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The List - Those Expressing Concern About Recent Distance Increases and What They Would Do About It

The List is comprised of just some of the famous players, professional golfers, architects and administrators who are concerned about distance increases. Most of these comments were made over the last year and a half.

Other "recent past" remarks will be added soon, and as always, readers who would like to contribute comments from other noted figures in the game can email me or post a comment below.

ARJUN ATWAL - In the Sunday Express, November 2005: "Jack Nicklaus, who is the greatest player that ever played, has put up a point to the USGA and the RNA, which are the governing boards of golf around the world, that you must now put a limit. And I think he’s right."

PAUL AZINGER - During the March, 2006 Honda Classic telecast: "I think technology, in a lot of ways, minimizes the talent of the guys who are bombing it, because they are really, really good. But somehow the press wants to make them out to be just guys that can bomb it. And I think it minimizes their talent. Which is one of the drawbacks of the technology issue. But it's just a reality, you know, whoever needed to control that let it get away and it's unfortunate."

SEVE BALLESTEROS - When told of rookie Bubba Watson's prodigious driving feats in the U.S., the 48-year-old Spaniard replied: "It proves to me that if they continue the way they are, golf courses will be 10,000 yards long". "It would be a good idea to change a few rules," Ballesteros told Reuters in January 2006. "Make the ball bigger is one thing they can do," he said. "Put less dimples on the ball to make things more equal."

DEANE BEMAN - Calls for distance rollback, via a ball that spins more. February, 2005 Golf World, March 2005 Golf Digest.

MARK BROOKS - Told the Columbus Dispatch on August 22, 2006 the the distance specifications of modern balls could remain the same if only manufacturers were forced to return the balls’ spin rates to what they were 10 or 12 years ago. If that were the case, the harder and higher a ball was mis-hit, the farther off line it would hook or slice, Brooks said, and "I think the guys would self-throttle" to protect against that happening. "If direction and trajectory aren’t brought back in as highly integral parts of playing this game, then (the game) changes. And for the better? No," Brooks said. "You end up with a very stereotypical type of golfer who will be big, tall and have a 120 mph plus club-head speed. Or, if he’s little, he’ll be a freak, someone like an Ian Woosnam, who is small but can pound it."

MICHAEL BONALLACK - The former R&A Secretary told John Huggan on November 5, 2006, "The ball got away from everybody. The scientists said the ball could go only ten more yards, but they were wrong. New materials kept on coming out, and then along came metal woods. They have taken a lot of the skill out of the game for the leading players."

MICHAEL CAMPBELL - In August, 2005: "They should put a stop to something because it's getting ridiculous now. There's no controlled shot now. Technology has really helped players with a lot of clubhead speed, Ernie (Els), Tiger (Woods), John (Daly), rather than the average guy like myself."

BOB CHARLES - In a September, 2006 Atlanta Journal Constitution column: "If something isn't done soon to control ball flight, they'll find the game has one tough battle on its hands," he said.

MIKE CLAYTON - In a December, 2005 column for The Age: "There can only be one answer if pro golf is not going to descend into an increasingly unwatchable television spectacle played largely with drivers, wedges and putters."

BEN CRENSHAW - In a 2003 interview for CIO Magazine: "There are a lot of people, myself included, who believe it's time to call a halt to the technological advances in the game. As a matter of fact, we may have already gone too far."

PETER DAWSON - In a January, 2006 story by John Huggan: "The advent of the ProV1-type ball has most to do with it, along with the bigheaded drivers. So do I think that the game at the top level - this elite few - would benefit from the ball being a little bit shorter? Yes, I do."

TOM DOAK - In the September, 2005 Golf Magazine: "Something has to stop changing -- and soon -- or we'll no longer recognize the courses and the game we love."

ERNIE ELS - In the February, 2003 Golf World: "I am not totally against technology but they do have to put a governor on the golf ball ... perhaps even the administrators should just consider bringing back wooden-headed clubs."

DAVID FAY - In the March 7, 2003 Golf World: "I’m one of those who believes the ball is going farther. Only someone who is deaf, dumb and blind would say otherwise.”

DAVID FEHERTY - In a May 5, 2006 Charlotte Observer story: "I would change the size of the ball. I'd make it .02 bigger. With one fell swoop you would cure a bunch of problems. The ball wouldn't go as far. It would spin. It would be harder to hit straight. It would be harder to hit far. It would be very slightly harder to get in the hole. On the upside you'd bring a lot of old courses back into relevance....We've done it once before. I don't see a reason not to do it again."

FRED FUNK - At the 2006 Players Championship: "it's sad because I think they've lost control of the game...I'm just adamant about the way the game has gone really since 2002, since this last generation of golf ball...bring one golf ball back that's talked about or bring the golf ball back, just go back to the golf ball we had before this last change, and it would narrow down that gap between the long and the short.

JIM FURYK: At a May 22, 2006 teleconference: "I don't mind that the distance gets reined back. I have no issue with that. Courses with millions of dollars of renovations, they don't always go over real well. I would say more often than not when you renovate a golf course, the changes aren't liked rather than liked, if that makes sense. I wouldn't mind seeing the golf ball getting reined back or pulled back a percentage."

TONY JACKLIN - In a March, 2006 Sunday Times story: “The professionals have already made some incredible headway in the distances they are hitting the ball. But while golf gets hooked into this technology, traditional golf courses, especially in Britain, are becoming obsolete for professionals because there is no room to lengthen them.”

TOM KITE - In Golfweek's Forecaddie, March, 2006: "If the manufacturers continue to run the game, I think the game is in for a long, tough road. The rule-making body (USGA) is not making rules for the game. The manufacturers are, and their No. 1 goal is to sell product. Everything is based on speed. It's not based on ball-striking. If you want a good game, you can go buy it."

COLIN MONTGOMERIE: In a May 23, 2006 BBC interview: "I wish we could control the length of the golf ball and it would save this happening," he told Radio Five Live. "We can't keep on borrowing land from people's gardens around the Wentworth estate - the easy option is to change the golf ball to make it go less far, to put a speed limit on it if you like. That's what we need to do but obviously the manufacturers haven't got together to make that possible."

JACK NICKLAUS - Many times over the years Nicklaus has called for a ball rollback and discussed the ramifications of recent distance increases. From 2005: "The biggest thing I fear as I leave the game is how far the ball will go because we don’t have the real estate to move back.” And at the 2006 Masters: "I promise you, it's very simple to bring that ball back 10 percent and still keep the same characteristics," he said. "That's not a big deal. ... If the golf ball goes shorter, you don't have to come out every year and have the same conversation: 'What did we do to Augusta to combat what happened to the golf ball last year?'"

GREG NORMAN - In The Age, December 2005: "I really think it's time we woke up and put restrictions on the equipment being used by the pros."

GEOFF OGILVY - In The Age, December 2005: "I feel very strongly that the balls should be backed off, certainly for the pros. It's a shame to change all these classic courses such as Augusta and St Andrews. We need a uniform professional ball."

ARNOLD PALMER - "To get right to the point - we need to just cut the golf ball back," said Palmer in early 2005. "How much? Probably at least 20 percent."

PAT RUDDY - "After these guys have driven the ball they have consumed over 70 per cent of the golf course," Ruddy said in a January 2006 Telegraph story. There's nothing left. The entire values of the game are being attacked by one club, the driver. What are we, as architects, to do? How about growing long grass from the green back towards the tee, so that they have to hit a wedge first and then a three-wood into the green? Or have 10-mile long courses? These tee shots have wiped out five or six clubs from the bag."

CRAIG STADLER - In July 2005 SF Chronicle story, suggests something needs to be done about distance increases. And: "The USGA keeps saying they're going to limit the ball, they keep doing studies and then they don't make limits or propose anything."

JERRY TARDE: In his August, 2006 editor's column, the Golf Digest Editor-in-Chief lists his "Top 5 Wished They'd Happened" moments in golf. "Number 5: The USGA holding the line on distance in 1976, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1995, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2006."

SANDY TATUM - In an April, 2006 SF Chronicle story, says "the game seriously out of balance" and "You get more emphasis on power and less on shot-making. The stats will tell you, accuracy is no longer anywhere near as important as distance."

PETER THOMSON: In a November, 2007 speech, said: "I am sorry to say it, I won't go as far to say I deplore it, but I think it is a shame that it's occurred. The ball has been allowed to penetrate the air so easily. It goes such colossal distances. Even the Old Course at St Andrews has been changed because of it. The number of dimples regulators allow on a ball is to blame. If you look at a ball I played with in 1960 the cover was dimpled but there were fewer dimples ... 50 percent of the cover was undimpled. A ball would go 180 yards and drop like a stone. Now they go 300. It's a fact of life. We've got to be honest."

LEE TREVINO: In an August 31, 2005 San Francisco Chronicle story: "There won't be any more homemade golf swings, because power is everything. My swing was powerless; that's one of the reasons I hit the ball so straight." And: "The golf ball has ruined the game. It doesn't bend as much as it used to. The USGA has dropped the ball on the golf ball -- they won't admit it, but they know."

BUBBA WATSON: In a July 20, 2011 Q&A with Farrell Evans at "I don't think we should be lengthening courses. I'm the long hitter so it doesn't bother me. It's to my advantage. But I think the golf industry is going the wrong way. We're the only ones changing our sport. No one else is changing their game so much with technology. Basketball isn't going to 12-foot rims because the guys can jump higher. Golf is supposed to be providing a great atmosphere for the amateurs and the weekend golfers. We should want to grow the game for the people. Why would anyone want to play an 8,000-yard golf course?"

TOM WATSON - From July, 2005: The manufacturers beat the USGA and the R&A, they beat them. They made a golf ball that beat them. They hoodwinked them. Now it's time to bring the golf ball back, I think, for everybody. The question is, do you bring it back for everybody? If you look at it, the longer hitters will be affected more by it than the shorter hitters, from the percentage standpoints of how far they hit it. That's what you've got to do.

TOM WEISKOPF - From Al Barkow's profile in the March 30, 2009 Golf World: "You know, awhile ago I got one of those chewing gum cards to autograph and the stat of my average drive was 275.3," he continues. "That was from my last three years on tour, which is when they started taking those statistics. I was in my prime then, and one of the longest hitters out there. Now, you're telling me that today's players are 40 or 50 yards longer than I was. B------t. It's today's ball more than the composite clubhead, the graphite shaft, the pushups and weight lifting. And something should be done about it. Slow it down, make it so it curves more, doesn't correct itself in flight, and have everybody on tour use the same ball."

TIGER WOODS - In November, 2005 during a Nike press junket: "...there will come a point in time where they will have to slow it down because we can't play Merion anymore. You can play U.S. Amateur but a professional I think would probably shoot a little lower scores than they did. St. Andrews, if they have to change the course there to accommodate us, then you know things are changing." And he also spoke at length about the need to restore shotmaking, spin to the ball and other ideas in the January, 2006 Golf Digest.

Asked on a December 3, 2007 interview on CNBC about a ball rollback, Woods replied: "I wouldn't mind that."

References (2)

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    The List - Those Expressing Concern About Recent Distance Increases and What They Would Do About It - The List - A blog devoted to the state of golf.

Reader Comments (9)

These players obviously have more insight than the USGA, and I for one would like to see the PGA Tour conduct competitions under its own rules.
05.5.2006 | Unregistered CommenterCraig
Arnonld Palmer whished golf could be made easier for the mases, look whats happened to Augusta National and now Wentworth. What a legacy Arnie has created for himself. I can't recall all the tournaments that he won, but who could forget this escapade.
05.24.2006 | Unregistered CommenterW.J.T.
The USGA, RnA, and the PGA Tour, the new dogg and pony show to create new interest. Its backfired terribly on them, with no integrity left to admit their failure. It is quite a spectacle.
05.24.2006 | Unregistered Commenter B Spiegel
Why all this exclusive focus on the clubs and the ball? There's a third piece of equipment involved in driving, and it's called THE TEE PEG! Not ever have I seen any mention of governing the length of it! Forget about us amateurs, let us tee it up as high as we want or need to, but put a limit on it for the pros! If the pro tours administered a tee peg height limit of one and a half inches, then the professionals wouldn't be able to make contact on the sweet spot of a 460 CC driver, it's as simple as that. I would assume that at least twenty yards would disappear from the average drive for these fellows, which would make a huge difference. I know that I'm thinking outsde the (tee) box here, but hey, give it a thought.
With all the technology effecting distance/spin/feel/ect., just change the rule that a golf ball can only have ONE core and ONE cover (two-piece)! Those who want to bomb it can, and those looking for spin can have that instead. They just won't be able to have both in the same ball. And when a player shows to the first tee, he is only allowed to play one brand/model ball for the entire event.
05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterGolfRich
It does not follow that because we do not subsidize smoking, we should not regulate unhealthy activities. Costs and savings are not the only variable. The fact that obesity creates costs is merely an additional reason to regulate it, not the only one. The main reason is its danger to an individual. You are dismissive of subsidizing smoking precisely because of this moral intuition. pniopg pniopg - <a href="">supra shoes</a>.
10.16.2011 | Unregistered Commenterwglvuz wglvuz
Does it strike anyone that it's odd that golf is the ONLY sport where the competitor is allowed to select the specifications that will best suit his skills?

Doesn't happen in baseball, football, basketball or even another "individual" sport like tennis -- only golf. Now, do I understand that this horse has left the barn and even the well-compensated lawyers of the USGA are never going to defend a new rule that states the EXACT specs for a "rolled-back" golf ball? Sure, but imagine where we would be if say, in 1995, the USGA said "hold it, that's ENOUGH," and set to say here's how you can build a ball.

Today, 7,000 yards would still be a long course, the 350-yard "normal" drive would be non-existent, and nobody would be hitting seven-irons to 210-yard par 3's.

Yes, I dream a lot.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered Commenterbenseattle
There is a different way to tackle this distance problem if changing the ball is not going to happen. Courses must be modified to provide problems in areas where the big drivers go when they don't "pure" the shot. In other words there is a reward for hitting a huge drive dead straight. There is also a penalty if you attempt it and don't get it quite right. Second shots on par 5's could be given the same treatment.

This way a lot of so called obsolete short courses could be brought back to relevance.
02.9.2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdward Byrne
Bubba's driver-wedge on 13 at Augusta, was both awe inspiring and what should represent the final obvious call to resolve this discussion. Also, the disparity in distance and lateral spin between fades and draws is putting the game on its head. That it is now approaching a decade since most of the statements above were made, leaves little chance for surprise concerning Bubba's feat. It's almost comical that the pros now use fairway metals to bomb draws when required, and those well past Weiskopf's bubble gum card averages, too.
04.14.2014 | Unregistered CommenterHowardN in Pa

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