The Golfing Dads have a friend named Lock Kyle who owns “Make Golf Fun Again.” We love the motto and the idea of having fun on the golf course. At the end of the day, it is just a game and people need to remember that!
This week, the United States Golf Association (USGA) released a distance report that detailed an increase in the average distance across the professional tours of 3 yards. They compared data from 2016 and 2017. The information was based solely on the driver distance collected during events but there were a lot of other variables that they grossly omitted from the report.
One of the biggest variables that was not considered was the announcement on August 3, 2016, when Nike exited the equipment business. While many people felt that Nike made a quality product their equipment wasn’t known as the best out there. A few years ago, Phil Mickelson stated it was amazing that Tiger was winning so much as he was using inferior equipment. A sentiment that was widely agreed upon by many in the golfing world.
The Nike golf ball didn’t go as far as others and when you look at the data, players like Brooks Koepka saw double digit increases in distance after switching equipment. This needs to be noted in the report.
There were many companies that have spoken out about the data that was released. Titelist and the PGA of America were very outspoken about this data arguing that they should not look to dial back the golf ball.
Jimmy Walker came out on social media today with this comment, “Too many variables in an outdoor sport to grasp what is actually happening. What I do know is the USGA does not have their fingers on the pulse of the game. Taking away a putter that helps many many people enjoy the game is wrong. Rolling back the golf ball 20% is another bad idea. Ask the normal golfer how much they would enjoy the game if they flew it 20% shorter. I’m asking. Would you enjoy that? Changing golf for the masses because a small few who play it a different level is wrong. The greats and USGA have it wrong.”
The 20% number is what is being talked about as a reduction in the golf ball. Let’s put that into some distance numbers to think about. A 300-yard drive will now only go 240 yards? The average player doesn’t hit the golf ball 250 yards. If we just use the 250 number that means they will hit it 200 yards! Where can I sign up to have people only hitting it 150 to 200 yards and getting frustrated?
Another golf blog out there is also stating that there are many players on multiple tours who are using drivers that are non-conforming. The USGA only tests drivers in the Club Company Tour Trucks and not the ones in the players bags as it is a game of integrity. As they implied, no one wants to test the players drivers because they don’t want to call any of them cheaters. I am going to leave the idea of cheating out of this as that is a very strong accusation for someone to make about the PGA Tour players and unless you have concrete proof you shouldn’t ever bring it up!
Other things that they have not taken into consideration is the impact of the data that the elite golfers have at their disposal. If you look down the driving range at a PGA Tour event you will see Trackman after Trackman behind all the players getting them the up to the minute information before they tee off. They know how to maximize all the data at the palm of their hands now. They know how to use that data to make them get the most out of their equipment.
The bigger issues that no one is bringing up here is the Tiger Effect. As I have stated on here before, Tiger doesn’t move the needle, he is the needle. So, what does he have to do to this?
A few years ago, Tiger was very vocal to the powers that be at the USGA about players using an anchored putter. This was a practice that had been in place for 30 years and after Tiger spoke up, and a couple of players won some majors, they changed it.
Other players, such as Jack Nicklaus, have spoken up about the distance of the golf ball, but it wasn’t until Tiger spoke up that they started talking about this as a problem and that they were going to look at it. This week Bridgestone released a new commercial with Tiger poking fun at the distance difference between the Bridgestone ball and a Pro V1. Is he talking out of both sides of his mouth when he does a commercial like this but is saying the ball goes too far? Click here for the commercial.
If they really want to do something why don’t they make every player use the same golf ball to level the field? NASCAR has the same tires on all their cars to make sure that no one has an advantage. By using the same golf ball, you take away a ball advantage. But let’s be real, there is way too much money in sponsorships and advertising from the golf ball manufactures so that will never happen.
The USGA, along with the Royal and Ancient (R&A), have been given the task of making and enforcing the rules of golf. The PGA Tour doesn’t even get to make the rules for their own tour. This would be like Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, or the National Hockey League outsourcing the rules that they play by to someone else. I could see that going over well. Why does the PGA Tour allow an outside agency to provide the rules for their players?
The USGA is looking at dialing back the golf ball because of what is happening on the professional tours. They are making a decision that is dealing with the minority of players that play the game of golf. They will not bifurcate the rules to make them different for professionals and amateurs so if they go forward with the changes it would be devastating for the game of golf as the amateurs make up most of the players.
Golf struggles with participation numbers already. There are plenty of studies out there that state that rounds are down. Courses continue to close daily. The millennial group already thinks it takes too long to play golf, so they are finding other hobbies to participate in. If you make it harder for people to hit the ball farther, they are really going to shy away from playing.
The USGA needs to look at themselves for the distance “problem.” Every golf ball that is played gets approved by them as conforming and can be used in tournament play. They could have stopped this “problem” before it started and now they are looking at taking drastic measures to fix their own problem. I guess they could go and make these golf balls non-conforming now and no one would be able to use them, but would that really help? All they would do is piss off the golf ball manufacturers and all of us who go out and buy our favorite golf balls to use when we play. Driving more people away from the game.
Since 2003, the average driving distance has increased by 6.6 yards. The USGA is looking at a one-year jump but with the increase in technology to have a 2.3% increase in 14 years really isn’t that significant.
Dads Say So, the game of golf is struggling with growth and to look at making it more difficult isn’t the way to grow the game. Instead of worrying about technology getting better and the increase you are going to see with technology, they should focus their efforts on making the game more accessible and enjoyable. The USGA needs to look more at the bigger impact of their decisions and stop worrying about the players we all dream of being. Golfers love to brag about how far they hit the golf ball. None of us want to brag about busting one 225. Those stories will be great to tell at the 19th hole (sarcasm)! The governing bodies need to remember how to “Make Golf Fun Again!”