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Should club golfers feel left out in the golf ball roll back drama?

Bifurcation in the sport will not affect the recreational game, say the R&A and USGA, but shouldn't we get to play the same balls as the pros? Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin discuss
 

Would you buy a ball you knew wouldn’t go as far? Would curiosity compel you to give it a go? The suggested Model Local Rule announced by the R&A and USGA could eventually see professionals and elite amateurs take to the fairways with a competition ball that flies up to 15 yards shorter.

Announcing the idea, the game’s governing bodies were very keen to point out that any changes adopted would only apply to events staged at the highest level, and wouldn’t affect the recreational golfer, or the elite women’s game, in any way.

But as they look to tackle what they see as ever-increasing levels of hitting that’s harming the game, should club golfers be given the chance to get in on the act?

If reduced balls go to market, should they only be the preserve of the very best or should you be able to buy them and see what all the fuss is about?

In an episode of the From the Clubhouse podcast, which looked at whether any of what’s been proposed, and how much, might filter down into the game we play, my co-host Tom Irwin argued the case for the everyday golfer.

“I’ve been thinking that this is a pretty cool thing,” he said. “It’s another nuance to the game. The way retail is going is that a lot of manufacturers sell directly now – and so I wonder whether some of the big golf ball companies would have the tour ball available for direct sale from their own website.

“I think for the club golfer, and certainly or me, I’d want the option. If you think about someone turning up to play at The Belfry, there will be people who say, ‘I want to play the back tees because I want the full experience.’

“Those people should have the option to play the back tees and use the tour ball to get the full experience. I don’t see that as being complicated.

“The Model Local Rule aspect is good. It feels like a requirement to protect some of these historic championship courses which, when all is said and done, everyone wants.

“Everybody wants The Open to go back to the Old Course. Everyone wants to see the Masters at Augusta every year, and everyone wants to see these old courses played in the way they were originally intended as far as it’s possible.

“The other side is the bifurcation argument and there is some validity to that but should have the option, in the same way you’ve got the option to go to the gym every day to get stronger to play golf, you’ve got the option to go and have a lesson from a pro with a TrackMan so you can get your numbers optimised.

“These things are all available to you if you want to do it and it should be the same for this.”

From the Clubhouse podcast: Golf ball roll back

Listen to our views on what the R&A and USGA’s proposed golf ball roll back could mean for club golf on the From the Clubhouse podcast, in association with TaylorMade, in the player below, or on your preferred podcast platform.

More on the golf ball roll back

Vital for the game or too little too late? What do you think about the proposed golf ball roll back and would you like to try such a ball in your weekly game? Get involved in the discussion and let us know with a tweet.

More podcasts from National Club Golfer

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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