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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)

Alan, hitting the ball far is a skill. Hitting your irons close is still the ultimate skill in golf. You don't know, proportionately, what the advantage is in golf. Mark Broadie will tell you that 1° more accuracy saves a PGA Tour player 0.8 shots, while 20 yards saves a PGA Tour player… the same 0.8 shots. And hitting your approach shots an average of 4' closer than others is worth even more.

Robo, I don't have to read the rules again. I've been a USGA official at national competitions. It's a Local Rule that's in place during NCAA events, WPGA events, many/most USGA events, and so on. It's only a Local Rule because the R&A don't want it to be a Rule, though the 2019 Local Rules flip this: it will be in place and the Local Rule can restrict it to closely mown areas only.

If you want to play under that Local Rule you're free to do so, even if the ground is rock hard.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
I am in favour of tour players using a restricted flight ball for a number of reasons:

1. The balls of today have made the iconic golf courses a thing of the past. That's a shame.

2. I find it boring to watch the tour pros hit driver, wedge all day. Or if it's a par 5 perhaps they are hitting driver, 5 iron. For me the entertainment value isn't in a long drive, it is in the drama of watching the pros tackle difficult and/or creative shots under real pressure. I find myself not tuning in anymore unless it's to watch the last couple of holes on Sunday where there may be some drama. Or the British Open when the wind blows and the guys have to hit some different shots in difficult conditions - that's fun to watch.

3. Most other sports have a regulation ball that you have to play with. I can't think of a sport other than golf where you get to bring your own ball (save perhaps Tom Brady who seemed ok with some minor modifications to ball pressure).

4. The best players in the game, including the best of all time (Nicklaus, Woods, etc.) are speaking in favour of having a regulated, lower distance, tour ball.

I don't see a lot of downside for a tour ball. Bring the focus back to skills other than driver/wedge and restore the integrity of the great courses. In fact, I can't wait to see it.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDavid
Carl... I understand the hard card and had seen a similar version for another competition years ago when the discussion of bifurcation came up RE the long putters (before we realized the USGA would attack the issue via anchoring instead of maybe putter length)... BUT... in the specimen local rule provided in "Section 3 Course conditions" it lays out when it is supposed to be used. EVERYDAY does not qualify under the conditions they stated. So I guess the upshot is, the USGA is in effect bifurcating it's OWN rule... surprise, surprise...

And as far as in practice... i absolutely agree there's no reason not to have embedded ball through the green all the time. Apparently the USGA agrees as they are going to allow it in the upcoming rule change as I posted above.

But the bottom line on bifurcation.... Maybe this would be the first case of the different ball standards since the old "small ball"... but if the USGA allows, but not requires, the use of a restricted fight ball as a local rule "condition of competition"... then it's not really bifurcation. It's up to the various Tour's to decide to adopt or not.

IMO there are only THREE options for this distance debate... Two of them GOOD by me... one of them BAD


1) Restrict the flight of the ball... or...

2) Accept that scoring is going to go lower and lower and lower as distances continue to increase...


3) Continue to add cost and time to play the game by continuing to add difficulty to courses to combat distance while tricking up existing tracks to play differently than their original design intent in an attempt to control scoring.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRobopz
And as far as in practice... i absolutely agree there's no reason not to have embedded ball through the green all the time. Apparently the USGA agrees as they are going to allow it in the upcoming rule change as I posted above.

The USGA has agreed for quite some time but attempts to move that L.R. into the body of the book have been blocked by a very small number of people from the R&A side of the partnership.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Peterson
Carl... All I can say is these new rules can't come soon enough. Even this tiny area of embedded ball we're discussing is evidence enough. So glad to see it.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRobopz
" 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. "

With all due respect, I hate this argument every time I hear it. Bifurcate already and move on. Many of this "I want to play the same game the pros do" crowd are the same ones who play in a pro-am with the Professional, from the front tees, and then brag after the round that they "beat" their Pro. Or they call a guy on Tour who shoots a 78 a hack and claim "jeez, I can shoot 78." No, you can't shoot a 78 on a tour caliber golf course, in fact you probably wouldn't break 90. And if you took your chop action slap shot to a U.S. Open venue you couldn't break 100, or 110 if you were forced to putt out. Please stop with the "we can't have two sets of rules" argument. The best players in the world play a totally different game than all of the rest. And that includes Club professionals and the top amateurs at most golf courses. Move on.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKPK
David, in golf, the ball is not "shared" equipment. It's personal. Baseball players can use any glove that's within the rules. Or any bat. They can't bring their own ball, because it's shared.

Robo, the USGA is not bifurcating its own rule. You're simply wrong on this, and should accept this and move on. It's an accepted local rule that's on the hard card of many, many organizations. Fully legally and with the USGA's approval.

KPK, no thank you. I don't plan to "move on" just because you've demanded it.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Looking back at the history of equipment regulation over the past 20-30 years, it seems that the R&A was much more "loose" with it and didn't really care much about limiting equipment as much as the USGA. So my guess is the USGA may have been willing to impose limits on the ball long ago, but if the R&A didn't agree, they didn't want to create a split in the rules again.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRoger
I'm yet to see a lucid argument against a distance roll back that recognises any adverse consequences other than potential commercial implications for golf ball manufacturers.
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMatthewM
I've gotten in this debate multiple times. And I will give anybody a nod and say the distance is an issue.
I'm against bifurcation for limited distance.
1) I know of NO members or students who would be excited about hitting a shorter "TOUR" ball. Might try it, but no chance long term
2) older guys hitting it further or as far as they used to, largely because they have dramatically changed their own launch characteristics and are capable of making the adjustments to take advantage of the greater understanding that continues to develop
3) As mentioned by Erik B. The Pinnacles of the 90's go as far or further than the domesticated Pinnacles
4) If you think a ball adjustment is as simple as just do it, you haven't seen very good tour pros sign to play a new ball and struggle. Bubba, Rory and many others have impacted careers with equipment choices made for money. The difference in control of distance, chips, pitches, flyer lies etc, is substantial from a Prov1 to a Prov1x, let alone changing to a limited flight ball
5) IF the tour decides to look in to a shorter distance tour, college, amateur, junior golfers will need to make a huge adjustment choice at some point. There will be an extreme disadvantage for any player needing to make the adjustment moving on to the new "shortened" level
6) The USGA makes the rules of golf, NOT the rules of the PGA Tour. They choose to play by those rules right now
7) Professional golf is distance centric to many, but being able to control distance on shots is a huge part of being successful
8) the ball can't be curved....unless we are arguing about safety and setbacks for average golfers. THEN the ball goes too far off line

I have more haha but go ahead and roll it back for everyone. Save the Merions of the world. It's funny on blogs like this where the leader, and a number of his followers seem mad about something in professional golf all the time, but are entirely focused on changing the tour to meet their vision, while keeping the new toys for themselves (bifurcation)!
Tiger changed the approach to a lot of the professional game. His first win at Augusta created the first reaction (or overreaction) to distance. We have to TIGERPROOF Augusta!!!! Make it longer, tougher, tighter!!!! The embarrassment felt at Augusta was with a Titleist Professional, short and crazy stiff steel shafted driver (much smaller head than today), and blades. The response to Tigerproof , in part, led to the best players and the equipment companies looking for more distance and height. The players found it.

Sucks to admit it, but the players make the adjustments better than average golfers. Go ahead and change their equipment, but they won't be playing the game you are any more, even if your egos feel better that they got moved back your direction!
11.21.2017 | Unregistered CommenterP Thomas
One of the things that separated Jack from the rest, was how high he could hit his long irons into greens and stop the ball. Now technology makes it easy for everyone to do it. This alone shows how the best players are less skilled than before. Why use a sniper when you can nuke the whole area ?
The first thing is roll back 10 % and add spin. Golf must protect its heritage, golfers before us have placed trust in us to protect the game, not bastardise it.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
We had bifurcation in the past. The US had the 1.68 ball and the rest of the world had the 1.62 ball. From 1974, the Open Championship was played with the larger ball whilst the average club golfer in Europe continued to use the smaller ball until the end of the 1980's.

The fact that the US pros, before 1974, had to change to the smaller ball, didn't stop them consistently winning the Open, whilst playing with it just once a year.

I don't remember there being a massive uproar when the 1.62" ball was banned. We just moved on..

I don't know why everyone is so fixated by distance? Isn't there so much more to the game than just that? If I want to watch long drives, I'll watch the World Long Drive championships.

The ball debate will never go away, it's been around for more than 100 years. The result is that courses have got longer, rounds take longer, the game becomes more expensive until it reaches a point when people start getting turned away from the idea of taking up golf. In my opinion, we are reaching that point...........
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDR
I love golf-its my life-but I'm very,very bored with tournament golf. I'm a bifurcator(!?) because I don't think the public would stand reigning back equipment-I would prefer it to be for all though. I played 4 sports at regional level-golf,rugby,cricket and tennis. Golf was the one that really got me though and it was the only one where I represented my country. What really attracted me was the challenge of golf-it was a difficult game where skill and strategy were really at a premium. I loved the challenge of getting better by improving my skills-ok I never got to the top but I played ok for a while. I admire todays players-they are fit, strong and technically very proficient but their golf leaves me cold. Anyone who thinks that todays drivers aren't MUCH easier to hit is delusional. Anyone who thinks that hybrids aren't MASSIVELY easier to hit is delusional. Lob-wedges require less skill than an open face sand iron with bounce! the low spinning ball is WAY easier to control. Its hard to know who the really good players are versus the merely competent. I was anti Tiger proofing courses-he was better than the rest-he deserved his success but perversely now all we have is distance and the ability to control that.I think we have taken too much skill out of the elite game.Tiger would have won even more had we controlled equipment. I marvel at the modern players ability to strike a ball-one of my members/pupils has just got his tour card and he hits it distances I've only dreamt about-but if it wasn't for the fact that I've known him 15 years and I want him to do well I wouldn't even cross the road to watch him.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered Commenterchico
I've said it before and I'll say it again.

Reduce the size of the driver and make the ball spinnier. The longest hitters will still the longest hitters but won't be able to hit it as far as they do now. And the shortest hitters will still be the shortest hitters but will still hit it about as far as they do now. It really is that simple.
I guess I don't get the point about the Pinnacles of the 90s. Nobody played those rocks even in high school back (and shooting 84 didn't have you looking over your shoulder at the JV team.)
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDon
Chico, most people I know feel the same. Dont watch many tournaments on telly now and I'm a golf nut. Its like watching robots. We've was right when he wanted maximum loft of 56 on a wedge. I think tournament golf is in trouble because equipment has enabled all the top plauers to play the same way. Only when they lise money will they change things imo.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
NTG, that's not even close to fair.

And any change to the golf ball is going to punish certain classes of golfer - there are higher spin players now, lower spin players, lower trajectory players, higher trajectory players, players like Bubba who rely on more curve, players who hit it almost straight… Around the greens play varies too.

And chico, give me a break with the lob wedge stuff. A tour player can hit flop shots with their 5I if they wanted to… because I can hit flop shots with my 5I. The 4 degree difference is not a major factor at all in scoring. Ditto to you Easingworld.

Don, the point is that "the ball" is not the blame entirely, and if the Pinnacles of the 90s were legal then, there's nothing to "roll back" to because the ODS was in place back then as it is now. Companies have still figured out how to change the outside of those Pinnacles so they spin on shorter clubs. There's no standard to which you can "roll back." And those 90s Pinnacles go just as far now, by everyone, as a modern ball, because drivers are larger, lighter, longer. Players are more fit. Players understand launch conditions more. Etc.

It's not just the ball.

And I'm against bifurcation for the reasons P Thomas laid out (and more).

I too am tired of seeing robots playing on the PGA Tour, but unfortunately modern media punishes anyone who isn't a robot. We're lucky we still get Jordan Spieth occasionally saying "dammit Jordan" or whatever, though even he has commented about his need to settle down. The Patrick Reeds, the Sergio Garcias… we rip into anyone who ISN'T a robot these days. Their robotic behavior has nothing to do with the ball.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski

Not following you on what is not fair about what I said. But that's probably just me, lol.

And regarding the different classes of players that you describe, there has always been different classes of players and always will be no matter what equipment is, or was, being used.
We've was meant to read Seve. Sorry about that.
Erik, its good you can flop with a 51, that takes more skill than using a lob wedge. I'll take what Seve said about it over Most, no disrespect. So with that in mind, do you agree equipment makes it easier to score at the top than it used to ?
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
"the point is that "the ball" is not the blame entirely"

Gotcha thank you. I do think that goes w/o saying on a golf blog in 2017.

Hard fairways. Optimal launch. Swinging as hard as you can since birth because there is no downside. Better balls. Better drivers. Better drugs. It doesn't really matter.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDon
Eric!!! Of course you can! So can I! But I can do it easier with a sand iron and even easier with a lob wedge. That wasn't your strongest argument.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Erik, do you think with a modern driver (.083 COR which is that no more than 83% of the energy in the collision of the driver head with a golf ball is transferred from the head to the ball) that someone with 105 mph clubhead speed will achieve the same "springlike effect" as someone with 120 mph?
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTexaswedge

Not sure about the driver face, but I believe the ball COR declines as speed increases. Very slightly, but a decrease.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJS
Obviously there is a big gap here between golfers and golf tech junkies. People who have a vested interest in peddling golf tech aren't likely to be in favor of getting rid of golf tech. :)
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused
The best players are the best putters. (See Jordan Spieth). Not the longest hitter. Changing balls and equipment have nothing to do with who is that guy or gal who can read greens, and that 65 footer that drops has ALWAYS been exciting to watch! No matter if it's 2017 or Jack's last Masters.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRoute 66
"The fact that the US pros, before 1974, had to change to the smaller ball, didn't stop them consistently winning the Open, whilst playing with it just once a year." - DR

All players had the ball option when playing in events that were under R&A rules. No switching allowed during a round.

Ball size (large, 1.68 inches) became standard (pros and ams) in 1990.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
Chico, the point was that 4° seems like a bizarre hill on which to choose to die. Limit wedges to 56° and I don't think you're going to see a noticeable change.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Isn't bifurcation, basically punishing players for being able to athletically do something others cannot do?

From what I've seen, clubbed speed increases lead to more ball speed if hit solidly, at just under 3mph (ball speed) per 1 MPH of clubbed speed?

So, in effect, you really want players to swing slower?
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterP Thomas
Confused, who here is peddling golf tech?

Texaswedge, JS has it right. (And it's 0.83, not 0.083). It's not linear and it certainly doesn't tick above linear, it tracks slightly further below linear with higher clubhead speeds.

Route 66, you're wrong. The best players are the best ballstrikers (drivers, approach shots).

And yeah, the 1974 British Open and every one after that was conducted with the larger ball.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Eric-Cant argue that the wedge only makes a small difference. But over 100 shots it would make a difference. It was just an example of another way in which the game has become less difficult.I could have mentioned putters, shafts, agronomy etc, etc. I would agree ball striking has improved significantly-but it would have been hard for it not to! I just don't enjoy the sanitised product we have ended up with.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered Commenterchico
@P Thomas -

How is anyone being "punished"? They would all be playing with the same equipment. It is up to the individual player to decide how hard they want to work at maximizing their skill with that equipment.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused
My sense is that bifurcation, in some form (only balls, clubs & balls, etc.) will happen in direct correlation to the major Tours losing TV money and not until. The chatter about distance,boring play, boring players, lack of skill and so on, has been going on for quite some time, yet nothing, absolutely nothing has happened.

The pro game at the highest level is show biz and distance puts fans at the events and watching on the tube. Equipment manufacturers are loving it since a lot of folks run out and buy this stuff so they can hit it like Dustin. Sure. The Tour venues may be feeling the stress of the added distance, but not at the vast majority of public and private clubs, where 6000-6200 yards is still plenty long for those players.

The economic question, as yet unanswered, about rolling back the ball, etc., is whether people will attend/watch the Tour events when the average drive is 280. Many on this site might, but I'm guessing we're in the very small minority. My data-less guess is that the current viewership falloff has more to do with short attention spans and casual fans than boredom with "driver-wedge." Maybe it's the perfect storm: knowledgeable fans tuning out from boredom and casual fans tuning out because there are many other things to do for four-six hours.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPops
I guess pushing to have the best players use slowed down gear. while leaving everyone else to the benefits seems to me,
given we've always played the same rules, to be forcing a solution at <1%

And again, I'm okay with a distance adjustment across the board. It will impact the business of golf negatively, and could create a rules governing fiasco, but the governing bodies are already a fiasco.

We blame equipment too much without crediting golfers' improvement athletically. Too many simplistic solutions such as the groove rule, that aren't looking at the multiple reasons for the distance increases.
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterP Thomas
"We blame equipment too much without crediting golfers' improvement athletically."

11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKPK
@kpk -

I was just laughing at this while discussing Colin Montgomerie's freshly tailored training regimen which helps both his weight and carry distance to top out around 285. At this rate, he's gonna be Jabba the Driver in 2026 knocking it onto adjoining courses.

Mike Austin, eat your heart out.

It's about the athleticism. With a hearty helping of gear effect. :)
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused
So, you don't believe, even fat Monty has the athletic ability to learn how to take advantage of the combination of driver/shaft/ball
to be able to hit it further than he did with heavier, shorter drivers that were weighted poorly and launched golf balls with different "ideals" when he was younger?

Athleticism in my comments fwiw, is about the ability to maximize one's swing and launch characteristics to take advantage of the equipment
But your comments actually confirm my belief that some want to blame the ball, maybe the driver, but dismiss the best players abilities to adapt, learn and maximize.....
11.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterP Thomas
2 points; 1, 60 year old pros hit it further now than in their prime on tour. That's equipment and nothing else.
2, the top classic courses don't test today's pros because of the equipment. So do we change the equipment ? Or the great courses they have been tested on for over 100 years ?
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
All very interesting but the problem with todays game is a combination of issues, - yes distance is a serious problem, but it could be addressed by more courses designed for golf not todays super easy smooth courses that have very few hazards apart from around the Greens. We need to design courses that can defend themselves from the long ball, however if the game is to pull in more golfers, we need to accept that ball travel is too long and that strategic has failed and we need more penal within the design.

The aerial game can be controlled by some simple clever designs, however there seems to be a total refusal to do so - as with controlling the ball. Lots of talk but very little action - nothing new there.
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
It is equipment.
The manufacturers have unreal R and D. The ability to research every aspect of club and ball has completely changed a tour players "ideal" shot.
Back in the glory days, players had basic specs they wanted, but for drivers, "it has to look good" was a big part of testing. Guys would hit numerous drivers to find "the one", and when they found it, would hang on to it like grim death. Refinishing, repairing cracked faces, anything to keep it together. When it finally broke, it was like a death in the family for some.

Now players go to test. They know their optimal numbers, and test drivers that a) hit the optimums and B) can repeatedly hit the optimum "stock" shot.

From 1980s to the mid 1990s, the ideal tee shot started to change a little. But it was still spinning, and lower launching for most.
Today, players are generating more clubhead speed, and most focus is on developing speed. But the ideal tee shot is now significantly higher, with significantly less spin than the generations many want to see distance wise.

Lighter clubs that are stable
Bigger heads
Better design and understanding of ball flight
Faster clubhead speeds
Perfectly fit ball
High stimp fairways
Wider is better design ideals
Bigger stronger players

Now the question Is the PGA TOUR golf? Roll back the distance for everyone, and let the tour figure it out.
If distance is hurting golf, fine. But if everyone is wringing their hands over the tour only (bifurcation) I don't understand.
The PGA tour is not golf. Golf is at the courses around the world every day, not a tv event
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterP Thomas
P Thomas, distance isn't "hurting golf."

At most, distance is _affecting_ 0.01% of golfers. 99.99% of golfers don't hit the ball "too far." 90% of golfers are probably perfectly well challenged from < 6500.
11.23.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski

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