The Old Faithful of the golf world is the argument that the ball is going too far, modern equipment needs to be reigned in and traditional courses are becoming obsolete. Despite a revolutionary unveiling of proposed improvements to the Rules of Golf, it only took a few days for the luster to wear off and the golf ball to become the lightning rod of controversey.
3 weeks after USGA trotted out report saying distance hasn’t increased since 2003, Mike Davis floats idea of “variable distance golf ball.”
— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) March 8, 2017
This time, however, the discussion centered around a newer idea; one that hasn’t seemed to make it onto the USGA’s radar in year’s past.
Speaking at the North American Golf Innovation Symposium, Davis outlined an option whereby players of all abilities would be afforded the option to play with a golf ball that by design does not go as far as the current offerings.
“If you think about it, we already bifurcate distance. We bifurcate distance because we play from different teeing grounds,” Davis said. “But what happens if all of a sudden I want to play with Dustin Johnson and say Dustin, here’s an 80 percent golf ball, I’m going to use a 100 percent golf ball and we’re going to play the same tees. It sounds radical, but it might not.”
Last month the USGA and R&A published a report that found that distance gains among seven professional tours had been negligible since 2003. Despite those findings, Davis pointed to the fact that many golf courses are being perpetually lengthened and that a variable-distance ball could help a course reduce its footprint and cut maintenance costs.
“Think about any other sport. Have other sports allowed their equipment to influence their playing field the way golf has?” Davis said. “I don’t think that you can find another sport that has allowed equipment to dictate how playing fields get changed.”
Davis emphasized the impact such an innovation might have on several classic courses, including Myopia Hunt Club in northern Massachusetts. The course has hosted the U.S. Open four times, but none since 1908 and measures less than 6,600 yards.
“Throw Dustin an 80 percent golf ball and say, ‘Let’s go play the back tees,’ and guess what? It would be a great experience for him,” Davis said. “He’d be able to play this wonderful, historic golf course that, by and large, he can’t play anymore.”
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