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!