JOHN HUG­GAN

A ball rollback would have min­i­mal im­pact for the ma­jor­ity and bring some of the world’s great cour­ses back into play.

Golf World (UK) - - CONTENTS -

The out­raged noise over a pos­si­ble roll back of the ball is ab­so­lute non­sense, says Huggy. Most am­a­teurs wouldn’t no­tice any change.

You had to laugh. And I did. Long and loud. No sooner had golf’s sup­pos­edly rul­ing bod­ies, the R&A and the United States Golf As­so­ci­a­tion, ex­pressed a long over­due de­sire to dis­cuss the wor­ry­ing in­creases in just how far the game’s lead­ing play­ers can pro­pel their turbo-charged balls with their fry­ing­pan drivers, than those who would rather stick their cra­ni­ums in bunkers felt com­pelled to re­spond.

The PGA Tour. The PGA of Amer­ica. Titleist. TaylorMade. All were oh-so quick to make clear their op­po­si­tion to some­thing no one in au­thor­ity has yet pro­posed: a “rollback” of the golf ball de­signed to curb the dis­tances both the pros and we am­a­teurs can at­tain off the tee. Not only did those or­gan­i­sa­tions/ com­pa­nies claim to be ap­palled by the no­tion that Dustin John­son might be asked to hit more than a 7-iron to a par 4 – some­thing that oc­curred once in 2017 – they were stead­fast and united in their al­tru­is­tic de­sire to “pro­tect” the rest of us from the bad peo­ple in blaz­ers who want to make the game more dif­fi­cult for all, no mat­ter their abil­ity.

I was moved. I re­ally was. Not by any sense of grat­i­tude, but by the con­fir­ma­tion of high-level agen­das that have noth­ing what­so­ever to do with what is best for golf or golfers.

Here is the ugly truth no one in the anti-rollback camp re­ally wants to talk about: the vast ma­jor­ity of those who play the great­est game of all are rel­a­tively hope­less. Day af­ter day, week af­ter week, month af­ter month, year af­ter year, th­ese peo­ple stand at ad­dress and have no earthly idea how far they are go­ing to hit the shot. Only very oc­ca­sion­ally can they de­scribe the contact be­tween club and ball as “solid”. So the yardage be­tween them and their tar­get is ir­rel­e­vant. It doesn’t mat­ter even a lit­tle bit. And nor, by ex­ten­sion, does what kind of ball they are us­ing. Sorry folks, but that’s the harsh re­al­ity. Be­sides, we have been here be­fore. Back in 1974, the R&A man­dated that the 1.62-inch di­am­e­ter ball used pretty much ev­ery­where in the world ex­cept the United States would be il­le­gal in the Open Cham­pi­onship. By the early 1980s, that rul­ing ap­plied to vir­tu­ally ev­ery lead­ing am­a­teur event. In other words, ev­ery­one not re­lated to Un­cle Sam was asked to ac­cept at least a 20-25-yard loss in dis­tance off the tee.

I was around back then. I re­mem­ber that hap­pen­ing. I re­mem­ber how much of a dif­fer­ence the in­tro­duc­tion of the 1.68-inch ball made to my (scratch) game. But what I don’t re­mem­ber is a mass rev­o­lu­tion. We all got on with it. And, in time, many of us started to hit bet­ter shots, es­pe­cially in the wind. Be­cause we had to. As for the rest – those afore­men­tioned un­for­tu­nates with min­i­mal tal­ent – I’m not sure they even no­ticed. I cer­tainly don’t re­call any­one say­ing, “I feel cheated. That 200-yard drive I hit on the 7th would have gone 220 with the old ball.”

So what’s the prob­lem this time round? The no­tion that we am­a­teurs need safe­guard­ing is clearly non­sense. Why would restor­ing the likes of Sun­ning­dale, Cy­press Point and all the rest to the pro­fes­sional fold be a bad thing? And why would set­ting up cour­ses for tour events in the way the orig­i­nal de­signer in­tended – with­out silly rough, stupidly nar­row fair­ways, daft pin po­si­tions and glass-like greens – be a ret­ro­grade step?

Let’s as­sume the R&A and USGA do ac­tu­ally want to rollback the ball. Lack of abil­ity means such a move would make ab­so­lutely no dif­fer­ence to at least 99 per cent of the world’s am­a­teur golfers. And knock­ing, say, ten per cent off the av­er­age tee-shots struck by lead­ing pro­fes­sion­als would al­low great cour­ses ren­dered ob­so­lete by tech­nol­ogy to once again host the game’s great play­ers. It would be no less en­ter­tain­ing, even for the dis­tance junkies. Can any­one, with the naked eye, gen­uinely tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween a 320-yard drive and one that flies 280?

So, tell me again: what ex­actly are we ar­gu­ing about?

John fol­lows the PGA and Euro­pean Tours and has writ­ten for Golf World for more than 26 years, as well as au­thor­ing seven books.

‘Would set­ting-up cour­ses for tour events in the way the orig­i­nal de­signer in­tended be a ret­ro­grade step?’

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