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Tuesday
Jan222013

"The environmental question is really the one that is difficult for the manufacturers to refute."

Richard Gillis files an interesting WSJ piece (thanks reader John) about distance where Nike's Cindy Davis preaches the joys of pursuing longer drives and selling the next great driver.

Thankfully, my colleague Gil Hanse brought some sanity to the discussion.

"We're at a point where something has to be done," Hanse said. "We're talking about a tiny proportion of golfers where distance is an issue, a small handful of tour players and accomplished amateurs. Whether its bifurcation or rolling the ball back I don't know what the answer is, but the environmental question is really the one that is difficult for the manufacturers to refute."

The new normal in golf course design is the 8,000-yard layout.

"Two hundred acres is the new standard for a golf course compared to 150 acres a few years ago," Hanse said. "And 120 of those acres have to be maintained and watered as opposed to 80. You really are going down an unsustainable path. From a manufacturers standpoint, how can you argue against that? They can talk a lot about marketing, about player endorsements and how there's always been the same set of rules, etc., but the environmental argument is the winning one."

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Reader Comments (14)

Uh, no.

There's a very good legal argument to be made for the USGA's ability to re-regulate distance. Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts would be near-certain votes for the USGA.

And there is a perfectly wonderful aesthetic argument to be made for regulating distance, to protect classic championship golf courses. No one is better at amking that argument than Geoff Saheckelford.

The mainstream press doesn't seem to have the time or attention for either of those arguments.

Then there is a vague, sort of convenient, off-point-but-sexy argument for controlling distance. "The environment." And "sustainability." Geoff, one of the last arguments on our side of the golf ball debates might just be the winner. Of course, dryer, browner, firmer, faster golf courses that emphasize the ground game will also result in longer distances. And so a ball rollback becomes okay?

Okay. Whatever works. Maybe we can find some baby Harp seals who can help us win the golf ball debate.
01.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
There is another option that no one ever mentions....Simply put, let golf courses play shorter and let scoring become lower.
01.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHilltop
Hilltop

At the end of a round a golfer might have some temporary satisfaction in shooting far lower than he ever has, but ultimately I think his satisfaction is reduced when his implements are mostly wedges.
Another factor you may not have considered is that a few of the elite players, who hit is so far, may be so far off line as to affect the safety of others on, or off, the course.
01.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLynn S.
This week's Tour stop via pgatour.com:

'Torrey Pines GC (South), 7,698 yards, par 72. Laid out by William Bell in 1957 along cliffs fronting the Pacific Ocean, Torrey Pines has been home to the PGA TOUR’s annual San Diego visit since 1968. A 2001 upgrade (600 freaking yards!) by Rees Jones helped the course land the 2008 U.S. Open, and it remains the longest layout for any major championship.

Live@ will again broadcast play from the 13th (AKA the dullest hole in the world). 614 from the tips, you beat the living tar out of a drive and then a second in order to flick a wedge to the elevated green. Players whether making par, bird or boge walk off muttering, 'Well, that was a stupid hole.'

OK, I made the second paragraph up...:)
01.22.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdbh
All of the rollback arguments lose their steam when you realize that neither the USGA nor the Ball Manufacturers are making the decisions that result in "added cost", "safety", "enjoyment" or "retaining the challenge of old".

It's up to the people that own and manage the courses themselves.
01.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim Sullivan
dbh...would you say the same thing about a 370 yard hole? Driver, wedge...stupid hole? It actually takes more skill to hit driver, full three wood, and then wedge...compared to just Driver then wedge. The appreciation of playing a full three shot hole is dying. Not every hole has to be risk/reward, as having a full second full shot or controlled lay-up always winds up being more interesting than expected, since it isn't done often.
01.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
"We're at a point where something has to be done," Hanse said. "We're talking about a tiny proportion of golfers where distance is an issue, a small handful of tour players and accomplished amateurs"

And yet we are heading towards 8000 yard courses for that tiny proportion of golfers?
01.22.2013 | Unregistered Commenterpat burke
Steve, I have nothing against 3 shot Par 5's.
This was never one until the Rees-do however.
My issue with this particular hole is they stuck a bunch of length on the front of it and destroyed any shot making value it had.
The hole used to play as a risk reward Par 5. See the pic in the link. If you busted a drive, you could go elevation to elevation with a great look at the green and, with luck, be on in 2.
As it is now, 2 full shots get you where someone half messing up gets...somewhere down in the pronounced swale, with no view of the green surface.

http://www.torreypinesgolfcourse.com/shole13.htm
01.22.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdbh
Oh well-I think Hanse has a point and makes it well.
Golf should be for golfers-not for equipment manufacturers.
01.22.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Manufacturers should welcome a roll-back of the ball. It gives them an opportunity to over hype the next generation of stuff and sell us the newest greatest thing. OTOH Par is just number. Who cares if the PGA tour players shoot 30 under par each week because they can drive the ball 350+. Everyone tee's it up the same.

I also find it funny how everyone ooh's and aww's at Bubba Watson being able to curve the modern golf ball. Bring back the Titleist balata and everyone will be curving it again.
01.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
Gil's been in Australia checking out the sandbelt region. Smaller properties with shorter yardage, with truly great golf courses on them.
01.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
Jim Sullivan:
"All of the rollback arguments lose their steam when you realize that neither the USGA nor the Ball Manufacturers are making the decisions that result in 'added cost', 'safety', 'enjoyment' or 'retaining the challenge of old'.

"It's up to the people that own and manage the courses themselves."

I might just be with you, Jim! I'd like to get Augusta and the R&A to forego any changes whatsoever to their courses (the Rota, in the case of the R&A). Return to older standards and configurations. And just let things happen. I'd really like to see the USGA have an Open at Maidstone, and see what happens. Because I don't like to see them tinkering with the championship courses in a way that papers over the distance issue and gives people the false sense that there isn't a serious problem.
01.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
The game doesn't owe the golf industry a profit-center. When the rest of society...worldwide....is advocating resource conservation and smaller-footprints of impact, our slobs are racing for the 9,000 track. How does that square? And they wonder why golf has "issues" with folks.
01.23.2013 | Unregistered Commentersir real
Where are all of these 8,000 yard courses everyone is talking about? Yes, there may be a few out there, but I've been playing golf for 20 years and I have not once played or set foot on a golf course that was listed at this yardage. Of the super-long (7600+ yard) courses that I have played (maybe 3), they all had small back teeboxes surrounded by unmanicured areas. I would argue that the addition of a few small extra tee boxes adds minimal maintenance costs.

Also, those of you mentioning resource conservation. Would you rather have the extra land not used for the golf course sold for the construction of homes/shopping malls/office buildings? I'd venture that the overall impact of these buildings outweighs the few extra gallons of water and gasoline used weekly to mow that small back teebox.
01.23.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJimMe

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