The Golf Ball and Bifurcation

Recently, Darwin Howard, Superintendent of Seguin Valley Golf Club, asked me to weigh in on the raging debate of the golf ball and bifurcation. Before we go further, bifurcation is defined as the point or area at which something divides into two branches or parts. The main concern is that by changing the specifications on a golf ball for professionals, two sets of rules will be develop further separating professionals (and high-ranking amateurs) from the regular player. For the golfing purists, I can see how this discussion is causing them fits, however for everyone else I am not so sure.

The following is the video I was asked to comment upon; Geoff Ogilvy is very articulate and sums up the discussion very quickly.

To sum up my position in a short statement, I would suggest that the golf ball used by professionals be modified to limit the distance professional golfers can hit the ball. Without looking at any statistics, the logic that two sets of rules would divide professionals from amateurs is a red herring. By dictating the specifications of the golf ball for professionals would not create anymore of a division than already exists. As it is now, the fact the professional golfers can hit the ball 100+ yards farther, on average, than most amateurs creates more of schism than the bifurcation of future rules.

I think it is ridiculous that in 2018, 64 PGA Tour players average 300+ yards off the tee with the longest average belonging to Tony Finau at 326 yards. Just 10 short years ago, there were only 13 players averaging 300+ yards and Bubba Watson was the reigning long hitter with an average of 315 yards. On a side note, Graham Delaet sits at 15 position this year with the same average as Bubba Watson in 2008.

Modifying equipment or the rules at the professional ranks is not uncommon. Baseball, as Ogilvy states, must use wooden bats; Basketball added the 3-point line and reduce ball possession time; Hockey eliminated the two-line pass and limits the size of the goalie equipment; the NFL changed the four major rules to protect players for injury; and tennis has regulations on rackets. My point is that all professional sports, at one time or another, change the rules and equipment specifications to meet the need of the sport. So, changing the specs on a golf ball for the betterment of the game is more than reasonable.

One of the major issues, as pointed out by Ogilvy, is that the golf courses were not designed for players who hit the ball consistently over 300+ yards. They were designed for the 280 yard (and sometimes less) drive off the tee. How many times have we watched the PGA drive over the 300 yard bunker guarding the turn at the fairway. Where does it stop? Is it really fun watching players smash the ball on a par 5 and lament as they hit a 6 iron into the green. Good on them, but as an amateur with a 4 handicap, I do not relate to these players at all.

Is it time for bifurcation for professional golfers? I say yes! Start with the golf ball and if that does not work, focus more on the club manufacturing. Personally, I think that by limiting the golf ball, the professional tours will realign their game with the millions of amateurs who follow golf. This in turn will produce a more faithful following of avid golfers.

Thanks Darwin for asking the question. What do you think?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

13 thoughts on “The Golf Ball and Bifurcation

  1. Pingback: The Golf Ball and Bifurcation – Update | The Grateful Golfer

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  4. The biggest reason to shorten the golf ball is to make classic courses relevant again. If a guy can drive the green on No. 1 at Augusta, then we got problems.
    As a former pro who still hits the ball a long way, I would welcome a shorter ball. I tend to leave driver in the bag most of the time, because it takes the fun out of the courses, which have become too short.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jim, whatever the solution, it has to come from the governing bodies first. Manufacturers will not willingly make a change because they are interested in selling more product which equates to improved performance. We are suggesting decreased performance here and they are not invested in a sales strategy to lessen performance in any way. Not to say it can’t be done because it was when square grooves were outlawed, but that change was so minor that amateurs simply weren’t affected. Let’s be honest; the average amateur sees his pro on TV bust one 350 and thinks, “I want that!” Change the rules first, then let the compliance create a need for a professional line of equipment.

    Good topic, thanks!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian

      I agree that this bifurcation needs to have a top down approach. I thjnk for.the good.of the game that something needs to addressed. If not most golf courses become unplayable for the pros because they complerely over power it. I am interested is seeing what happens over the next few years.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Jim, change will happen only when TV ratings go down and/or their bottom line suffers in some way. Think folks will tune in to see the pros hit it 50 yards shorter? I’m a bit skeptical on this one.


        Liked by 1 person

      • Brian,

        I actually think they will. Most people who watch golf on TV are going to watch anyway. Seeing the around the green skills of pros win a tournament may generate the interest for change. It really is a tough call, but you are right that economics will drive the change.


        Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree 100%. Limit the distance of the pro competition ball: it will improve the game as they play it, which is becoming too one-dimensional, allow historic courses to become relevant once more, and actually bring the professional and amateur games closer in real terms. The game’s administrators need to wake up quickly and act. Cheers, Rob

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’m not sure what the answer is. I know it’s not just the new clubs and balls, but also the superior training they have available since around the time Tiger hit the scene that combined to allow them to overcome courses so easily.

    When I took up the game, driver heads were only 350cc. Today they are 460. Maybe we don’t need to go back all the way to persimmon woods, but pushing back a bit is not something I would argue with to keep from seeing 600 yard par 4’s.

    But bifurcating on balls or on everything is up to them. I think it’s probably the best option available so I would not object. Nor would I object to stronger limits across the board. The real question for me I think is, if they bifurcate which set of rules would I want to use.

    Liked by 1 person

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