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"It would be relatively simple to turn down the distance on a driver by 25 yards."

We've all heard golf's leaders, scientists and manufacturers suggest a distance rollback via the ball would be a difficult, if not impossible task and it's just easier to change the courses because, well, they aren't paying for it!

It really is quite the heartstring pulling story, so much so that they all have a jillion patents on this ball they really haven't given much thought to. Thankfully, a few honest folks exist out there and explained how it could be done to John Paul Newport for his WSJ column.

"It would be relatively simple to turn down the distance on a driver by 25 yards," said John Rae, vice president for research and development at Srixon. "The two obvious approaches would be to change the dimple pattern and to change the restitution [the elasticity, or speed] of the core. But once we did that, we wouldn't know, out of the gate, what to expect from the rest of the set."

And this...

With enough tweaking, engineers assured me, they eventually could come up with reduced-distance balls that would work, even though the feel and flight characteristics might take some getting used to.

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Reader Comments (36)

Didn't we already have the awesome technology required for a shorter ball? Is it impossible to replicate, say, a Hot Dot and make it standard? Or do we have to go back further, to a Dunlop 65?

I can't imagine there would be a flurry of activity inside labs in the event that we needed to design a car with a lower top speed, or a camera with a lower pixel count.

What's the problem exactly?
03.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBlackballed Vijay
It sounds like a made up problem and it probably is but they would want to build a shorter ball that still had some modern characteristics like a non-scuff cover and a lower spin rate.
03.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrey Lag
Can't wait for the moment the USGA/R&A take the appropriate measures.
Another step would be to put much more emphasis on shot making and on the short game aspects of golf, by re-introducing strategic designed holes, tough green complexes and the opportunity to play shots along the ground. In other words: back to the origins of the game in stead of continuing the dead end of target golf on ridiculously long runways.
03.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMartin
This is a made up problem.We already have these golf balls.We have quite a short range- about 220 yards so we restrict the use of woods.Srixon offered me a choice of balls that wouldn't go as far if we wanted them and Bridgestone could too.This is an even bigger lie than Finchems 20% figure!!
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
This issue demands action now. Mickelson hit a drive 450yds at Doral and the Callaway CPS-450 ball (Cart Path Seeking) he is using just does not look right bouncing bouncing bouncing bouncing down the cart path like that. By all appearances junior players world wide are rapidly adopting the CPS-450 technique and using a Cart Path Seeking ball that allows said player to hit cart paths at a rate never before witnessed in golf at any level. This just does not look right and is unacceptable, it will make me feel a lot better if they ban it.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
I don't see scores tumbling exponentially year by year. Even if they did, what would the problem be if tournaments were won with 28 under par totals?
The advance of equipment, technique, fitness and course conditions is inevitable. Please get over it
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohnnoNB
Johnno, problem is about the rising cost of the game when acreage and maintenance costs keep expanding to accommodate 7500+ yard courses, among other things. Increases water needs too. Also longer harder courses less to longer rounds. Pace of play, cost and water are the three biggest threats to the long-term health of the game. So yes, it's a big deal. It's not just about scoring.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMC
*leads to longer rounds
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMC
Golf has become too slow and too expensive. If the powers-that-be don't do something about it, there'll be no golf in due course. The correction needed starts with the ball and restricting the size of driver heads. Otherwise, not a lot else has to be done. Why is it taking so long for action in this regard?
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
A smart, forward thinking ball manufacturer might consider having a contingency plan for making a limited distance ball. By that I mean having in place a designed ball - prototyped and tested, although they would need to know how many yards to roll back - and a plan for conversion of plant machinery to make the ball.

Of course, it's quite possible the PGA Tour or whatever governing body authorized the restriction would announce that the conversion would take place 5 years hence, giving fair and just time for interested parties to weigh in, as well as threaten legal action.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered Commentergov. lepetomane
What MC said
03.31.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Cleaning out my father's house after he died last year I found enough balata balls to stock the tour for a year or two.
Uh, why not introduce a wound-core ball condition of competition for particular tours or tournaments? That would take the place of a rollback. Wooden bats work for baseball and amateurs could use that ball if they really want to compare their skills to the pros.

Pretty sure those recipes still exist in the manufacturers' cookbooks.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny Revolta'd
''Why is it taking so long for action in this regard?''

Because, like Congress, and American Auto makers, the people in charge have their head stuck up their, I mean in the sand, pure and simple.

''A smart, forward thinking ball manufacturer might consider having a contingency plan for making a limited distance ball. ''/
''...take place 5 years hence, giving fair and just time for interested parties to weigh in, as well as threaten legal action.''

They already have the ball, bet on it./ First we kill the lawyers.

'' a Cart Path Seeking ball ''

Back when I sucked at golf, like when I was playing- I hit a pop up about 300 yards-100 up, 100 down, and 100 forward. Being some 320 yards from the green, I told my partner I was going to hit the path and bounce it on the green, and with daft precision, a small cut, and a perfectly placed 4 wood, I put that sucker about 12 feet from the pin. So, IT COULD HAPPEN!
03.31.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Random question, but why not just restrict the drivers? Smaller heads, lower CoR
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterElf
Two words: Titleist Professional(late 90's)
03.31.2013 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
The big difference of a modern multi-layer ball vs all the pre Pro-V1 sold balls is spin and aerodynamics. And really the key to reigning in the ball is make it spin more off the driver. Right now a lot of these guys are sitting in the perfect 13 degree / 1800 rpm launch and the ball sails out to 300 and rolls because there is little spin left and the conditions are firm and fast.

Now enforce say a minimum of 3500 rpm off a typical tour drive. Lets see the best in the world hit i 300 yards and straight then. I bet they couldn't do it.

Anybody remember the first tour edition? impossible to control spin

03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterErik
The Professional in the late 1990s was a great ball. Behaved well, could bounce off a cart path with very little visible damage...But the likelihood that the machinery required to make wound balls is still in existence is very slim. I bet Wally went all reverse Luddite on it as soon as it became clear that the ProVI was here to stay, with a much larger profit margin to boot. There is also the source of the winding. Probably gone with the wind, too. The engineers will have to develop the solid core equivalent. Which can be done. Or has already been done, as chico notes above.

Greg Norman remembers the Tour Edition. He never knew if it was going to spin back 10 feet or 30 yards...
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
Like Chico said we already have "reduced distance balls" in use at driving ranges that lack space. I used to practice at a range that used these would hit a nice shot that went up in the air toward the target and when the ball reached it's apex it would drop out of the sky like a dead quail! :o)
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D

I'm fairly certain that I read, a number of years ago, that the winding machines had been scrapped. I'm sure, if they had to, the manufacturers could come up with a modern equivalent with enough lead time. Doubt if we'd see balata, though I'm sure science would come to the rescue with a similar synthetic product.

Two things I don't miss about the old balata ball was it going out of round, and the so easy to cut cover.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdgs
What Fred Funk said in 2003 when the new "X" balls came on the market. "Just bring back the balls of 2002 and earlier"!

The double core golf balls enabled the high end swing speeds to achieve ludicrous distances. These "X" balls do nothing for swing speeds 110 MPH and less, meaning the 99% of amateurs can't compress them to activate them. The PGA Tour driving distance stats reveal what happened between 2002 and 2003 with the introduction of "X" balls in 2003. It's ludicrous!
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterFred Funkster
Making a shorter ball is absurdly easy: make it lighter, or make it larger. These in fact already exist on the market -- floating golf balls. Slightly lighter in weight so they float, and these balls go about 10% shorter in distance.

Leave golf balls alone for us amateurs; length is not one of the things we "suffer". Make a pro ball, and leave the ball as it is for the rest of us.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoey
My two cents ...

As stated on this board a bunch of times ... it's not strictly distance that needs a rollback, but added spin as well (larger ball would be my choice at this point).

What about GI irons? Anybody care about pro's using them? Seems to me like there are more and more guys nuking 195y+ 8irons ...
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPepperdine

''That Greg Norman puts too much spin on the ball.''

@Ken Venturi, every short iron shot GN ever hit, where KV was announcing.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Obviously, engineers can fix it, but does anybody think there is a limited flight ball that
has any consistency? we have the Srixons, which are far an away the best we have tested,
but they are horribly inconsistent.

What percentage of active golfers would vote for a roll back?
Not a PGA TOUR survey, Not a Shackelford survey,
a golfers survey.

Golf is a game, AND golf is an industry. If you don't think a huge roll back would hurt the industry, fine.
Why not ask the customers?
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHMMM
@hmm -

good points, but since (most) folks are saying that the pro's alone should be playing with a "reduced" ball, I'm not sure that there would be a large enough impact to "hurt the industry" ... nobody I know plays with that Nike One Vapor (or whatever it is that TW is sportin' nowadays) .. so if he (or insert your favorite pro here) switched to a Titleist Professional 90/whatever ... where would be the harm? Maybe a few less ball choices? I can't afford $5/ball anyway, so I guess I'm not in the "customer base" anyhow! :)
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPepperdine
Chico and KLG: +1 to both....and a half for digs. That was funny.

As for reminiscing about older balls that actually moved...Titleist perfected the would ball in the Tour it the Professional90ver2.0. It was great.

Honest to god true experience. I hung up my full time pro golfer/Tiger wannabe spikes in 1999/early 2000. On a whim in 2001, when I was settled into a dream IT job in a mtn resort town, I entered a monday qualifier for the Payless Open. The first pro-V1 was out by then and everybody but me seemed to be playing it. I had three new sleeves of Tour Prestige 100's and NO ONE would swap 2for1 for some new ammo....the rep was a dick to me BTW.

I only had played about 6 times all year up to that point, and armed with a new Ping ISI 7* toaster driver I thought I was crushing it....and I was compared to my old driver. Then after 3 holes on monday, it was apparent the dudes with the ProV1s were usually 20-25yds past me (very dense air BTW in Victoria, ball goes nowhere normally) and I knew it was the ball since my driver was relatively current at the time. With my irons I was maybe 1/2 to a club shorter than those guys and jerked a few short irons back on soft very soft rainy conditions, the other guys one hopped and stopped it.

Oh what a help it would have been to have those extra yards on the last 3 when I needed to make 2 birdies...made only one naturally. That was the year, IMO, that the pro game changed. I was out of it for maybe 2 years, swing speed was the same, yet I was getting outdriven like a slack armed choirboy on weed.

(This was the ProV1 with the supposed "seaming" problems which was changed to the ProV1star IIRC)
03.31.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Ole Harv done hit the bullseye!
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
I am wondering how many of the folks posting on this thread actually read John Paul Newport's column?

<b>About going back to some old-fashioned design like the Titleist Professional:</b> No, it's a silly notion. We can do better; golf ball design technology doesn't need to go backward. That was the central point of Newport's excellent little essay. That the golf ball equation is terribly complicated, but if we put our minds to it, we could create a golf ball design specification that could successfully roll back the distances of elite players, but leave alone the technologically-irrelevant market of recreational players who hit 200-yard drives.

<b>About rolling back driver specs, particularly driver head size, MoI, and/or CoR/CT:</b> The USGA was unquestionably caught with its regulatory pants down, and Frank Thomas should be called to account for the delay. I think it would be a good idea, conceptually. But unlike urethane balls, I am not so sure, that recreational players don't benefit as much as elites from 460cc driver heads. It might be a good, democratizing technology. I'm not sure. This could be the one and only area wherein bifurcation might be a worthwhile initative. But I'd leave it as a last resort. I hate all bifurcation with a passion. Bifurcation only arises where the USGA has fallen down on the job in other respects. And the last point is the most obvious -- now that we have been producing and selling expensive 460cc drivers for years, who is going to take them away from recreational golfers? That could get ugly. Telling a guy that his $400 driver is going to be illegal.

<b>About having regular recreational players "voting" on golf ball regulations:</b> Those regular recreational players are dumb, mostly. Most of them can't accurately say how far they drive the ball, right now. Most of them don't have GHIN handicaps. Most of them couldn't tell you within 10 strokes what their score will be. Most of them don't buy Pro V1's, right now. Most of them would do better to spend money on replacing the grips that are on their clubs, that don't match and which are all worn out. Most of them haven't taken a lesson in four years. And most of those golfers don't follow the Rules of Golf when they do play. For all of those players, a tweak in golf ball specs, especially a smart tweak with their interests in mind, should mean nothing. No, I don't want those players' views substituted for the USGA Executive Committee.

<b>About a higher-spin regulation for balls:</b> This is an interesting point, and worth discussion. But it would be very tricky. A generalized higher-spin golf ball could play havoc in recreational golf. It would take the guy who can hit a 260-yard drive and make his hook or his slice much worse. The average recreational player who is "aspirational" (Wally Uihlein's famous appellation) fights spin problems off the tee, mostly. Those are the players who are playing with very low-spin non-urethane distance balls. I like the general discussion, but this is the problem.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
Info for what it's worth

At one time, I was a pretty decent player.
Played my best golf with the Maxfli HT, which is still the best ball I ever played IMO.
That ball was made in a plant in Kobe, Japan, and was destroyed by the giant earthquake there.
Maxfli moved manufacturing of the ball to the USA, which changed the ball's playing characteristics
quite a bit. There were a number of players on the tour using the ball, and a good number of them switched balls rather than playing the "new HT.
Maxfli, re-branded the Royal Maxfli (also Japan manufactured, in a different plant) and brought it to the US for many tour pros to use,
they couldn't get the ball made here quite right.

So what? Well, Every ball is a little different, every player has a different set of feels and skills. One competition ball sounds good to some. Personally, I could say, make everybody play a super spinning ball. It will only help me, and punish guys that hit it longer.

Or do you make the Titleist Professional ball for everyone. A ball that did not perform worth a darn for me, or many of the guys who played the Maxfle back then? Seems there is always an ability to discard a few players for our own beliefs in these debates.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHMMM
David Fay in Golf Digest made the most sense for a ball rollback. Basically have a rollback ball, something along the lines of the Professional or a similar ball from the 90's. The ball would be available for anyone to use if they so choose(most obviously would not). It seems pretty simple and keeps the purists or guys that "have to" play the same equipment happy.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
@hmm -

thanks for the interesting response. I was saying "so what" to the major effect to manufacturer bottom lines in regards to a ball bifucation.

I have no doubt that different balls play differently for players. Even I (a hardcore betting, non-GHIN-labelled 17hc) can feel/tell the difference between a premium ball and a rock. I wasn't trying to say that everyone should be specifically playing a Titleist Professional (which I've only ever hit once btw ... skulled the snat out of a findy with my 5i) ... just that there seems to be an issue with the over-engineered ball+over-engineered club+launch monitor+pro combo. Somebody smarter than I am will hopefully come up with a solution before golf becomes: #1. even more boring to watch on TV, #2. even more expensive due to playtime needed+land costs.

As @chuck says - it's not an easy problem to be fixed.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPepperdine
simple, simple, simple......narrow fairways and bunkers with wide tines..........or new sand so it;s a fried egg every time.......
@Steve Wozeniak;

Steve, that's no solution. You are suggesting that we make courses narrower and nastier and more penal, just to combat technology-produced distance, just to check scoring?

That's wrong in every way that I can imagine. We shouldn't need to futz with golf course design to check runaway technology. And we shouldn't be making golf courses more boringly one-dimensional just to hold down scoring. It's not fun; it's not strategic; it's not the way many/most of the championship courses were designed by their original architects.

Good grief. The mere thought of gross alterations of golf courses, for the sake of a $3 or $4 golf ball.
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
So, you call the majority of the golfing public dumb.
And want the USGA Executive Committee to make the decisions.

The same committee that has given us the current rule book, which is in quasi English.
Which give us a radically tortured golf course every year for "their" Championship?
WHo has years to get their championship sites ready, and comes up with an 11th at Shinnecock situation?
WHich has been such a great leader on the equipment to date?
04.1.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHMMM

I never nominated the USGA for sainthood. Perhaps the biggest problem we've seen with the USGA is their failure to do what I am now encouraging them to do; be more proactive in regulating equipment. I just never saw any percentage in ridiculing the USGA, and then hoping for some other agency to more carefully regulate golf equipment.

Re: the Rules of Golf. The worst rules, by far, are the hypertechnical equipment rules which no one could hope to understand. We all simply rely on the USGA and the manufacturers to figuratively hand us compliant equipment at golf shops. The reason that those rules are so bad is because the USGA has had to play catch up, under the fear of lawsuits. Sad, and dundesriable, but true.

Re: dumb recreational golfers. I notice that you didn't like what I wrote, but you didn't show that it was wrong. I think that I was exactly right on all counts.

Re: U.S. Open golf courses. I think you have a good point. They've been tricked up in many cases. I blame the desire to use golf course setups, to defend the grand traditional historic championship golf courses, against advancing golf equipment technology. We agree on the problem, but perhaps not the cause.
04.2.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChuck

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