BOB WEST ON GOLF — USGA, R&A stir hornet’s nest on golf ball proposal
Published 12:04 am Wednesday, March 22, 2023
For an operation that for years ran smoothly and was relatively free of controversy, the PGA Tour seems to be embroiled in a new dispute on a somewhat regular basis.
First, there was the threat posed by LIV, which is ongoing and won’t be settled until several lawsuits wind through the courts. Then it was big changes to the regular PGA Tour schedules, with some events being “elevated” and others left with second level status.
With all that simmering, along comes golf’s two major governing bodies last week with a proposal to scale back how far the golf ball travels. The United States Golf Association and European Royal and Ancient, however, made it clear such an option would just be for certain elite professional championships.
As you can imagine, the proposal went over with professional players like loud noises on their backswing. With the game now totally invested in the “bomb and gouge” approach of drives that travel through time zones, the screaming and hollering was predictable.
The suggested distance reduction would not come into play until 2026 to give everybody, starting with ball manufacturers, plenty of time to adjust. Those ball manufacturers, by the way, are among the ones screaming the loudest about producing one ball for pros and another for amateurs.
As it stands now, and it is certainly not written in stone, the U.S. Open and the British Open are the events that would require a dialed-down ball. It would be up to the PGA Tour and other tours to call their own shot on going along.
Early speculation is the Masters decision makers would probably be on board.
A scaled back golf ball is something Jack Nicklaus has preached for years. His reasoning has been protecting the integrity of courses not designed to deal with equipment changes that allow massive distance upgrades.
Tiger Woods, to a less vocal extent, has also been on board.
Tiger’s buddy Justin Thomas, one of the biggest bombers on tour, is strongly against the idea, as are most of the game’s top players.
“This is so bad for the game of golf,” fumed Thomas, at a press conference last week.
Added Sam Burns: “At the end of the day, we are an entertainment sport. I don’t think people necessarily want to come out here and watch guys hit it shorter. They enjoy watching guys go out there and hit it 350 yards. I think that’s a skill and I don’t agree with trying to take it away.”
Stay tuned. This is going to get really, really interesting.
Golf news should be e-mailed to Bob West at email@example.com.