Ball Rollback Discussion - Bifurcation

What are people’s thoughts on this?

As I understand it the USGA and R&A have proposed to standardize the ball in ‘elite-level’ competitions to reduce its distance by 5%, mainly to stop the expansion of the current golf courses that are played.

They have also said that if distance starts to creep up again if pro golfers are not only working on their short game then they will have to revisit the idea again 10-15 years and roll it back once more.

Personally I think its 50/50, I can understand the argument by the golf courses who want their course to function as intended and not have to keep modifying it to keep up with the level of pro golfers these days.

Edit: This makes it sound like its a done deal if they are already talking about what they are going to do in 10-15 years.

On the other hand I think its probably going to punish the short hitters even more because a 5% distance reduction for them will put even longer clubs in their hands most holes. Think the difference between a 9-8 iron compared to a 56-52.

Also I would like to see how much a 5% distance reduction really does to the guys in the top 20 on Tour when they are playing a course.

Seems kind of savage to all the equipment manufacturers as well who have invested billions into R&D, Tooling, Marketing etc for their balls to then become obsolete.

The idea that this will only be implemented for the pro’s and not the amateurs is also kind of annoying because I personally would feel pretty jaded if I shot a good score with a ball that I know Pro’s cant use or don’t use. Almost like I am cheating.

Thoughts? There seems to be a pretty big ‘I don’t care’ vibe from the 18-36 handicap crowd which is to be expected but really their thoughts don’t matter as they have no idea what they are talking about.


Personally I am fine with taking a little pop out of the driver/ball combo, but I am not sure if this is the right way to go about it, and I also support a uniform set of rules across all levels.

Obviously I cannot speak to the materials science/engineering/ research and development considerations.

Rolling the ball back and making courses effectively longer will certainly benefit the longer players, as it should. The players that can accurately and consistently hit a driver 350 yards off the tee are the best players! Sometimes the truth hurts.

What am I not ok with is is all of these bad PGA tour players who are relying on hot drivers and game-improvement irons coming out of the woodwork and crapping on a totally reasonable attempt to improve the competition. Pathetic!

Personally I would prefer the following adjustment to the golf ball proposal:

  1. Don’t let these guys play with hot drivers!
  2. Make everyone play blades.
  3. Only let the pros have 11 clubs in their bag.
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In general, I would say I’m pro-rollback. Whether or not it’s bifurcated, or if it should be the clubs instead, I’m not entirely sure what’s best.

You hear a lot of “there isn’t a problem right now” and “why change what’s working” from those who are against a rollback which I think is fairly short-sighted. Augusta has made several lengthening changes in the past 5 years alone and The Old Course is having to put tee boxes on the other side of roads to try and preserve the intent of golf holes as much as possible speaks pretty loudly to the fact that there is a problem. And it’s not just about where the game is at right now with distance but where it’s going. I’m guessing several elite junior players are doing intense speed training after “The Bryson Effect” (if you will) which means the next generation will likely exacerbate the problem even further.

I listen to No Laying Up a lot though so I’m probably slightly biased in my opinions.

I’ll be curious to see how this impacts DG’s model, course fit, etc. I would guess the overall impact will be minimal, but it’ll be interesting to see if there are any subtle nuances.

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After some more thought, the biggest problem that has emerged at the highest levels of the game of golf over the last decade has been the advantage of hitting a fade (mostly off the tee, but basically tee-to-green).

Growing up, hitting a fade basically just meant you were a bad player. I think that this is the natural state of things, and I think this ordering (draw >> fade) needs to somehow be restored.

This is a large part of the reason that I just will never think Rahm is better than Rory. If you can’t hit a high, screaming draw off the tee, you just aren’t good IMHO!

Not sure precisely from an engineering standpoint how we get back to this equilibrium but it is definitely what I want.

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All very interesting!

I’m in no doubt something had to happen and the ball is the obvious place to start. The optimal solution is some sort of change that can implemented across the whole game, and I’m sure the USGA/R&A would prefer that. However, this may be the only way to do it?

Sometimes it’s easy to write off the R&A and USGA as organisations that have no clue about the game. However, I’ve seen the setup at the USGA for testing golf balls and it’s absolutely ridiculous. These guys spend tens of millions on this and they never come to these decisions on a whim. This will have been analysed in-house for years.

My personal thoughts were that if you could legislate a max compression of the ball at impact then that could have the desired effect. The gains in the pro v1 era really help the pros a lot more than the amateurs and I thought it was mainly down to their ability to compress a relatively firm golf ball and get low spin/high compression without having to use a soft golf ball. Most amateurs simply cannot compress the ball like that so the gains are minimal with these balls. I would really like to know why the governing bodies didn’t go down this route as that would have stopped the bifurcation.

One great thing that could happen on the split is that the manufacturers will finally spend their millions on creating the best ball possible for your typical golfer. Far too many amateurs jump straight to the pro-ball when another ball would really help their game. I don’t think the R&A and USGA would/could ever legislate for manufacturers to create better products for the typical golfer, but I think bifurcation could do this indirectly.

If only they could also stop iron lofts creeping downwards too! I would really like to have more than 8 degrees between my 3 iron and 6 iron!

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Mark Broadie has written an interesting recent paper on the impact of distance in the Shotlink era. It’s very readable, if still a bit academic. Busts quite a few myths (e.g. the number of shots hit from 50-150 has actually declined slightly from 2004-present). Not pro or anti-rollback, he’s just presenting the facts, professional that he is. But overall my takeaway from this paper is that the professional game hasn’t changed as much as some people think it has.

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“I’m glad in this new proposal that they haven’t touched the recreational golfer. I know that’s a really unpopular opinion amongst my peers, but I think it’s going to help identify who the best players are a bit easier.”

-Rory McIlroy

Damn right!! Rory (can hit a draw) wants to separate the sheep from the goats!

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