Don't Destroy the Traditions of Golf with a Tour Ball
By AmateurGolf.com member Chuck Schmidt
Don't take away my ball, but take away DJ and Rory's ball? Not right, says the author.
I’ve been hearing the chatter recently about how tour players are hitting it "too long" and many of the classic courses are now obsolete. Many of those opining this suggest it is due to technological advances in the golf ball that are to blame.
Where I used to hear the "roll back the ball" argument, I am now hearing the "make the tour play a tour ball" one. In other words, "don’t take away my ProV1 or Chrome Soft, but take it away from DJ and Rory". This argument is inconsistent with the historical traditions of golf and unsupported by recent data.
Related: Point/Counterpoint: Time for a Reduced-Distance Tour Ball?
One of the most consistent, on-going traditions in golf is that the equipment approved for everyday play is the same equipment approved for play at the highest levels. Everyone plays by the same rules, from your local city championship to The Masters. This commonality has been the case since before the size of a golf hole was agreed upon. Hundreds of years of tradition is something to take serious. By bifurcating, you will diminish the egalitarian and relatable nature of the game.
A recent study by Acushnet showed "at the 33 PGA Tour events conducted at the same venue in 2016 and 2017, where data was collected, the average driving distance increased +0.5 yards. 15 of those tournaments had a decline in average driving distance with one event flat to prior year which highlights the year to year variability in distance."
That's hardly a recent explosion in length. Shorter courses like Merion still hold up against the modern ball as demonstrated at the 2013 U.S. Open where Justin Rose shot 281 (+1) to win. So it is clear that the USGA and R&A have regulations and rules that are managing and mitigating any explosion in distance now.
I am a great fan of baseball, and I understand the comparative argument to golf as it relates to baseball's bifurcation with wooden bats at the professional level and metal bats at the amateur level. If the data were showing a massive increase in distance I would think that the USGA and R&A would have a responsibility to do something to regulate it.
But the results are just not there the last few years in regards to distance gains. Undertaking such an enormous challenge by developing a "tour ball" for professionals seems like a knee jerk reaction to contradicting data and destroys hundreds of years of tradition.