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Flashback: Tiger's Been Pro-Rollback For Over A Decade

There has been healthy debate about Tiger's suggestion that "we need to do something about the ball", with many suggesting that an older, shorter Woods is merely hoping to negate the distance edge of younger peers.

While that's a reasonable kneejerk reaction, Wood has been on the record for over a decade that the ball doesn't spin as much and that classic courses are in danger. While he generally tip-toed around the topic, it was fairly clear how he felt: the pro game is less interesting with less spin.

I often felt he shied away from the topic in fear of sounding like someone who saw some of his skill advantage stripped away from the modern ball--though he would have been correct.

Anyway, sadly some of the links I posted on The List are no longer functional a decade past, but that's why we transcribe! From September 2005:

Hey, I am one of the guys that if they did roll the ball back, it would help me out a little bit. I would have an advantage. Any long guy who hits the ball long and high would have more of an advantage because now we're having to hit longer irons in the greens, other guys are having to hit hybrids and woods, so you have an advantage.

From a personal standpoint and competitive standpoint, I won't mind them rolling the ball back because I would have an advantage.

Also, Woods included a lengthy and illuminating chapter in his 1997 Masters book earlier this year that goes into great depth about why he sees the situation not helping the sport. It is not a coincidence that he's reached a stronger conclusion than a decade ago since he's gone into golf course design.

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Reader Comments (19)

why, why, why !
all these years grow the game. now save the courses .
go as far as you can with Technology, throw out half the pages in the rules book.
11.6.2017 | Unregistered Commentersidvicius
The Shot Link data from the past bears out what TW was saying. He gained shots vs the field in almost every category, but his advantage with long irons in his hands was as much as all other factors combined.
Nobody is going to disadvantage themselves voluntarily. Remember Tiger was one of the first to stop using the wound ball, however the game is not going to disintegrate.

Autumn is here, competition season is over, one course that I play has lost control of it’s rough. So, fed up with jeopardising my preferred premium brand, I decided to swap out for the winter. Looking through the ball cache at home, amongst the sundries I came across a couple of Titelist Professional 90s, minimum 16 years old, and put them in my bag.

Playing a bounce game, no side bets, 10 days ago, I pulled one out on the first tee and was pleasantly surprised, the drives were a little shorter, but shaping the ball and feel off the club face was a step back in time, the putts were almost silent.

The course was empty a couple of days later and as I was on my own I decided to test the Professionals again. Three balls, one Taylor Made Lethal [a found ball not my usual] and the 2 Professionals. The Taylor Made was longer, approx. 10 yards on drives, but the Professionals were keeping up and not too wild a grouping. The greens are soft, so stopping either type was not an issue. Approach clubs were usually two different, one for the yards to go and the other for the expected shot.

The game will be different, but it is not steam versus diesel electric.

As I have stated before the conversion, in the UK, from the 1.62 to 1.68 ball in the ‘70s and early ‘80s was painless, first the Pros and elite amateurs and then the rest.
May the game of golf be saved from those trying to save it
11.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSave us

It’s much easier than that - just lean how to play Golf - if you want to get it right.

We have to start teaching how the game is played and the reason behind the game. Golfers need to control their minds and bodies to miss the many hazards to place their ball in the Hole - problem today being that hazards have been removed because the desire of the aerial game to achieve low scores. The refusal to address the distance technology has allowed the ball (with the aid of clubs) to travel long distances has not just undermined the game, but more costly the majority of our courses. It has turning them into over watered,very green, and slick while very smooth on both Fairways and Greens.

This is NOT GOLF - this is American Golf, played to express the frustration of being unable to understand let alone play the Royal & Ancient Game of Golf (the Scottish Game) on sporty courses designed with hazards to test the skill of the golfer.

Until that basic is understood, we will still see crap golf, easy courses as smooth as a baby's bottom with minimal hazards all so it makes today’s players look good - so sad, but when we have a bankrupt (in the ideas department) R&A and USGA, just what else can we expect.

Get the basics right and the equipment balanced with the distance of the traditional courses (5,800/6200 yards) we will see more hazards returning to many of our older courses bringing back into fun sporty venues that will attract new blood into the game. Thus improving the current quality of the game and reinvent golf courses to a more Natural (& sustainable) state.

This will not happen because money control the R&A and not the love of the game - they need to be reformed and made accountable for their decisions, to enable us to rollback both the ball and clubs
11.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
One big money grab is how a caller on my show called it today.
Current players with $10 million contracts aren't going to speak up.
a Pity because many are so wealthy they could speak up and actually be a voice of reason rather then being sellouts.
Tiger is right.

The USGA is completely inept, no doubt they will study the issue a bit more.

The game is already bifurcated. That ship sailed with the 2010 groove rule-didn't impact the average guy one iota.(of course that could be because the manufacturers outsmarted the govering bodies almost immediately)
Pros using balls that go 10% shorter won't change the lives of John Q public either, and good players will deem it cool to play 90% PGA Tour balls rather than stupidly walking back 100 yards every holes.
Just look at how many people played blades as a badge of honer knowing they could never hit them.

Every other sport has effectively dealt with keeping the scale of the game manageable..
11.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Warne
If the ball was rolled back, longer hitters would still be longer relatively to the field and would maintain their advantage. In fact, their advantage could increase because PW v. 7i would go to 7i v. 3i, and it's way harder to hit a 3i than a 7i. Tennis did it with the ball, why not golf? Let amateur hacks like myself continue to use whatever ball they want; I'm 49, I hit it 240-250 on average and will play golf course 6300-6700 yards very happily.
11.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSari
The whole point of a rollback and more spin is so the greats can continue to play the worlds great courses ...and with longer irons to par 4's. Not all long hitters will have an advantage, some wont keep it on the fairway as much. Then we will see strategy again. Amateurs who can't swing 85 mph probably won't even notice the difference.
11.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold

What is it all about? Are you really wanting to change the game? Is it because you and the Pro's just don't get it or understand the game?

Of course the good players will do well no matter the course, then do they, because I remember a couple of Opens when the wind got up and the young bucks did not have the answer for it yet Watson and Norman did. However, when the weather improved the young bucks came back - showing that golf is a game of unknown quantity and quality, even Tiger fell by the way side.

So many want changes, but not it seems for the game but for their egos, that in my book is not a bona fide reason to tinker with such a great game. Problem is, for the last 100 years there has been a free for all in moving the game away from Golf, Nature and the Natural - these are the cornerstones of the game and mess with them and look what we have today - piss poor courses, super easy fairways and Greens, minimal hazards, and most designs do not test or challenge the players but allow him/her to look good, because it sells.

It’s about time the golfers among the reader of this site grew a pair and started to understand the game they think they are playing as well as the designers start to understand just what it is they are meant to be designing. Golf is not meant to be easy, spectators want to see a testing challenging encounter first with the course then with whoever else is playing.

Remain in ignorance and we see the game progress to those who can afford it, watching them abuse the very spirit of the game and its traditions by riding carts and using distance aids on super smooth courses with hardly a hazard in sight - that's not golf, who out there cares and who wants to have to work to enjoy their sport, clearly very few. However the loss is yours, thank God there are still quite a few who love the traditional game, play it unaided, and for their sins are keeping the game alive while having a thoroughly great time in doing so.

It’s that simple, get to understand the very game you seem to like, understand why modern courses just don't come up to the mark and if you look deep enough you will see the modern game really represents the modern age – that is, it’s just fake golf played by many who just do not care or worry about it as long as they make money out of it or can afford all the modern aids making them look good – in a fake way.
11.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
Right on, save us.
11.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
“The whole point of a rollback and more spin is so the greats can continue to play the worlds great courses ...and with longer irons to par 4's.”

This is really the crux of the point Easingwold...

Knowing what we know now, do we want the greats playing the worlds great courses?
11.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJS
@JS, I'd say yes, because that's what's been going on since 1860. Can you imagine pro golfers never winning the Claret Jug at the Old Course in 20 years time ? Or let's just build an 8,500 yard track to test them to their limits and forget the history of golf and the past winners. That's what makes it so special. Not a long wrong contest to see who can hit 400 yards. Limit the ball and we preserve everything great in the game.
11.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
so, Tom Morris, Geoff, et al

Start your game, bring equipment to market that will reinvigorate the REAL game, shorter balls, smaller heads, and make all the classic great courses
relevant again.

Tell the public, that this is the way it is meant to be played, and go head to head with the WRONG game of today.

You guys will do great
11.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterP Thomas
@P Thomas ++++infinity++++
11.6.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFred
@P Thomas

Again, you miss the whole point, the game is suffering, it’s too expensive, the equipment costs , land costs, design costs and it costs more to keep a 7,000 yard plus courses in good condition, while the game itself is boring. Too much of the aerial game, bypassing the hazards rendering many courses nothing short of redundant except for the new players who have not reached the standard expected from the designers.

What are you going to do, or suggest, split the game between the clubs/pros, make the game even more elitist than it is at the moment and what about attracting more into the game.

We have to think outside the box, we have to see where we went wrong and try to correct the problems and issues to when the game was enjoyed and expanding. Do we do what the R&A do - next to nothing apart from doing the same old thing, in their case counting the money.

If you care, why not come up with suggestions that unites golf back into the one game is was - but I expect that’s too much bother for you, and as you don't seem to car. Why do anything like think, after all the modern game of golf does not require the players to think.

Have a go at those who want to see the game have a serious future, but at least we have come up with points that would make the game more interesting while saving money, Then who does care, when the majority of so called golfers ride carts instead of walking and use aids instead of thinking, - makes you wonder why they even bother trying to play golf when they have betrayed the game before they even start to play. But then to many this is progress - to me and many others its bollocks.

Play whatever game it is you want to play, but if its golf have the common courtesy to honour the traditions of the game and walk and think the game unaided, or is that just too much commitment for the modern player?
11.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
I'd post my thoughts here but I'm not interested in a six paragraph lecture from @Tom Morris telling what I don't know or what one of his awesome points I missed or how my children and I don't know how the game is meant to be played, etc, etc.
11.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
@P Thomas/Fred/etc.

I guess that's why we talk of bifurcation ... since, of course it would be a tough discussion to have (at this point) with all the people who need to use a crutch/helper in order to feel like they are playing golf. So we'll just skip the discussion. You can play with whatever clubs you want.

The way you guys make it sound though - I don't think you're getting the point of the overall topic. I don't think most of us on the "classic" side are talking about reinvigorating the game the same way you are. I think that's part of the problem ... the "game" has become driven by equipment manufacturers instead of the game itself.

Makes me wonder how much ego has to do with all this too ... I mean, I started playing with the newer clubs, but really wouldn't mind switching to something older/smaller. There's lots of reasons it ends up being better (#1 is, it makes you a much stronger player) ... so why not? Wouldn't it be more satisfying? Like shooting a bow VS. a laser-guided missile? Climbing a mountain VS. flying over one as a passenger in an airplane?

Like I said - don't worry .. you can keep your clubs! I guess there's a chance you will feel funny though if/when a playing partner beats you using "classic" equipment ... but then, maybe you'll spend time improving your game (if you're interested) VS. believing marketing hype.
11.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConfused
For the first time I appreciate a TomMorris/Melvyn post. Thanks, Melvyn.
11.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Peterson

No lecture, just speaking the truth, or more in defence of the game and its courses. If you can't see or understand the very basics of the game then you do need to be lectured or better still keep of real golf courses.
However, I am not trying to do that, just trying to get the people to understand that golf in its original/traditional form, played upon a Natural courses, is way better that the crap being played or watched these days.
I hoped to see players wanting to be golfers not Cartballers or non-thinkers. I want to see players embrace the real skill quality of playing GOLF on a course designed for GOLF. To see players shed all these aids and face up to the game they say they want to play, GOLF. But so many want to ride and use distance aids missing out on the glory of walking over a Natural golf course and playing Golf using only God's gifts.
If you feel I lecture you, then perhaps that’s more down to a guilty conscience, of not actually understand the game you are trying to play or even the history of golf course architecture which defines the game just as well. The failure is not mine but rest clearly with those that just don't understand the thinking walking game that is Golf. The outcome of that is that designers have decided in their wisdom to design courses for cart riders and aid users, hence we have courses that are more parks or resemble the gardens of some stately home, rather that natural golf courses.
Passing on information is not necessary a lecture, then I suppose you can take a horse to water but you can't force it to drink - so Jupiter are you a man or a horse?
11.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris

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