With the Nissan Open and the Golf Industry Show, I'm finally getting around to Jack Nicklaus's essay in the March Golf Digest.
Written with the assistance of Jaime Diaz, the piece is monumental on a number of levels. First, it is by far the most space devoted in a major golf publication to the distance issue and its impact since Nicklaus and George Peper penned similar views in Golf Magazine (circa 1998 I believe).
What I loved most here is Nicklaus's defense of the claims that his motives are not pure. Actually there's a lot to love here, and I know our Fairhaven readers will especially enjoy this week-long look at Jack's rant.
The best golfers should be better today than the best golfers of yesterday. At the moment, I’m not sure that’s the case. I realize I’m an old fuddy-duddy, and that previous generations always say that their game was better. I guess I’d plead guilty—in part. But here’s the difference. The game in terms of equipment barely changed for 60 years. Then with the equipment revolution that began with metal clubheads in the ’80s and accelerated with dramatic ball technology in the late ’90s, the game changed radically. The best players suddenly found themselves able to hit shots more easily and consistently, as well as pull off shots they never would have tried in the past. It made the game for elite players simpler and easier.
Simpler. Very nice. Attention Ponte Vedra: that means less interesting to watch.
As a result, I don’t care as much for today’s game as I did for the one played for most of my career. I like the old game of moving the ball both ways and using strategy with angles, and hitting all the clubs in the bag.
My greatest concern, because I believe it has the most effect on the most parts of the game, is the golf ball. I’d very much like to see the U.S. Golf Association and the R&A institute at least a 10-percent rollback in the distance the golf ball travels. I know the ruling bodies are looking at limits on equipment, including possibly reducing the size of driver clubheads and eliminating square grooves, but that’s treating an effect more than a cause. The desired results from such moves could be taken care of by a rollback in the ball. In fact, there would be much less need to limit equipment innovations that help amateurs play if the ball were rolled back.
Which once again raises the question, why do Callaway, Taylor Made and Nike oppose a ball rollback?
And just to put the tournament ball talk to rest...
I don’t think a rollback should restrict an elite player’s options in customizing the golf ball he or she would play. It’s OK with me for, say, a player with a low ball flight to get some help by using a model of ball with a dimple pattern that creates a higher launch, or a guy whose angle into the ball generates an excess of spin getting a ball that spins less. In other words, I wouldn’t want to see every player having to use the same exact “tournament ball” picked out of a jar on the first tee. As long as players could keep the ball characteristics that best suit their games, I honestly believe it would take them only a few rounds to completely adjust to a rolled-back ball that doesn’t fly quite as far.