Golf Course Architecture - Issue 72, April 2023

52 BALL ROLLBACK OPINION The USGA and R&A’s proposed model local rule would allow organisers of professional tournaments to require the use of a reduced distance golf ball. Estimates suggest the specified ball would, when hit with a driver by an elite player, fly about 15 yards less than the current ball. Justin Thomas described the proposal as “so bad for the game of golf”. Bryson DeChambeau went further: “I think it’s the most atrocious thing that you could possibly do to the game of golf.” They seem to be advocating that we don’t impose limits on distance. At what point would they change their minds? When par fives are reachable from the tee and the only clubs required are a driver, wedge and putter? It’s difficult to understand why they are so appalled by the idea of having to hit long irons and fairway woods into par fours again. Thankfully, not all the pros feel the same way. Rory McIlroy told No Laying Up: “I think it’s going to help the overall professional game. I think making guys hit some long irons again, and some mid-irons, and being able to hit every club in your bag in a round of golf… I can’t remember the last time when I’ve had to do that. I don’t know if this change in the ball will make us do that, but it certainly is a step closer to that.” To me, a 15-yard rollback is infuriatingly little. Almost 90 per cent of golf course architects surveyed by the European Institute of Golf Course Architects considered a reduction in driving distance of between 10 to 15 per cent would be appropriate. The average PGA Tour drive is just shy of 300 yards. A 15 per cent rollback would bring that down to 255 yards, about the same as the average in 1980. Tim Lobb, president of EIGCA, summarises the benefits of a rollback well: “Reducing hitting distances not only leads to shorter courses, which are quicker to play, cheaper to maintain, more sustainable, more accessible and potentially more profitable, but also retains the intended design strategies of older golf courses.” “More land equals more grass, more water, more chemicals, more fertilizer and more labour,” says architect Kevin Ramsey of Golfplan. “This all leads to higher priced golf and a waste of valuable natural resources. If people truly want to ‘grow the game’ you do so The R&A and USGA’s new model local rule is too little for too few, says GCA’s Toby Ingleton Is that all?