover, use the “silly season” to run a beta test. Instead of that stupid team event in December (Zurich Classic) find an old school course in Florida and try a “shorty”. I think that golf fans would appreciate and they would tune in. Honestly, I think that the player would enjoy it too! Hey, don’t the majority of us hit irons into Par 3’s, unless it’s a 230 yard Par 3? PGA TOUR Champions plays one (Top of the Rock’s nine-hole par-3 course) so why not give “the kids” a shot at doing the same?

Until The Next Tee!!