USGA Head Floats Idea Of "Variable Distance" Ball

Just skip past the part where we hear about how this distance thing is cornered and flatlining for 15 years now. After all, if this belief makes them do the right thing, the game's governors are entitled to their always-correct opinions!'s Mike Stachura reports USGA Executive Director Mike Davis' suggestion at the USGA's Innovation Symposium that no rollback is happening, but there is a place for a rolled back ball that allows Dustin Johnson's to enjoy the Myopia Hunt Club's of the world.

The key line:

“We don’t foresee any need to do a mandatory rollback of distance. We just don’t see it. But that’s different than saying if somebody comes to us and says I want an experience that doesn’t take as long or use as much land, can we allow for equipment to do that?”


Davis continued in what I would dare say are by far the most provocative comments from a governing body officer (in office, of course the late, great Frank Hannigan was long outspoken on this topic).

“Anybody is hard-pressed to say that as distance has increased in the last 100 years that that’s been good for the game,” he said. “We all want to hit the ball farther. We get that. But distance is all relative. When you think about the billions and billions of dollars that have been spent to change golf courses, and you say, Has that been good for the game?

“Is the fact that Shinnecock Hills went from 5,500 yards to 7,500 yards, what has that done good for the game? It’s increased the expenses to maintain it. It’s cost us time to walk an extra 2,000 yards. So you have to say, What has that actually done?”

Davis later even suggested golf was alone among all sports because of the way its equipment has dictated its playing field.

I feel like I have read about this classic course ball thing in a book somewhere, say, about 14 years ago it seems if memory serves. And I know PING's John Solheim has offered a proposal on this, but it sure sounds like we are headed (finally) for having a ball suited to designs of a certain vintage.

The only mystery remains, why hasn't a company gotten out of front to be the first to corner the vintage course market where purists buy golf balls too?

Anyone, anyone? How about rollback advocate Jack Nickaus, who has a golf ball line? Nope. How about Solheim's PING? Any prototypes brought to the market? Nope.

One would think this lack of urgency within companies might change given this last comment from Davis:

Would one of those options include bringing the best players in the world to a course like Myopia Hunt Club for a U.S. Open in the future with a reduced-distance ball?

“We haven’t talked about that,” Davis told, “but if we were closed-minded to that, shame on us.”