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Ogilvy On Pro Golf: "We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums."

Add Geoff Ogilvy (again) to the onslaught calling for professionals to be regulated.The timing now, however, adds to the sense the game's best thinkers have finally conceded something needs to change.

Martin Blake, reporting from the Australian Open, on Ogilvy's comments in response to recent remarks of the USGA Executive Director.

“Major league baseball in America they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters. We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

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Reader Comments (96)

Wont the short hitters be the same distance behind the "bombers" if they changed a golf ball? But I digress...

No idea why Geoff - or Geoff - or anyone else doesn't want to address the issue of course setup over the last 8-10 years. Anyone that watches more than ten minutes of golf can see how wide the fairways are and how *rock solid* they are. How about softening them up so that the pros aren't getting 40-50 yards of roll on every tee ball? I've mentioned before about going to the Players and walking across the 16th fairway. Its like concrete with a few grass shavings sprinkled on top.

Whats next, restricting the amount of hours guys can spend in the weight room? Twenty years ago, courses weren't like this. So yeah the ball has changed. But the setup has changed exponentially more in my opinion.

I wonder if this is what happened to basketball back in the day. Oh my god guys are DUNKING a basketball! How is that fair? Just because they are in better shape and can jump higher than other players, that seems UNFAIR to us.

(btw good luck finding a major ball company that will support this though. Tough to market it to your customers, 99.99% of whom don't want to hit it shorter)
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMC
MLB had the foresight never to allow aluminum bats.
MLB did, yes, but the cat is out of the bag. Had the driver been capped at 43" and 300cc, I don't know if we'd be having this problem.

People keep harping on the ball, but as MC points out, the athletes got better. The conditions of the golf course changed. Drivers got longer, lighter, and larger. Launch monitors and our understanding got better. Distance became known as a benefit over accuracy.

Ogilvy should work on his game a bit more.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
It seems the distance question is gaining momentum the last few weeks. I agree with the majority of posters that the issue is only an issue for a very very small percentage of the best players. That said, I think there are merits to addressing - all of the sustainability factors that Geoff and others have detailed regarding land use, water etc as courses have grown, but also to make the game many of us watch on television just a bit more relatable to the one we play ourselves. I think Nicklaus was quoted years ago to the effect of in the 60s and 70s (and of course, that was his prime), he could do an outing at a course, and often play with the host pro or club champ, and they were kind of playing the same game from a distance perspective - Jack was longer, but not absurdly so. Now, for the majority of us, the game we watch is light years away from what any of us play. And I do think that this has affected participation to some degree. And I still believe (but this is anecdotal) that any rollbacks would have a much lesser impact on amateur distance than professional, because the ball is only one part of the equation. You have the best athletes, with the best technique, swinging the lightest clubs with the longest shafts and largest heads - so in addition to the fact that they are now playing a top flight that spins like a tour balata (as someone noted in the comments on another post), they can swing the driver as hard as they want with very little fear of a snap hook or any other sort of brutal foul ball ,,,,that to me is the fundamental shift for the pros .... it is not only the ball, it is the driver that they can swing at maximum efficiency wit this ball.

Try it yourself if you haven't in awhile - I do it a few times every year, and just played 54 holes at the end of the season where I live. Persimmon, stiff flex steel. Good hits on average were within 10-15 yards of my "normal" driver, the best hits within 5 yards. but there was no way I could swing as confidently (ie hard) on a consistent basis - the misses are way too frequent....and boy were my arms tired after swinging that lumber for 3 days lol

But therein lies the rub, and why I am (a) skeptical and (b) somewhat understanding of Wally's position (biased as he is) ....I am not sure you can only address the ball if you really want to deal with "distance", but I also don't see how you can put the horse back in the barn on graphite, titanium and 460 cc club heads.....I'll play a shorter ball, I always did in the days of balata, when I had options like DT Titleist's available. I just don't think that the ball alone is going to address it. Hope I'm wrong.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPaul W
Personally I don't want to watch a Masters where DJ is only hitting it 250-260 or so...because that means there are guys not breaking 200 off the tee, or darn near close. Sorry but that's not fun for me to watch and I'd be willing to bet a majority of golf fans - IE golfers who aren't on message boards lol - feel the same.

Augusta cant have it both ways. They cant be so proud of their rock hard, canted fairways but at the same time be whining about how far the ball goes there. Boo hoo. How about this, raise your mower heights. **Water the grass**. Problem solved. But there's no chance they will do either of those things. Sawgrass is the same way. How about dropping some water on the 16th fairway so guys aren't getting 80-100 yards of perfect roll.

No matter what they do, there are always going to be DJs and Koepkas out there...and the beauty of golf is that they can compete with the Zach Johnsons of the world each and every week. Do you really want to watch a tour event where the bottom third of guys have to hit fairway woods into par 4s and almost no par 5 is reachable for them? Personally, I don't.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMC
**Water the grass**

Where pray tell is that water going to come from? Golf courses must adopt a mind-set of using water with extreme restraint. As USGA senior agronomist Chris Hartwiger says, over the next 20 years, it won't be possible to maintain golf courses the way they've been maintained for the past 20, in part because of the scarcity and cost of water. We golfers are going to have to learn to live with that fact.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterCD
USGA Announces New Limited Distance Ball Ruling:
1. Everyone named Geoff needs to play a limited distance ball.
2. That is all.
Water the fairways. I didn't say, drench them with water every day. There's a fine line and courses like Augusta and Sawgrass go way over it when it comes to having rock hard fairways.

The USGA report doesn't say, never water your fairways again.

How much would it cost Augusta to raise their mower heights a few mm? Nothing.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMC

HAHAHA! You act like fairways used to be slow and wet. Fairways in the past were far more firm and bouncy prior to the many improvements in irrigation and agronomy. You never hear of people talking about "hardpan" now days. Also, your info on Augusta is woefully inaccurate. They have been growing the fairway cuts for years and have been mowing the fairways TOWARDS the tees in order to reduce roll. All of this tricking up of golf courses is being done instead of addressing the real issue. But no, lets waste MORE of the world's precious water. Yeah THAT'S the answer! *insert eye roll emoji here*
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterStephen
Haha more golf whining from The 2 Geoff’s, one who lost his game and one who never had one. The fact is Golf blogs have zip to write about so bring up the ball issue that’l generate some clicks. Where’s the owner of this blog Callaway Golf hiding? Crickets. They keep paying Shack and he keeps pocketing the cash. One of the major offenders of distance and equipment sponsors this site. And the clones keep buying into it. How many shares of Callaway stock do you own Shackelford? Go ahead and delete this and keep the sugar daddy happy and keep bashing Titleist it’s all their fault, lol.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMannyMoe&Geoff
Sure, there are many reasons why players are hitting the ball further today; longer shafts, graphite instead of steel, larger heads, larger sweet spots, better launch angles etc but the ball is the major contributor.

The "better athlete" doesn't cut it for me. A couple of years ago, I carried out my own experiment. I'm mid 50's now with 40 years of golf. I hit a combination of balata's and ProVI's with both a persimmon driver and today's driver. Persimmon & balata, 220 yards. Modern driver & balata, 230 yards. Persimmon & Pro VI, 260 yards. Modern driver & Pro VI 275 yards.

What's wrong with some guys hitting fairway woods into par 4's? One of the most memorable shots I ever saw was Corry Pavin's fairway wood into 18 at Shinnecock to win the US Open. That shot will remain in my memory far longer than any shot hit by Brooks Koepka...

People ask why the average handicap hasn't come down with the improvements in technology. For a start, the courses we are now playing are way longer than 25 years ago, the fairways are narrower to reduce scoring, and the greens have been made much faster. Impact, increased maintenance costs, longer rounds, less fun and higher costs.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDR
DR, prove it.

I have. I've had PGA Tour pros hit a 1990s Pinnacle. Guess what? It went just as far as a modern ball. A ball that was perfectly legal in 1995 goes just as far now.

Why? Because of all the things you listed (and more). It's not "just the ball," nor is the ball the "major contributor."
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Also, the average handicap HAS gone down in the last 20 years. You're wrong about that, too.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
MC-don't think anybody is suggesting going back to 1857! Certainly not me! Are you suggesting you wouldn't have enjoyed a Masters with Palmer Seve Jack etc playing? All that is being suggested is that equipment is kept in check so that a 7000/72000 yard course is plenty long enough to test the best without the need for knee high rough, marble greens and 20yd wide fairways. You cant stop people getting bigger,stronger,fitter,better but you can keep the playing field relevant. The ball gets a bad rap because its cheap to buy and fairly easy to alter but at elite level big drivers, lob wedges ,hybrids etc have all conspired to deskill the game.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered Commenterchico
"big drivers, lob wedges ,hybrids etc have all conspired to deskill the game"

@chico "deskill"??? There is tons of skill in the modern game. Possibly you no longer possess this skill? Possibly the game has passed you by and it annoys you? Seve is no longer with us. Have you heard?
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill Wilson
I love all of these guys with axes to grind getting on here and telling us that we are so wrong. The truth is that technology is making this game unsustainable. Suck up your ego and the sky will not fall if you no longer drive the ball 300+ yards. The equipment is out of control. Perfect stat, look at the driving distance of pros in the 80s and 90s and then look at the same pro's current driving distances. Notice anything wrong? I can tell you that Craig Stadler is not in better shape now than he was when he won the Masters. Why then does he drive the ball further now? Hmmm.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterStephen
@Erik -

What is your problem with bifurcation? All your "students" will still buy whatever you're peddling, right? So - let the pros (the real ones) play with stuff that challenges them the most, while bringing out their best for us to enjoy and emulate. You can keep selling those key things that hang off a persons bag ... 'cuz I know from personal experience .. there's nothing that really helps you feel confident on the golf course like a bunch of swing keys.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused
@MC/Erik -

As mentioned a zillion times on here ... its not just about a distance "rollback". It's about spin. If you can whale at the ball and still keep it on the planet with increased spin (Hogan, Nicklaus, Norman, Daly, Woods, etc.) - then have at it. Across the board though, most players will need to dial it back since every slight mistake at impact will be magnified.

Again - this is with bifurcation in mind ... so, please understand that you and your buddies (and/or "students") can continue to play with whatever they want. To be honest - wouldn't bifurcation actually HELP you?? Then there would be no regulation on amateur equipment at all - so rocket ship drivers and titanium balls, and 22 clubs for everyone.

As for the "cat is out of the bag" argument .. that's not even an argument. It's a pathetic copout and truly shows how little you care aboout golf. You care about your personal agenda (ego, students, etc etc) more .... some of us don't.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused
Why is it that WE want the pros to be challenged?

I simply cannot believe the idea of watching a guy on TV hit 2 or 3 clubs more into a green will somehow make it more interesting viewing.

Philosophically, I get the argument that the best players playing the best courses would be the ultimate in viewership experience...but the best players will counter with being entertainers (we cannot argue) and that long drives / close approaches / exciting recovery shots are the most entertaining aspect of watching golf. Rolling back the ball 10% or 20% doesn't accomplish any of that.

The sustainability argument is a non-starter because these are individual course decisions.

When I want to hit a longer club into a green I hit a shorter club off the tee...and it's fun.

The easiest fix of all is to get comfortable with the idea of 20 under par majors...and it's FREE.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJS
Oh, Confused, revealing yourself to be an ass while hiding behind an anonymous name… how brave. (We never "sold" the keys, players earned them for a time, and 5SK was the best-selling instructional DVD on the market for over three years, and it's the foundation of what we teach to our clients, including some of those "real pros," every day of the week. So… take your shots, including whatever it is you're trying to say in the second post. I really couldn't care less.).

I'm against bifurcation for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that playing the same stuff and having the same rules as the pros is part of the appeal of the sport, it's part of what makes a lot of players attracted to it. Additionally, players on the cusp will be continually disadvantaged flipping between the bifurcated balls.

And why on earth you think bifurcation means "no regulation on amateur equipment" is beyond me.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
A lot of the commenters on this thread obviously know little about golf - pretty arrogant some of them too with their comments about the 'Geoffs'. The fact is the nature of the game has been changed. When was the last time DJ or Justin Thomas had to hit a 4 iron into a par 4? They can whale at it because the modern ball does not curve like the ball of 30 years ago. Nobody in their right mind is arguing that the handicapper doesn't need the help of modern equipment or that it should be taken away. The answer is obviously to introduce different classes of golf ball and enforce that tour players in tour events play with a ball from a designated class. This ball would have to conform to slightly different flight characteristics that retain the balance between power, accuracy and touch.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterAlan
@Erik -

You think I'm hiding?? And I'm the only one "being an ass"?? Check your mirror man. Might be time for some actual self-reflection. It's hard work though - can't just buy a new self-image every year. I'm not peddling anything like you are .... I care about golf and the people who play it and watch it. You seem to care about ... you and your dollars. Did you ignore what I said about bifurcation again? Ever read any Harvey Penick? Likely not - since he's too old-school and the cat is surely out of the bag with old teachers and such, right?

I'm Rob Berney - from Edmonton, AB, Canada. Also known around the intertubes as LiquidKaos. Come find me!!
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused

What "balance" is it that you refer to?
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJS
Due to saftey, it's more important that MLB dumb down bat speed. Pitchers are 66 feet from the batter. Basemen, baserunners, coaches about 90 feet. Also, there were several occasions this year when young fans got injured. They may've been killed with aluminum bats. Who wants to test that.

That said, golf fans are not without injury from wayward shots. So far, golf has been lucky with regard to fatalities. Spectators are helped some by not being in the direct vision of the player. Ball trajectory aids some, too.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
@Erik -

Funny ... you say you give away these swing keys ... then brag about how it was the top-selling whogivesasht for however-long-of-a-period.

Bifurcation has been done in lots of other sports. Why not golf? You just sound lazy, or with an overarching agenda. You're not a solution guy - you're a "poke holes" in everything kinda guy.

Also - if you're so deadset against any type of change .... why are you even on here reading this stuff? Don't you have a Flammer to sell somewhere?

As for the "amateur not having regulations" jibe ... well, that was purely sarcasm. I agree that playing the same equipment as the pros can be an attraction .. I guess you're missing the part where THEY (amateurs) STILL COULD. Play whatever you want ... if you want to pretend you're Jason Day - play with his clubs. Might be harder for you though - might have to get better. That's all. Now go teach that to one of your "students".
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused
Alan, what you say is "obvious" is simply your opinion. Others disagree.

Rob, buddy, I didn't ignore what you said about bifurcation. I've commented on it several times. I'm against bifurcation for a number of reasons. And yes, I've read Penick's stuff.

As for the rest… man, good luck with everything. I wish you the best.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
I fail to see why there is such animosity by some to the development of a second "reduced distance" for use on some older courses by elite players. The USGA is going to hold the US Open at Pebble Beach in 2019. Pebble is listed at just over 7,000 yards from the championship tees. That is far too short for a national championship for elite players, unless the course is set up to take driver out of the hands of the players.

I was watching a video of Rory McIlroy practicing at Quail Hollow before the PGA this year. He was carrying his 3-wood 300 yards, and his driver about 350. Maybe that was downwind, and maybe he is one of the truly exceptional, but with distances such as those it is no wonder that the USGA went to 7,800 yard Erin Hills to see how a long course would play for the US Open. How did that work out? Many would conclude that the course was not long enough.

Sure, you can make the fairways 15 yards wide and grow the rough to 8"; heck you can make the fairways really narrow and they will have to hit 5-iron off the tee. I don't think that's entertaining.

There can be a second ball, a restricted driver head size, and a lower COR for elite players. (All of that wouldn't affect most of us one iota, but I digress.) Yes, the players are better conditioned, and the shafts are much better, and the quality of any equipment is going to be better for today's players. The Tour will not have to conduct most of their tournaments with said equipment, but it would be welcome to have equipment specifications for historic courses. And perhaps the national championships.

Adjusting from one ball to another? Nothing to it. These guys are good, and they can adjust in a matter of days.

If the best are truly entertainers, I want to see them duly challenged.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHardy Greaves
Rob, dude, very quickly… the plastic keys were given away when students mastered a Key. DVDs were sold, and I got all of $0 from their sales. All good here.

Golf isn't other sports. We have one (or two, but the rules are unified) ruling bodies. MLB controls only MLB, really. That's one of the things I love most about golf: the rules are the same throughout.

I'm not a "solution" guy? I don't see a problem so why would I propose a solution? My solution: keep things as they are. And Rob, if you're able to calm down, what in the heck would my "overarching agenda" be?

Again, best wishes. You seem to need 'em.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
@Erik -

Cool man ... I didn't mean to get so heated, it's a passionate subject, lol ... it just seems like you're ignoring a large part of what people on here are saying (at least me, lol) ... regarding bifurcation specifically. The high-capper can still play WHATEVER THEY WANT. Pro-level, not pro-level, etc. It might even give them MORE pride/accomplishment to know they are getting the most out of THEMSELVES by using weapons that are not so forgiving. Makes you a better overall player to boot (which most on here can attest to).

Anyways - cheers. Apologies.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused
@Erik -

As for the "overarching agenda" - that was just a guess. Maybe it's just laziness or ego. ;) The way it has been is the only way it could ever be ....

11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused
Rob, amateurs can play whatever they want now. I'm still opposed to bifurcation for a number of reasons, including the idea that a lot of the appeal to many is that they're playing under the same set of rules with the same gear and can try to hit the same exact shots. Golf has effectively one set of rules.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
@Erik -

But, the high-capper can do what you're saying under our "bifurcation" scenario too. It's personal choice ... but not for Touring pro's. That's it.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused
I don't understand why bifurcation is such an objectionable topic. Don't people realize we already have it in some respects?

Take the PGAT embedded ball thru the green rule. Find that one in the USGA rule book. Rhetorical... Because you can't, it's not in there, not in the approved local rules either. (Which allows for embedded ball relief thru the green in adverse conditions only, not every day like the PGAT does it.)

Granted, bifurcation of the ball is a bigger deal, but it wouldn't be the precedent setting.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRobopz
Two sets of rules is two sets of rules. Ams can play with a wooden bat in their church league… doesn’t mean they’re playing the same game as the pros.

That’s not my only objection either. Heck, we’d perhaks have to double rate every set of tees, or quadruple if you count women. And other reasons beyond that.

We disagree. That’s fine. Or I’m fine with it anyway. I’m not trying to convert or convince you. Just quickly stating my position. Getting tedious though, and my kid’s home from school now.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Robi, sorry, but the embedded ball rule can be used by any committee. It’s the first one under “Course Conditions” and can be put into play if the committee thinks balls will plug outside fairways. It’s on the hard card of two organizations for which I volunteer/work here. You got that one wrong.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski

the balance whereby going into a given tournament you did not have a scenario whereby only a small percentage of the field had a shot at winning. E.g. How many guys had a legitimate shot at Erin Hills this year? Could Corey Pavin (20 years younger) playing his best golf have had a shot. I don't believe so.
Don't get me wrong, there should be a reward for being a long hitter but it should not be so proportionately bigger than the reward for being a great putter, short game wizard or iron player.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterAlan
Erik... Read the local rule again... it states the use of embedded ball through the green is in cases of "Course conditions, including mud and extreme wetness, may interfere with proper playing of the game and warrant relief for an embedded ball anywhere through the green."

But the PGAT uses it EVERY DAY... even in perfect conditions. PS... It'll be a moot point with the new rules anyway... as embedded ball relief in what we now call "through the green" will be allowed anyway... "New Rule 16.3 would allow relief for a ball embedded anywhere in the “general area” (that is, the area currently known as “through the green”), except when embedded in sand"

PSS... And actually... if the USGA rules were modified to allow for the use of an approved restricted flight ball as a "condition of competition"... then technically it wouldn't be bifurcation.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRobopz
Robopz, the USGA uses that local rule every day too[1] (and recommends that it be used every day).

Logically, what would be harm in adopting the L.R. ? If the conditions are so dry that balls aren't going to embed then the
L.R. won't get used and if conditions are wet enough to merit adoption then it should be adopted and may be used.

[1] 2017 USGA Hard Card showing constant use of the referenced L.R.:
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Peterson
I just read a comment saying that the solution to this problem should be to soften the courses to make them play longer instead of changing the ball. That person clearly knows nothing about golf.
There needs to be a serious discussion about this issue. It has reached levels that are completely out of control. And, I completely agree with Ogilvy in the sense that many of the greatest courses (stadiums) are already out of the picture because of not being long enough.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterAO
@Erik -

I don't mind the convo .... and you're not going to convince me how impossible it is to make a change. I just don't think it's as hard as you seem to do to accomplish this ... the high-cappers that want to play by the pro rules will do so. Other peoples, who aren't usually playing by all the Rules anyways ... can do whatever they want and have fun.

Take care. :)
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused

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