Golf Course Architecture - Issue 62: October 2020

61 know that Ben Hogan hit that famous one iron into the 72nd green at the 1950 US Open. Did you know that 20 years prior, Bobby Jones played from that exact tee box and only needed a wedge into the 72nd green? Such was the condition of the game in the late 1920s – the ball was going too far in the eyes of many. ‘How?’ you may ask – the golf ball. In 1931 the USGA took action, and in the eyes of the author took a path that our ruling bodies are considering today – the USGA increased the size (diameter of the ball) and reduced the weight. In 1931 the USGA effectively banned the small/heavy ball (1.62 inches and 1.62 ounces) of the 1920s and regulated that the size and weight had to be 1.68 inches in diameter and 1.55 ounces in weight. In the words of the USGA, “Primarily the idea of the new ball is to reduce the incessant clamour for distance, which has resulted in lengthening some courses to 7,000 yards.” The ball was quickly demonised by some professional golfers as well as the press as the ‘balloon ball’ despite the support of Bobby Jones (who coincidentally retired the year prior). Articles with very little evidence suggested the new ball “adds ten strokes to the average man’s score.” In short time the USGA’s first rollback of the golf ball was doomed and in fact it didn’t make it a full year – by November of 1931 the USGA modified the size and weight regulations of the golf ball to our modern standard of 1.68 inches in diameter and 1.62 ounces in weight. No matter the direction our ruling bodies take, we are bound to repeat history – we will either do nothing like we did with the Haskell ball or we will roll back technology like we did in 1931, or even bifurcate the rules of golf like we did permitting the use of laser range finders for amateur golfers. No matter the direction, history tells us that some of us will be happy and some of us will be mad, but regardless all of us will continue to play this marvellous game. GCA Connor Lewis is the founder of the Society of Golf Historians, presents the TalkinGolf History podcast and is a board member of the Golf Heritage Society Three-time major winner Chick Evans proposed in the 1920s that the US Open should be staged on two courses long enough and hard enough to fend off the world’s greatest golfers. Would we want some of golf’s immortal venues, like Winged Foot, to become relics of golf professionals past? Photo: Jon Cavalier | @LinksGems