Tom_Doak

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They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« on: March 30, 2010, 04:13:21 am »
At the World Golf Architecture Forum in St. Andrews this weekend, we heard from the head of the R&A's equipment testing effort, Steve Otto, who showed a bunch of raw data to assure us all that the average driving distance on all the tours has been unchanged since 2003.  It's 287 yards on the PGA Tour and about the same on the European Tour, and 240 on the LPGA and WET tours.  [Unfortunately, I didn't understand for sure whether that is the average length of every tee shot on par-4's and 5's, or whether it really is the average for every time the players hit driver.]

I was able to ask the first question after his presentation, so I asked:  "Accepting that your data is correct, and there has been no gain in distance among Tour players since the last Open at St. Andrews, then why did anyone feel there needed to be a new tee 30 yards back on the Road hole?"

:)

He responded that the change was not about lengthening the hole but about "strategy," an official position which he was at pains to explain.  He was clearly uncomfortable trying to defend it, because the tee obviously isn't his doing.

However, in his subsequent remarks, he warned all the golf course architects that a shorter ball would be unpopular and might cause players to quit the game -- which is the manufacturers' p.r. line.  And he casually mentioned an agreement with the manufacturers that the R & A will act on the ball only if their data shows that the driving distance is increasing from the 2002 standard of 287 yards.

So, the R&A let the fox into the hen house.  But rest assured they have closed the door behind him.

Thomas McQuillan

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2010, 04:20:08 am »
Was there any word on whether they were considering making the ball bigger. Also, I don't think that a ball rollback would cause players to quit the game. A 25 yard loss in distance for a tour player might only equate to a 5-10 yard decrease for the average player, hardly a noticeable drop for joe public but substantial enough to bring a lot more classic courses back into play for the top 1%.

Bill_McBride

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2010, 04:25:07 am »
I know there are mathematical formulae for ball speed vs distance, but I suspect the "average" player isn't going to lose 5-10 yards, not with his "average" 85 mph club head speed and off center hits.   Titleist may say there is but I am dubious.

The ball was too long in 2003, why use that for the benchmark?   Does "sell out" work?

Garland Bayley

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2010, 04:27:08 am »
Was there any word on whether they were considering making the ball bigger. Also, I don't think that a ball rollback would cause players to quit the game. A 25 yard loss in distance for a tour player might only equate to a 5-10 yard decrease for the average player, hardly a noticeable drop for joe public but substantial enough to bring a lot more classic courses back into play for the top 1%.

Thomas,

I think you miss the main point. There are many on this website that don't want to give up the improvement in their games that they got from the new ball. Although they may have gained a little distance, the real thing that would be hard to give up is the straight flight of the new ball. They always could have had a straighter ball flight by playing a TopFlite or Pinnacle, but they could not get the spin they wanted from those balls. Now they have the best of both worlds. Straight and spin. I say shame on the USGA and the R&A.
"I've worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions." Warren Buffet, My Philanthropic Pledge

Jeff_Mingay

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2010, 04:28:24 am »
When a majority of golfers can't hit the ball either consistently long or straight - no matter what ball they're using - why would anyone quit the game if a shorter ball was mandated? Is there any logic in this statement?

@jeff_mingay

Jason Topp

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2010, 04:30:04 am »
Even though I would like to see it, I think the biggest risk is that manufacturers and players would ignore a ball rollback.

Thomas McQuillan

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2010, 04:32:14 am »
Bill, just curious, but do you think the average player would lose more or less than 5-10 yds? It was just an educated guess on my behalf. Players are miss-hitting the current version of the ball aswell. If you slowed down the initial velocity that the ball left the clubface at, would the difference between good and bad strikes not be smaller?

Also, I always thought the manufacturers would make more money on a rollback with everyone having to buy new balls.

Garland Bayley

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2010, 04:32:26 am »
When a majority of golfers can't hit the ball either consistently long or straight - no matter what ball they're using - why would anyone quit the game if a shorter ball was mandated? Is there any logic in this statement?



I don't get why anyone would quit on length. However, slicing balata balls off the planet when I was young was downright depressing.
"I've worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions." Warren Buffet, My Philanthropic Pledge

Thomas McQuillan

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2010, 04:33:29 am »
Was there any word on whether they were considering making the ball bigger. Also, I don't think that a ball rollback would cause players to quit the game. A 25 yard loss in distance for a tour player might only equate to a 5-10 yard decrease for the average player, hardly a noticeable drop for joe public but substantial enough to bring a lot more classic courses back into play for the top 1%.

Thomas,

I think you miss the main point. There are many on this website that don't want to give up the improvement in their games that they got from the new ball. Although they may have gained a little distance, the real thing that would be hard to give up is the straight flight of the new ball. They always could have had a straighter ball flight by playing a TopFlite or Pinnacle, but they could not get the spin they wanted from those balls. Now they have the best of both worlds. Straight and spin. I say shame on the USGA and the R&A.


If the ball did not travel as far, it would not go as far off-line.

Melvyn Morrow

Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2010, 04:36:49 am »
The R&A are going to kill the enjoyment and affordability of golf but in doing so they will also eliminate the need to have the R&A. 

A painful future yet removing the R&A may be more humane for Golf, Golfer and the protection of the traditional game. Perhaps serious suggestions should be tabled on this site for a united way forward as clearly the word ‘leadership’ does not exist in the minds of our R&A Masters.

An honourable game but now controlled by Volvo manufactured dummies – sticking ones head in the sand is no answer to working for a better future. Or are we yet again seeing that they are chasing the money trail with golf being just the means to accessing the money?

Wonder if they are a cell left over from the Cold War that have finally succeeded in getting into position of power at The R&A to fully undermine the game.

These modern Nero’s are fiddling but with our game, beware the worms may yet turn.

Melvyn

« Last Edit: March 30, 2010, 04:39:20 am by Melvyn Hunter Morrow »

Thomas McQuillan

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2010, 04:40:00 am »
Melvyn, How would one go about getting into the R&A? One is thinking of an inside job. ;D ;D ;D ;D

Chip Gaskins

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2010, 04:40:29 am »
I know there are mathematical formulae for ball speed vs distance, but I suspect the "average" player isn't going to lose 5-10 yards, not with his "average" 85 mph club head speed and off center hits.   Titleist may say there is but I am dubious.

The ball was too long in 2003, why use that for the benchmark?   Does "sell out" work?

Bill

You make the best point here. The Pro V1 had just come out (2001 I think) with its first full year on tour in 2002.  So picking 2003 certainly puts the R&A comparison simply between the new balls.  I think some time in the late 90s would be a better comparison.

Chip

Bill_McBride

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2010, 04:54:49 am »
Bill, just curious, but do you think the average player would lose more or less than 5-10 yds? It was just an educated guess on my behalf. Players are miss-hitting the current version of the ball aswell. If you slowed down the initial velocity that the ball left the clubface at, would the difference between good and bad strikes not be smaller?

Also, I always thought the manufacturers would make more money on a rollback with everyone having to buy new balls.

i think the loss of distance for the average player would be negligible.

And everybody buys new golf balls all the time, right?  ;D

Chuck Brown

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2010, 04:56:02 am »
Tom;

Thanks.  That "agreement" that you cited in bold.  I expect that you might already know -- it is not some secret agreement.  Not unless it is somehting very curious that I don't know about.  It is the published Joint Statement of Principles, in which the R&A and the USGA had jointly stated that any further distance gains through technology advances would be undesirable.

What we have seen since then is a general flattening, stats-wise, from Shotlink.  And, I submit, it is because there have been only modest changes to the ball during that time, and because in setting up golf courses, tournament administrators, particularly the tours, have done everything that they can to rein in distance and scoring stats.

I think the USGA's golf technology "summit" meeting this fall will be an interesting event.  More interesting than a Tiger Woods press conference, for sure.

Garland Bayley

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2010, 05:07:47 am »
...
However, in his subsequent remarks, he warned all the golf course architects that a shorter ball would be unpopular and might cause players to quit the game ...

Which begs the question since players are already quitting the game, might it not be because golf courses are too long and too expensive?
"I've worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions." Warren Buffet, My Philanthropic Pledge

Michael Huber

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2010, 05:19:40 am »
This is the kind of accounting that I like. 

Tom,

Did the R&A address  the possability of having both a competition ball and a "go far and straight and high so hackers can have fun" ball? 

Thomas McQuillan

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #16 on: March 30, 2010, 05:22:35 am »
...
However, in his subsequent remarks, he warned all the golf course architects that a shorter ball would be unpopular and might cause players to quit the game ...

Which begs the question since players are already quitting the game, might it not be because golf courses are too long and too expensive?


That couldn't be more true. The amount of money courses would save on maintainance if there was to be a rollback.

Also, I looked up the pga tour website and found the average for 1997 was around the 267 mark, meaning that the ball got 20 yards longer in the space of six years?

Michael, you forgot that there are dimwits out there who insist on playing what the pro's play.The type of people who order X-flex shafts and play off the back pegs no matter how short they are and how high their handicap is.

Tom_Doak

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #17 on: March 30, 2010, 05:26:23 am »
Chuck:

I was not aware that the ruling bodies had assured manufacturers they would do nothing to the golf ball as long as the Tour driving distance stayed the same as 2002-3.  That seemed to be what Mr. Otto was saying, although his voice was a few decibels lower at that point than for the rest of his talk.

Michael:

Mr. Otto did say that the R & A were against ANY difference in regulations between the pros and the rest of us.

One other point where that came up was when Tom Mackenzie suggested limiting professional players to eight clubs.  Mr. Otto expressed some interest in a rule like that ... because he does not want to see the advent of the 68-degree wedge that he held up to show us.  He even suggested a letter-writing campaign to show support for such a rule.  However, he also mentioned that the manufacturers would be apoplectic about the idea of selling sets of 8 clubs instead of 14.

Garland Bayley

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #18 on: March 30, 2010, 05:32:28 am »
Chuck:

I was not aware that the ruling bodies had assured manufacturers they would do nothing to the golf ball as long as the Tour driving distance stayed the same as 2002-3.  That seemed to be what Mr. Otto was saying, although his voice was a few decibels lower at that point than for the rest of his talk.

Michael:

Mr. Otto did say that the R & A were against ANY difference in regulations between the pros and the rest of us.

One other point where that came up was when Tom Mackenzie suggested limiting professional players to eight clubs.  Mr. Otto expressed some interest in a rule like that ... because he does not want to see the advent of the 68-degree wedge that he held up to show us.  He even suggested a letter-writing campaign to show support for such a rule.  However, he also mentioned that the manufacturers would be apoplectic about the idea of selling sets of 8 clubs instead of 14.

??? ???
When is the last time a PGA Tour pro bought a set of clubs from a manufacturer?
??? ???
"I've worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions." Warren Buffet, My Philanthropic Pledge

TEPaul

Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #19 on: March 30, 2010, 05:33:29 am »
"Even though I would like to see it, I think the biggest risk is that manufacturers and players would ignore a ball rollback."


Jason:

No kidding! To my way of thinking that is the biggest concern for the USGA/R&A and the future of golf by a magnitude of God Only knows what.

By that I'm not saying the USGA and R&A should just cave in to the manufacturers on this in any way, just that they have to be very careful about that potential eventuality.

That has never happened to any significant degree in the almost 100 years since the R&A/USGA took on the roll of regulating I&B for golf but if somehow that did happen because the manufacturers decided not to pay attention to them and the public bought into that-----you want to talk about letting the horse or the whole damn herd of horses out of the barn or paddock with no ability to get it back in again----Oh My God, that would be it in spades.

To me that is A really big picture scenario here and the one to avoid at all costs. It is also one it seems like so few really consider seriously enough.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2010, 05:35:22 am by TEPaul »

Thomas McQuillan

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #20 on: March 30, 2010, 05:35:54 am »
Tom, If the R&A did not wat to see 68 degree wedges, all they would have to do is limit he loft on clubs. Tiger Woods sugested that a few years back that it should be set at 56 degrees saying that it would put more emphasis on course management like missing in the right spot, while the good chippers and more creative players would come to the fore.

Thomas McQuillan

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #21 on: March 30, 2010, 05:39:10 am »

??? ???
When is the last time a PGA Tour pro bought a set of clubs from a manufacturer?
??? ???

Never but 'if Tiger only uses eight clubs then why should I play fourteen?'.

Tom_Doak

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #22 on: March 30, 2010, 05:40:07 am »
Tom Paul:

Do you really think Titleist would break the rules of golf, if the rules were changed?

I think when all the equipment companies are in China, then your worry will be legitimate, if not moot.  They'll do anything they want then.  I give it another 10 years.


Thomas:

I would wholeheartedly agree with limiting the loft on wedges.  In fact I would roll it back even further than 56 degrees if they let me.  (THAT would certainly make "bomb and gouge" a bit harder to do.)  But of course, the ruling bodies have never made a peep about limiting loft up to this point, and they now seem to be opposed to illegalizing any club currently in use.

Michael Huber

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #23 on: March 30, 2010, 05:42:09 am »
"Even though I would like to see it, I think the biggest risk is that manufacturers and players would ignore a ball rollback."


Jason:

No kidding! To my way of thinking that is the biggest concern for the USGA/R&A and the future of golf by a magnitude of God Only knows what.


Both Tom and Jason:
What is keeping the vast majority of the masses from playing non-conforming clubs and balls right now?  Both are readily available on the internet right now, but are rarely used.  

Chuck Brown

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Re: They're Not Going to Roll Back the Golf Ball
« Reply #24 on: March 30, 2010, 05:44:05 am »
Tom -

The link to the USGA/R&A Joint Statement of Principles at the USGA website is here:

http://www.usga.org/equipment/overview/Joint-Statement-of-Principles/

The Statement dates from 2002, and from there comes your speaker's reference to 2002 driving distances.  But as much as i want to be wholly accurate about the details of this debate, and as much as I might understand the general argument that distance gains on the professional golf tours have substantially flattened since about 2003, I do think (and I beleive that Geoff Shackelford has documented) that when the USGA and the R&A said in 2002 that any further gains in distance among elite players might force them to bifurcate the Rules, there actually were some distance gains that have been largely papered over.

What we do know, with certainty, is that distance gains correspond very closely with advances in the golf ball, and a lot less closely with other things like advances with driver heads, shafts, launch monitor capabilities, etc.  Peter Kostis distance-myth whipping boy -- "fitness, training and technique" is laughable, and Wally Uihlein's fave myth -- "agronomy" is also a big lie.

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