If you follow social media at all, you’ll be aware there’s been a bit of talk lately around the golf ball… does it go too far, should it be rolled back, is it destroying the game etc. etc.
We’ve written on this subject before, and our views are pretty well known.
The USGA’s 2017 Distance Report was released this week and is well worth a read… it’s very through, full of useful data and year-by-year comparisons. The USGA’s Mike Davis, amongst others, has been very vocal on what he see’s as the urgent need to ‘roll back the ball’. So too Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. A roll back of around 20% in performance is the number often cited, and what’s interesting about the USGA’s latest report is that it pretty much refutes this argument.
If the ball is going ‘too far’, it’s only doing so at the Professional level, and only just. The report documents “an unusual spike across the Pro Tours in driving distance in 2017 compared to previous years – an increase on average of 3 yards across the seven worldwide tours, and just over 2.5 yards on the PGA Tour”. Prior to this report, the average distance gain has been only 0.2 yards per year (so that 20% roll back seems a little extreme).
The report also shows the distance gains for amateur golfers of almost nil over the same time frame, which would actually suggest the USGA product/performance regulations have been working and restricting performance gains (which puts a bit of hole in some of those exaggerated marketing claims we hear from the bigger brands about their products performance… but that’s another story)
What we’re witnessing is due to a number of factors, but it’s not the golf ball.
There’s now more Pro’s hitting it longer than ever before, and I think that’s really why this is such a hot issue for the USGA. John Daly used to be a freak of nature, but now 30% of the field hit it like John Daly. That’s a big change.
Coaching is so much better than it’s ever been, and the ability to dial in equipment performance with custom fitting and launch monitor testing all leads to optimised performance and incremental distance gains. And really, isn’t that what professional sports is all about? Modern professional’s are dedicating their live’s to achieve peak performance in their sport, and what we see on TV every week are the results… and I’m not sure that should be discouraged, and certainly not frowned upon. Dustin Johnson hits a drive 400 yards? That’s impressive, not a problem.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a big fan of the USGA. Their performance regulations have allowed companies like Seed to develop products that can compete with the big boys and because of that we can make the game more affordable without sacrificing any real performance. That can only be a good thing for growing the game (another buzz word & another story for another day).
I just think this whole roll back thing is anti productive, for everyone concerned, and certainly not the result of some huge jump in the performance of a golf ball.
Let us know what you think.
And if you want to read the USGA’s full report, click here