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David Fay's Distance Rollback & Bifurcation Solution

In my Golf World story on bifurcation there was mention of former USGA Executive Director David Fay's solution to the two-sets-of-rules discussion and now his proposal is posted as part of the March Golf Digest where the column appears.

Fay still says he no issue with the distance gains of the past 20 years, but for those who do and who want to see a ball rollback that the scientists is really, really hard to accomplish, Fay offers this handy solution...

If you're among those who believe the golf ball is going too far and too straight, there's a simple, surgical solution. Define and identify a new category of reduced-distance balls, and mandate the use of one of these balls whenever the one-ball condition is in effect.

Bifurcation? Sure, but so what? Adding one or two specialized equipment rules (bifurcation, with a lowercase b) to a one-ball competition will not signal the end of the game as we know it and will not damage the game's history, popularity and future growth in any way or at any level. Some low-handicap players might switch to the balls the big-leaguers play because they wish to. The rest of us? We might try one of the less-lively balls, suffer, and give up the experiment. But it will be our choice--just like deciding which tee markers to play. And we'll be playing according to the rules.

On the other hand, if the world's 65 million golfers are told to take one for the team (even with assurances that a reduced-distance ball won't really affect you because you're not good enough to see the difference), there'd be hell to pay.

And that's why it's probably the best solution put forward to date.

The USGA and R&A Rules of Golf would remain relevant, the pro tours would be kept out of the rulemaking business and an overdue solution to the costly and pointless distance chase can be implemented.

Furthermore, this gives ballmakers a new product to sell. In the case of the rolled back ball, the Classic Coke, it will be a big hit at older courses and with those who fancy themselves as elite players or who want to play a design closer to its intended shot values. New Coke may also be sold (though no older course in their right mind would open themselves up to safety issues when a shorter ball reduces liability). 

I've long believed that after the initial thrill of buying non-conforming golf balls and the whispers make the rounds suggesting that the rolled back ball doesn't impact the everyday golfer very much if at all (assuming it is engineered well), we'd see New Coke will go the way of...New Coke.

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Reader Comments (27)

It's a pity Fay is out of office - why didn't he do something about it when he could have?
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
Aha....this appears to be a clever and reduced version of the 3 ball rating/hdcp system John Solheim came up with.

Plagiarism is alive and well!
02.12.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Why is common sense so hard for some people to get?
02.12.2013 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
"If you're among those who believe"... the ball does go too far and too straight. Yes I believe. As Geoff implied this is not a new idea. Simple, effective, easy to implement---and doomed because the USGA and the R and A are what exactly...ineffectual, fearful, out of touch, not creative, manipulated by the equipment makers, lazy, reactionary, asleep at the switch, etc. Take your pick.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterT Money
Didn't John Solheim propose a 3-ball system a few months ago? This seems like a simpler/reduced version.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Solheim's proposal is worthy of consideration - I hope Mike Davis and Peter Dawson are doing just that but I'm not holding my breath.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
Why do we have to pick?
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that there's a way to manufacture a golf ball that goes 20 yards shorter on swing speeds that are equivalent to a tour player — whatever that is . . . 110 or 115 mph? — but incrementally less for the typical 15-handicapper who swings at 90 or 95 mph. What kind of problem would this create? Players in the Masters might need a 3-iron to reach the 13th green in two instead of a 4-iron, and if that happens, it hardly means the end of the world is near. Does Titleist's market share suddenly take a nosedive? No. As usual, we take a simple problem and make it more difficult than it really is.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Smith
T. Money I guess the "war chest" isn't big enough yet? Maybe when it gets up to $500,000,000 they can get after it....
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I have whiplash. Now the guys who run the usga are idiots again. Weren't we just defending them as the saviors of the game after the comments by the guy at Taylor made? Come on, guys, which is it? Knaves or knights?
02.12.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
Fay is just saying the same thing that several have spouted on here time and time again. One of many times the ''voices'' are simply reading Shack's words of wisdom, and WOW! what a great idea!!! And it is, and it is simple.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
I agree with Ivan, I wonder why Mr. Fay did not push this when he was the ED of the USGA. It's always seemed to me that this is how it would be accomplished so I'm also a little surprised this is being treated as news. I do think Geoff's analysis and comparison to what went on with Coca-Cola is well-taken. Seems to me the manufacturers would benefit greatly from this approach. So who's against it? Members who want to spend money pushing back tees and cultivating rough?
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterF. X. Flinn
Jeff Smith - I'm with you. Aerodynamic effects are non-linear and affect higher ball speeds more than lower ball speeds. I've always suspected (without proof, I admit) that the dimples and smooth spaces on the ball could be manipulated to reduce the benefit of higher speeds and decrease the spread between the longest and shortest shots.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn H
I very much agree with Mr Fay-but I also agree with those that ask why didn't he do a bit more about it when he was in charge?!
02.12.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Fay blithely thinks that different amateurs will play different balls and it will be oh-so-easy, and everyone will live happily ever after. That isn't how it works at all. Every member of a Saturday morning foursome plays the same tees--whatever they are--and play the same sort of golf ball, the same game. Every member-guest, member-member, same thing--we all play the same course. Playing different tees and different balls does not fit socially across the $5 nassau landscape. It only works if you like to play alone, or are Mr. Haverkamp playing with three other Mr. Haverkamps. But en just isn't how the game works on Friday afternoons at most courses.
Another thing: It hasn't occurred to Fay and others yet that entire new categories for posting scores will be required. When you step up to the computer after the round, you won't just select which tees you played and whether it was a tournament. You also will need to select which type of ball you played. Entire new computations and add-ons for the Slope system, course ratings, etc. will be required. There is no way around this. What a nightmare.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor
The Doc is making things more difficult when, in reality, they will be simpler, quicker, safer and less expensive. As a sop to manufacturers, I'd reduce the number of clubs allowable by pros by two and increase the legit arsenal of ams by one. There are 99-times as many ams as pros!! I'd make the pros use 1" high tees and ams 2-inchers. As far as I know there are a few different rules in College Footbawl compared with the NFL - what disastrous affect does that have? None! 'Twould be the same in flog.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
The perfect solution from solution.
Make it a condition of competition like the one ball rule,
and the PGA Tour decides NOT to use the one ball rule any more

Sure, the US Open, and maybe the Open Championship will use the one ball rule.

one rule. the ball should not exceed (x, or some other brilliant number ) in smash factor.

1.5 I believe, is ideal. Lower that number to a maximum across the board
02.12.2013 | Unregistered Commenternon profit winner
Why don't we leave things alone and stop caring about score relative to par for the pros?
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBob
Hey, Doc! That couldn't possibly be a IHCC reference, could it?
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
Wow! Maybe we could have bifurcation with a really, really, really small b! Is there anyone in the world smarter than an EX-Executive Director of the USGA?

I don't think so.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJesse Pinkman
Jeff, they already have the solution, it's called the Titleist Professional from the 90's. No development necessary.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
I'm with Jeff Smith and John H.

I find it hard to believe that a ball specification cannot be found, wherein long-hitting Tour players are rolled back by 25 yards, and recreational players by a negligible amount.

Do that, and we can avoid big B Bifurcation, small b bifurcation and everything in between.
02.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
I am with Jeff, John H and Chuck, and don't disagree with Harv.
Gosh. So just because I want to go play in a tournament that uses the "one-ball" rule, I'll have to relearn the distances I hit this ball and how it reacts around the green. No thanks.

Bifurcation is much ado about nothing. I've never heard a single amateur or recreational golfer ask for it. It's something a bunch of talking heads and writers needed to generate some controversy and provide some content.
02.13.2013 | Unregistered Commenterrenix
For those looking for a rule that limits effectiveness at higher speeds.
It SEEMS that the recent technologies allowed players like Phil, DJ etc to gain
larger advantages over slower speed swings.
The core and especially cover technology allowed manufacturers to fit players with Pinnacles that actually could be spun effectively.
BEfore the one ball rule, professionals would use Molitors or other two piece balls on long par threes or par fives to take advantage of the length AND straighter flying ball. Know good players can spin those same balls and get the benefits.

The question would be, are you looking to only impact higher speed swings with a roll back, or make certain that the distance is in constant relation to clubhead speed.
02.13.2013 | Unregistered Commenternon profit winner
I just don't get the need for a reduced distance ball. Distances on tour have increased a couple of yards or so since 2003, advances in the ball are limited by R & A and USGA rules, driver technology has changed little in the last decade (except for adjustability, as manufacturers have had to find something to sell other than distance).
Vested interests in the golf industry love to hype up how far the bombers hit, but the reality of the rank and file players is they hit it more or less the same as they did 10 years ago. The bombers have not taking over en masse: plenty modest hitters are still competitive-Snedeker, Donald, Zach Johnson, Furyk e.t.c. The bombers are the exception.
I'd say distance is the smallest difference in the games of PGA Tour players and good amateurs. Golf remains a test of skill and nerve (and long hitting is a skill too). There's no need to confuse the game with different rules on balls for different levels of players. Crazy.
02.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewCoop
Like Bethpage, he got it right.
02.14.2013 | Unregistered Commentergolfdinosaurrr

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