Distance reducing golf ball: What the players have said

Ronan MacNamara

Titleist Tour (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Last week the R&A and USGA announced that they would propose a Model Local Rule that gives tournament organisers the option to require the use of balls which are tested under modified launch conditions.

The MLR is intended for use only in elite competitions and will have no impact on recreational golf.

Several high profile stars from the game of golf  have lambasted the changes over the past week with Pádraig Harrington one of the only players to come out in favour of dialling back the golf ball.

“There’s so many winners by rolling back the ball, or rolling back the equipment,” Harrington told on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio on Tuesday.

“In terms of cost — the cost of building a golf course, the cost of maintaining a golf course, the speed of play is going to be incredibly improved by reducing the distance, by reducing the size of the golf course and also reducing the amount of waiting time on par-5s and par-4s.

“There’s so many benefits to rolling it back. Old golf courses come back into play, great golf courses come back into play. Environmentally, reducing the footprint. So many reasons to roll it back. Dangerous! It’s really dangerous. Golf balls go so far.”

A host of top names at the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship and LIV Golf Tuscon have been pitting their opinions on the changes with the likes of Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson having some choice words for golf’s governing bodies.

Sam Burns: “Personally, I think it’s pretty silly. I would say if you look at the last few years of golf, I think the game has grown tremendously. At the end of the day no matter what it is we’re an entertainment sport and I think, 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 don’t see what the problem is with that. I think that’s a skill and I don’t really agree with trying to take that away.”

Justin Thomas: “I feel like, decisions and things that the USGA has done in the past when it comes to rules or whatnot and data. I mean, what is it, using 127-mile-an-hour clubhead speed? Like, if you can swing 127 miles an hour, like, power to you. I mean, people are running faster, so, what, are they just going to make the length of a mile longer so that the fastest mile time doesn’t change, or are they going to put the NBA hoop at 13 feet because people can jump higher now?

“Like, no. It’s evolution. We’re athletes now. Like, we’re training to hit the ball further and faster and if you can do it, so good for you. So yeah, as you can tell, I’m clearly against it.

“Why are this group of call it 5- to 15-handicapped amateurs determining the rules of golf for professional golfers or why are they saying that we have to do something?

“Rolling the ball back is only going to help, I feel like, somebody who hits it far and is a good ball-striker. It’s just an advantage for me even more so, I feel like, than I have and I’m still not for it. It’s just — it’s a bigger picture. It’s about the game of golf. If I can hear some reasons that claim it’s better for the game of golf, then so be it, but I’ve yet to hear any.”

Bryson DeChambeau: “It’s a great handicap for us guys that have worked really hard to learn how to hit it farther,” he said. “Look, if they do it in a way where it only affects the top end, I see the rationale. But I think it’s the most atrocious thing that you could possibly do to the game of golf. It’s not about rolling golf balls back; it’s about making golf courses more difficult.

“I think it’s the most unimaginative, uninspiring, game-cutting thing you could do. Everybody wants to see people hit it farther. That’s part of the reason why a lot of people like what I do. It’s part of the reason a lot of people don’t like what I do.

“But again, it creates more conversation in a positive way than cutting it back and trying to make everybody equal. I’m all about equality. I’m not about equity on this front.”

Bubba Watson: “Well, there’s many reasons, but first off, first of all, the commercialism is the one that’s paying all these bills for USGA and all these other organizations, and now you’re asking them to spend millions to change a ball or design a new ball and do all those things. Why? Professional golfers are a small, minute in the game of golf as a whole, who all plays it, so why not make a driver that lets some guy hit it straighter, further. Make a ball that lets a guy or a woman, kid, hit it further. Just because you hit it further doesn’t mean it’s going to go straighter. I’m not trying to throw Bryson under the bus, but Bryson tried to do something, he did do it, but he dialed it back a little. He still hits it further than everybody but he dialed it back a little because he realized your misses are further — because I’ve been dealing with that for a while, my misses are further off.

“Going back to the ball, I just don’t see the reason why. We’re the one sport that’s changing what we do, and we get mad when a guy shoots 10-under for three straight days, but we celebrate when a guy scores 50 points or scores three home runs or four home runs, a guy throws seven touchdowns. We celebrate that. We don’t make him, hey, you can’t throw that many passes the next game, so why are we messing with that.

“The sport is at an all-time high, so let’s don’t mess with it, let’s just keep it growing. That’s my short answer.”

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