C’mere to me, Bubba, I want to explain something to you

Ivan Morris

Bubba Watson (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Somebody made the mistake of asking Bubba Watson about his attitude towards the proposed, new MLR tournament ball? He came back with a reply that in my opinion outscores Justin Thomas for ignorance, self-centredness, and ill-informed logic:

“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 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?”

Bubba, come here to me, while I explain something to you: Your ego is getting the better of you. ‘They’ (Golf’s Governing Bodies) are doing it to save golf courses, make them more sustainable, and contain the cost of playing the game for 99% of golfers.


Golf stands out as a sport that has allowed technology to go unfettered for too long. ‘They’ did not adjust the size of a basketball court, football pitch, or baseball diamond, did they? Or, a soccer pitch, or tennis court? But, they did adjust the balls they use. In golf, for some reason that escapes me, every newly-built course has to be of ‘championship standard and length’. Length is the answer to ‘everything’, resulting in longer and longer golf courses and golf balls that fly further to be able to match par on them.

Tennis reined in its star performances ages ago. It has a trifurcated game now with three different types of compression (colour coded) balls used, depending on the level of play. At the top level, in the 70’s & 80’s, the tennis ball began flying too fast as the players became bigger and stronger; serve and volley flourished. There were no rallies and it was too dangerous in doubles games. A slower, yellow ball was better for TV too. Same thing with baseball and hurling; for almost any fast ball game you care to mention, strict control was exerted over ball speed because of the confined spaces in which the action takes place.

Table tennis changed ball size as well. The rugby and soccer balls I played with as a youth are totally different aerodynamically to those used today with players in the Premiership being consulted. The manufacturers are using the guys they sponsor to spew out nonsense that is causing confusion. Everyone WON’T be using a modified ball (although I do not see, why not?). There is a limit to the length many golf courses can expand. Let’s keep them that way!

Pro golfers will not dare to swing out of their shoes with a spinnier ball in play like my generation of golfers 40/50 years ago. Swinging at 85% power is what we were taught, or we could end up deep in the boondocks. Besides, the manufacturers already have slower balls. They have been testing them for years. Personally, I play with a softer/high spin ball to help me get the ball airborne. I need the extra spin and a ‘softer’ compression with a swing that is slowing down by the year and, which is roughly half the speed of yours or Rory’s.

The manufacturers are taking defensive measures because their best marketing slogan almost forever has been ‘more distance’. It’s how their marketing departments think they make their money. It has been like that for 100-years. No need for you to check 100-years old golf ball advertisements in magazines from that era. I have already done it!

The manufacturers don’t really care what balls are used as long as they are sold. Pro golfers should not care either. The longest hitters will still be the longest. But, distance is relative and it needs to be contained. Golf courses and most golfers’ funds are finite and they need to synchronise with each other’s resources.

Changing the ball’s aerodynamics via its dimple configurations would rein in distance and golf courses would not have to be lengthened. Would you like narrower fairways and higher roughs than you have ever seen? The harsh truth is tour pros want everything as easy as possible.

With the MLR ball, golf will move a few steps towards becoming a game of ball control again. It will take longer to master; prolong careers; make the game more relatable. What’s so bad about that?  A larger ball (1.70”) could add to the solution – for everybody. It was before. I played through that change myself and it was no big deal. The larger the ball, the more it will sit on the grass and become ever so slightly easier to hit.

The ball manufacturers have to factor in a thicker casing – that is all and the technology for it already exists. Nobody likes change. Change is hard but it is inevitable in all industries. Technology destroys some businesses while it is growing others. The R&A and USGA should press on with their testing – including reducing the COR on club faces. I have no skin in the game. I’ll be a retired golfer or a dead one by the time it all comes to pass.

There is a new breed of golfing giants on the horizon with swing speeds way in excess of Rory McIlroy’s or yours. There will be no place in pro golf for body shapes like Bubba Watson or Min Woo Lee (what a prospect for the future he should be but can’t be expected to cope with an unfettered 6’6”, 210-pounds of chiselled muscle). Tiger at his peak would not have a chance in 2030 either. His frame was much too gangly, slight, and skinny when he began. How he overcome that handicap would make very interesting reading sometime. Anybody under 6’6” and 210-lbs may as well buy a guitar and try to become a rock star.

A softer, spinnier, slower golf ball will ‘equalise’ the game for big, small, and in between golfers. To grow the game (and save it, at the same time) make it a game for all; not just for the big bombers.

Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!

More News

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy & Terms of Service apply.