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Bamberger On The Ball

Add SI's Michael Bamberger to the list of people who should not exceed the speed limit in Fairhaven.

Too much common sense here on the distance debate:

I don't view the weekly play on the Tour as "entertainment" but as a series of athletic competitions that, cumulatively, help us to identify who are the best players in the game. In the 1970s, when most Tour golfers used balata balls and most recreational players used rock-hard, long-flying Top-Flites or something like them, there were (effectively) two different games. In terms of competition, and shot-making, I believe the game played by Trevino, Watson, Nicklaus and Co. was superior to today's smash-and-gauge game, but that is of course a subject on which reasonable people will differ. Age is a factor, too.

For millions of us, the most interesting events of the golf year are the four major professional championships. (The Ryder Cup is a separate category.) What makes these weeks so special is what playing in them, let alone contending or winning, means to the players, and the demanding, interesting and often time-honored courses on which they are played.

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Our game’s “Sheepdogs” Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and now Tiger Woods are speaking out…

Golf Industry Sheepdogs Call to Rollback the Ball

“The spirit of the game needs protection. The game’s Sheepdogs can protect the Sheep from the Wolves…”
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterZokol
good reason from Bamberger.

(but respectfully) Bamberger doesn't list Palmer as a sheepdog.
Difficult to read Zokol's write up given the history between Palmer/Golf Channel/Callaway vs. Kessler.
Kessler's personality sometimes outshines his message, but he had it right then - hitting long irons should remain part of the game.
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterO
I keep coming back to this issue and I am amazed that it continues. How can anyone provide an excuse for the disappearance of the long iron into a par 4 or par 5? It's not a question of agronomy, technology, physiology, it's a question of integrity. I've seen arguments here that ask why should a player be punished if he/she is bigger/faster/stronger, or to that effect. My answer: that they can have all of the advantages that current analysis affords, more power to them, but that the distances they achieve through the advancements have negatively affected the nature of the game (from what point you ask? Arbitrarily, 1980...but heck, I'd rather have that discussion than this) and that the nature of the game deserves the requirement of it's best players to have the ability to hit it's most difficult shots. Such now is not the case.
I realize that turning back the clock is a difficult process. But, I see no chance that the quality of the game will be enhanced if the average tour pro continues to have a bomb and gauge mentality at the expense of the ability to hit a variety of shots...including long irons or woods. We must protect the history of the game...damn, do I sound like a certain fella here?...and the only way I can see that happening is bifurcation. Make the touring pro have to hit the same type of shot that his contemporary had to hit 50 years back. Let he/she use the hybrid vs the 2 iron and lets see what the results are.
We try to compare Wood/Nicklaus/Jones, why not allow those comparison to be made on as close to equal footing as we can achieve. Otherwise, we're spitting in the wind.
12.7.2017 | Unregistered Commentermeefer
@meefer +1
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
The game wasn't as cleanly bifurcated as people like to think: 5 handicappers on down (or up, depending on how you take that) played balata balls. It wasn't limited to just the tiny fraction of the game's best players.

90% of the game's players are likely content to play from 6500 yards or less. "The game" is not in danger. We're talking about a potentially massive change to the game for the actions and abilities of a very, very tiny percentage: PGA Tour pros.

Change their ball and it will cascade down, and further than back in the balata/surlyn years, because there will actually be two separate standards, not two different choices.
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
" It wasn't limited to just the tiny fraction of the game's best players."

Yes it was. Even with your inclusion of 5 handicappers and below (which I disagree with btw) that is a ridiculously low percentage when you look at the entire golfing population. I don't think of a 5 handicap playing in too many USGA events. And if you weren't playing in that level of tournament atmosphere, with that level of player, especially at the club and local level, most were not using balata. Too costly for just a slightly mishit shot which would render the ball unplayable.
12.7.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
@Erik... I respect your knowledge of the game. With that said... what is the problem with a "tournament ball" for the tour or at a minimum certain events? I guess I don't see how that would in any way damage the game. In fact to seems that it would give us all a better barometer to measure the greats of today against the greats of yesterday. That in my opinion would create more interest in the ongoing debate regarding who's the GOAT and allow us to better appreciate the great history of the game and the courses and players that made it what it is today.

My business partner has two sons playing college baseball. They understand that if they're fortunate enough to get to the next level that they will have to embrace a wood bat over their preferred aluminum. They both of course hope to be in a position to have to make that change. If I had the skills to play in the Masters I'd be happy to play a ball of whatever specs they dictated to me. .
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
This reminds me of a story my brother told me.

His club, a Pete Dye course with bent greens in AZ, had an inter club match with a nearby club. They (my brother's club) won pretty easily.

A member of the losing side was heard to say, "We knew we were in trouble when the 16 handicappers were playing balata."
12.7.2017 | Unregistered Commenterkenoneputt
Well said, Jupiter.
12.7.2017 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
Ol' Harv, sorry, but 5 handicappers and better are about 12-14% of the golf population with handicaps. While that doesn't include the guys who slap it around three times a year, it doesn't include pros, either.

13% is >>> 0.001%.

So no, the balata ball was not limited to just PGA Tour players or those competing in USGA events. Never mind that with two balls, you're going to have, what, two handicap indexes?

Jupiter, the problem is that I don't even agree that there's a "problem" with how far anyone hits the ball these days. A reduced flight ball is a solution in search of a problem IMO. I realize you may disagree, but it starts there for me.

And even if I just pretend it's an actual problem… I'd support a full roll-back over bifurcation. One of the magical things about golf is that we play the same game. Introduce a tournament ball and it'll quickly become the "real ball" because the pros play it, and then you'll have great amateurs playing it. Then you'll have good amateurs playing it. Then you'll have players slightly worse than those players using it. It'll be a blurry line, and a mess, with two indexes needed for some people who play vastly different balls? No thank you.

The simple truth too is that nobody can predict how bifurcation would actually play out. You don't know what unintended consequences could result.

You can't compare the greats of today against the greats of yesterday just by changing the golf ball. Too many other things are different. PGA Tour players are, by and large, much better golfers than those of yesteryear. I sent a Tweet about that earlier today, in fact… golf is not the only sport in existence where athletes haven't gotten bigger, faster, stronger.

Baseball doesn't have one set of unified rules and one (effectively, since they have the agreement) ruling body across the entire world. T-Ball is not the same game as Major League Baseball. Golf is.

So in short… I don't agree that there's a "problem." Someone would have to convince me that there's a problem - and likely one that affects more than the 0.001% that comprise near-PGA Tour-level or better - before I even care to talk about the problems of bifurcation or a roll-back seriously.
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Erik, Where are you getting this information that 5 handicappers once played balata? The only reason my friends and I played them was because we got them free from our college coach and stockpiled them.
12.7.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
IF there is actually a problem....then roll it back, whatever % makes sense.

Will it hurt the business of golf? Does it make the game more affordable, or to use the buzzword...more sustainable?

So, the current distance is a problem. I cannot imagine that a hypothetical "short ball" would not hurt the tour players "business"
How do you sell a short ball enough to pay endorsement deals. Drivers and equipment set up for such a ball, are certainly a more difficult sale.Does it impact the product the PGA Tour sells to tv??

The rules bodies don't make the rules for the PGA Tour....the tour uses those rules. And they must make decisions based om the business of the tour, like it or not.

Bifurcation iss aimed at reigning in <3% with the mentality that it is ok to impact them for the good of the game.
But we can't impact the regular golfer, it might lower participation, business numbers etc...
golf isn't disciplined enough to realize 7500 yard courses are stupid for 99% of the players, but the tv guys hit it too far, so reign them in because or Johnson's don't stack up and we have to overcompensate for it. If they lose endorsement money, or the purses are impacted, too darned bad....they make to much anyway.....just let me keep my portion of the business safely!!
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterP Thomas
Ol Harv, Titleist sold (not gave away, SOLD) a LOT of Tour Balatas. I was a high school player toward the end of the Tour Balata days (with my persimmon woods and metal spikes), and even I would play Tour Balatas in tournaments. The DT Spin was a decent ball, but the Tour Balata was still the go-to for many, many single digit golfers.
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
"They understand that if they're fortunate enough to get to the next level that they will have to embrace a wood bat over their preferred aluminum."

That may have been the case 5-10 years ago, but not today. The bats used in college today (often composite) are restricted and actually perform similar to wood bats, but last longer. Home runs are uncommon in college ball and long home runs even more so. Many teams have only a handful of guys that hit more than just a few home runs all season.
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRoger
I am growing weary of this discussion. The ball should be rolled back, but I sincerely doubt the manufacturers will ever allow it to happen.

BTW, a for those that read the article, comparing Brian Gay to Dustin Johnson is pretty rich in that context.
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBDF
@Erik- isnt the problem that great courses no longer test the best as they have for the last 70 years ? When javelin throwers got so good they had to reduce it because they ran out of room in stadiums. Well golf courses are running out of room also. What's your solution ? Build new courses and do away with many of the current major venues ?
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
Remember you heard it here first.

A "solution" will happen where the longest hitters will still be the longest hitters but will not hit it as far. And the shortest hitters will still be the shortest hitters but will still hit it as far.
Erik, you make a compelling argument in many respects. Picking up on Easingwold's question, it seems this entire to-do boils down to: the pros hit it so far it's boring to watch and, secondly, they hit it so far many classic courses may no longer be in consideration for Tour events. The first problem gets resolved by money--tv revenue or lack thereof. The second is a real problem for those of us who wish to see the classic venues still played by the best. As Easingwold says, how would you solve that issue or do you see it as a problem?
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPops
@Zokol's no tees allowed idea is a very interesting one!
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConrad
I'm very interested your answer to Easingwold's question Erik.

I'm curious as to what in your view would constitute "a problem necessitating a roll-back" of the ball, because as I see things, there's several problems that have been in existence for more than a decade!
12.7.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMatthewM
In the 70s and 80s the game was more like darts or pool. {ear shaped guys with precision swings would win. The modern equipment has brought athletic guys with power to the top of the game.
I'll take the DJs over the Trevinos for entertainment
Erik, love the passion, but you can't just throw out percentages as factual and then move on.
12.7.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
I'm not so sure anything needs to be done -- but if fans really desire to see pros hit long irons again and not so much of a bomb and wedge game, which I understand -- I do believe focusing on the ball is a mistake; instead, change the equipment.

The golf ball hasn't increased in distance in at least 12 years. The DRIVER is the thing that's gotten goofy. I took a sabbatical from the game for a few years and recently returned. My driver from pre-sabbatical was a Titleist 905r with a Speeder shaft. It has a 460cc head, so I figured there would be no sense in upgrading. Then I demo'd the new Ping Driver. At the golf shop, on the monitor, the new Ping was going a good 30 yards farther. I bought it, played three rounds with it and the 905 for comparison, and even a few of my misses with the Ping flew a good 25-30 yards past the Titleist from 12 years ago. I couldn't believe how far the new driver flew. After some research, I discovered its shaft is only 55 grams in weight, compared to the Speeder shaft, which was 78 grams. Compare that to the steel shafts from circa when Tiger was winning the Tiger slam, those things were in the area of 110 grams or more.

...So it's pretty simple, the faster you swing, the more yards you're going to get, and the lighter the club, the easier it is to generate clubhead speed. And I've only mentioned the shaft. Apparently, these new drivers have hotter faces than drivers from just five years ago. There was an article on SI ( today about it if you want to read it.

So while I understand that the roll it back crowd desires long irons and classic courses to be played like they once were, I believe they've just picked on the wrong thing -- it's the shafts, the clubhead, the driver. The most logical fix? (IF one is to roll it back -- and again, I don't care either way, personally)-- make the Tour pros hit either wooden woods (Driver down to 5-wood), steel shafts, non-460cc heads, etc. Keep the ball the same and everything from 5-wood down the same, the irons the same, the wedges.

If they were to have Tour pros change Driver thru 5-wood, you wouldn't have to worry about the ripple effect of amateurs following suit like the poster above mentioned they would with the ball. Amateurs would always purchase the newest titanium drivers, the same way everyone who is not playing in the MLB purchases the lightest, springiest metal bats. This would bring long irons back into play, and the longest hitters on Tour would still have the same advantage they have now. And the sound of persimmon on TV would return, there's nothing cooler than that!
12.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPowerbuilt
Powerbilt is on to something. It's not just the ball. The powers-that-be were asleep at the wheel and let both the ball and the equipment get away from them.

And, mark my word, that is how they will eventually address the situation.
@Easingwold, I don't think Oakmont, Pebble, Shinnecock Hills, etc. are being over-run. And, honestly, I don't mind that Whistling Straits or some other new courses are being added to the major championships rotation.

I don't care if pros can't play a 6700 yard course. They're a tiny percentage of "golf." Nor do I find modern golf "boring." (And the part that is "boring" about modern golf are the personalities (or lack thereof), not the golf itself.) Regarding just the golf, what's more exciting? A player hitting a shot 10 feet behind the pin and spinning it back to two feet, or a player hitting a 4I to 37'? You and I might appreciate the 4I, but TV viewers appreciate the shot that spins back and almost goes in.

Driving distance hasn't really increased in the last 10 years. 2-4 yards (median and longest players), who are also swinging 1-3 MPH faster. Maybe there's some other "boom" out there, but I don't see it. There's been a lot of money in golf the last 10 years and driving distance still hasn't increased.

ol' Harv, sorry, but if you don't think low handicappers were playing balata, I don't know what to tell you. 5 handicaps and below make up about 13% of the golfers with handicaps in the U.S. Simple fact.

I agree that blaming the ball is the wrong way to go, and that's if I concede (which I don't) that there's a "problem." It's a lot of factors. The modern premium ball is just a Pinnacle with short game spin. This "ball" has been around, and legal, for 30+ years. They just found a way to make it spin. Rolling back the "ball" is a whole can of worms. It'll punish some types of players and reward others. It'll trickle down with no clear line. If bifurcated, courses would have to be rated for both balls, or the entire handicap system could be gamed. It would be a mess and nobody could accurately predict the outcome or undesirable ramifications.

All to "fix" something that many don't even think is a problem.
12.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Powerbuilt, you are correct about the metalwood situation and I like your changes just maybe not persimmon but no more "spring like affect". Now just throw in a golfball that will spin right and spin left into the mix and we'll have the game back to where it should be.
12.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTexaswedge
Like Erik, I don't think this is a problem (or as big as a problem) except with some of the purists, like many of those who contribute to this site. However, if a change is to be made to reign in the .0001% of golfers who play at the professional level, then I'm with Powerbuilt. It seems far easier to require restricted clubheads/shafts than to have a completely different ball. This is also consistent with baseball's approach - limit the bat, not the ball.

I understand the desire to bring more championships to "classic" courses that cannot be lengthened. However, lengthening a course is not always necessary to penalize the bomb and gougers. A few well placed hazards will have them either aiming for the safer (i.e. shorter) landing area or present a true risk/reward decision. To me, it's not the "bomb" part of the pro game that is the problem, it's the "gouge" If someone can carry a ball over 300yds, good for them. But make sure that the penalty for a wayward shot is more than just a wedge out of the rough.

One quick thought on the balata ball. Harv, I suspect that more people were using balatas back then for the same reason that 18 handicappers use ProVs, or blades, today. And it may also be the reason why their hdcps were a bit bloated. If I'm a 5 - 10 back then, I probably want to try to use what the pro's are using (and I can probably afford them). I am good enough that I can appreciate the feel of the ball (as opposed to a Rock-Flite). And I love that it gives me more options in my ball flight. But I'm not THAT good that I can control it all the time, thus taking me from a 5 - 10 to an 8 - 15.

Finally, and ironically given this thread, to me the most impressive shot of last week's Hero hit and giggle was Tiger's 2 iron into 3 on Thursday to set up his first birdie. Followed closely by his 3 wood into 9 on Friday that landed like a 9 iron. Long irons and fairway woods into par 5's....who would have thunk it?
12.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTampaGolfer
Read this morning that Humanity has peaked and is declining. Sports records will recede, so no bifurcation for golf is necessary. We can all keep calm.
12.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
@Erik- so what your saying is golf has never been more exciting than today's bomb and wedge it in.
We can agree to disagree.
12.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
Is it just me, or am I alone in thinking that the average club member hits the ball further than they did 20 years ago when they were younger fitter and stronger? Especially with driver and three wood?

Because if that is the case, the ball is not an issue that affects a tiny percentage of golfers. It affects many non-professionals - who have not been 'maximised' via Trackman. Errant balls from club golfers go further off-line, and that is an issue for litigation.

Courses either get stretched, or modified, or don't play as intended - for many golfers.

That's a concern.

And Easingwold - you have company. Professional golf is not as exciting as it was years ago. Maybe to the "mashed potato crowd" it's more exciting, but not me.
12.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMatthewM
No, Easingwold, I didn't say that.
12.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
@Tampagolfer, +1 about the long iron, that’s what I’m thinking every time someone complains about the demise of the 3- and 4-iron approaches. They’re still very much around - about three or four per round on par fives and par threes. There will be long iron approaches at Shinnecock - on holes 2, 5 and 16. That’s about as many holes as required long iron approaches in 1986, only then it was 2, 6, 9 and 18.
12.8.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
The USGA has clearly demonstrated they want no part of litigating with the equipment companies, and Wally has clearly said he is not a buyer of the global ball goes too far movement--status quo will prevail.
12.9.2017 | Unregistered CommenterWally Sez

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