ROLL EQUIPMENT BACK FOR EVERYONE
The final option, as we see it, is that the governing bodies limit the golf ball’s flight – and they roll it back across the board. “Absolutely not,” says Rick Young. “Most club golfers wouldn’t lose much distance, some might not even notice at all, but the perception of losing distance and reversing technology gains, would be dreadful.”
When the R&A finally outlawed the 1.62” ball in 1990 and the 1.68” ball became standard, those who had been playing the smaller ball lost plenty of distance. But the game persevered. Young asserts you can’t compare that situation with today’s, however. “Just imagine the outcry if something similar happened now,” he says. “Golf has survived some seminal moments – being banned by Scottish kings, two world wars, the Great Depression... but circumstances are different now. We have social media, and there are so many other activities competing for people’s time. A lot of amateur golfers would be incensed. Golf, the golf industry at least, might not endure.”
It’s hard to disagree with Young on this point. Reversing technology and impounding the recreational golfer’s equipment would be a very unwelcome move. Amateurs could always use their outlawed equipment, like users of the non-conforming Callaway ERC II did after it was launched in October 2000. But how would a sizeable percentage of golfers choosing not to abide by rules imposed by the game’s governing bodies look?
Other possible outcomes that suggest a universal rollback would have devastating consequences are the long, drawn-out, and messy litigation Titleist would likely take against the governing bodies, the potential rift between those governing bodies and professional tours, and the likely drop in TV ratings and
There’s also a suggestion that manufacturers’ product cycles might become even shorter. “Most golf balls are on two-year cycle right now,” says
MyGolfSpy’s Tony Covey. “That might not change much, but it’s certainly possible we could see an acceleration in the first few years as OEMs try to figure out how to make a better short ball.”
Covey also notes that some of the smaller ball brands that have emerged in recent years could disappear as they don’t have R&D departments and would struggle to keep pace with the big brands with the biggest budgets.
On the plus side, if a shorter, but higher-spinning ball was introduced, better ball-strikers would gain a significant advantage off the tee, and there would be no need to continually lengthen courses. In time, Mike Davis might actually comment on how much more affordable the game had become.