Donegan On Distance Debate

Lawrence Donegan weighs in from the UK on the USGA/R&A ball "study."

What hasn't happened, however, is the arrival at the R&A's clubhouse in St Andrews of a package containing the "rolled back" balls from the manufacturers. A spokesman for Titleist, the world's biggest ball manufacturer, said yesterday he had no idea when the prototype balls would be delivered.

The fact is it would take the manufacturers very little time and effort to produce such experimental balls yet they have chosen not to bother, both for sound commercial and tactical reasons. After all, why co-operate with any experiment which could result in a paradigm shift which would turn a billion-dollar market on its head, thereby endangering profits? The calculation is that the R&A will respond the way it has responded over the last decade as technological advances in equipment have undermined the history and traditions of the game - by doing nothing.

Such thinking is understandable, but for once it might be mistaken. In the past the governing bodies had neither the spine or the financial wherewithal to legislate the introduction of a new ball, but that may no longer be the case. Changes to the R&A's corporate structure have left it more financially able to take on any legal challenge from the manufacturer. Backed by the weight of public opinion, not to mention Tiger Woods, the organisation might be more inclined to accept such a challenge, not least because it now has a leadership more interested defending what is important ( the world's great courses and the integrity of the game) as opposed to what is not (silly rules about dress codes and such like).

Surprise, surprise, no manufacturers have turned in sample "rolled back" balls. Some like Titleist said they would cooperate (this is from AP story posted on

Titleist chief Wally Uihlein called the research project "more of an intellectual exercise than emotional and attitudinal bits and bites.'' But to drive home his argument that it isn't just the ball, he said Titleist would supply the USGA a ball and a club specification that would produce rollbacks.