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golf ball roll back plan

Have they done the right thing? The big questions in golf’s distance debate

NCG has attempted to answer six key questions about one of golf equipment’s biggest ever days…

 

The R&A and the USGA have shown their hands.

Hitting distances are set to be reduced at all levels by modifying how golf balls are tested.

You can read how the golf ball roll back plan might affect you here and you can also discover the reactions of the industry here.

But what about the reactions of those at NCG HQ? The fallout that matters.

We put together six key questions from the governing bodies’ roll back announcement for four of our brightest minds (they were the only ones available) to get stuck into:

Are the governing bodies doing the right thing?

Matt Chivers: Yes they are. They’ve addressed the issue in a measured way that only significantly affects a small percentage of us all.

Chris Vodden: Yes. Like Billy Foster told us, more shot-making and less driver-wedge action on most holes, please! The gap between the best and the rest isn’t wide enough. Bring on a more fun and interesting game.

Matt Coles: This is a difficult question. I can understand why they might think it is the right idea, but for me, I don’t understand why they’re doing it. Also, the golfing landscape might have changed within the next five years.

Matthew Beedle: I’d say that for the sake of sustainability and golf courses not having to spend vast amounts of money “protecting” their golf courses, yes.

However, I can’t help but feel that there are two golf courses that they have had at the forefront of their minds when making these decisions.

Augusta National and the Old Course – not your everyday golf course.

Does the ball go too far?

Matt Chivers: The ball does go too far and would continue to go too far and stretch golf courses to their limits if nothing was done.

Chris Vodden: Not for me! But yes, the ball does go too far for a tour player or an elite amateur.

Matt Coles: At the top level, I think it’s great that we see guys hitting the ball 350 yards and more. It’s great to see Brooks, Bryson, Rory and hitting ‘bombs’. 

Matthew Beedle: For the majority of golfers, no.

Will this make any difference to club players?

Matt Chivers: No, and the minimal difference it will make to club players won’t happen until 2030. Keep quiet and enjoy your round.

Chris Vodden: No. Unless they’re speed-training twice a week, they’ll hardly notice. The only thing it might affect are personal scores, but everyone else is in the same boat.

Matt Coles: This could make a huge difference. At my level, which is hovering just inside a single-figure handicap, taking seven to 10 yards of each shot is big. If I have to hit 5-iron instead of 6-iron, then my handicap will shoot upwards. 

Matthew Beedle: As mentioned above, the majority of golfers around the world won’t be able to swing fast enough to see a difference.

golf ball roll back plan

Is a 15-yard reduction enough at the top level?

Matt Chivers: 15 yards seems the perfect and least offensive amount. Can the top players honestly complain about such an insignificant reduction?

Chris Vodden: I don’t think it is as, if the rate of technology in golf clubs continues to grow, it might not be as far as that in 10 years. 

Matt Coles: All that I can see changing would be the scores being posted. We will see more winning scores of 14-under than 20-under, but it will be the same golfers that are at the top. There might be a slight change in the percentage of fairways and greens.

Matthew Beedle: No. Players at the top level are insanely good. Will it make a difference to them that they’re hitting an 8-iron instead of a 9-iron? No.

It also won’t be enough to see the top tournaments head to “classic” courses. We’ll still see top professionals and elite-level amateurs battle it out at the same courses we see them play at now.

Will it stop beginners from taking up the game?

Matt Chivers: No chance. Beginners are not interested in the nitty-gritty details. Leave that to the governing bodies that have spent years researching.

Chris Vodden: Definitely not. They can’t hit it 15 yards to begin with so they’re not going to notice a difference!

Matt Coles: I can’t see this happening. For beginners first getting into the game, the type of ball being used makes no difference whatsoever. It is about the feeling of hitting your first good shot, sinking your first par and then birdie putts. A ball roll back has no impact on those feelings.

Matthew Beedle: No. Unless you’re a talented beginner who can swing and strike a golf club at the same level as a PGA Tour professional, then they’ll know no different.

Will it negatively impact participation?

Matt Chivers: I can’t see this at all. By the time roll back reaches recreational golfers, it will be at the back of their minds and the changes will be too minimal to reduce enjoyment in playing.

Chris Vodden: Some people could throw their toys out of the pram because they’re obsessed with their own yardages, but if anything, that’s a net positive for the game of golf. 

Matt Coles: The only golfers who won’t want to play anymore are those too stubborn to go along with the changes. Good riddance to them!

Matthew Beedle: No. We’ll all very much love the game the same way we do now. Golf is a game of constantly trying to improve and better yourself each time you step foot on a driving range or the course.

Perfecting your craft, or at least trying to, is part and parcel of the game and these changes won’t make a difference in that aspect.

NOW READ: Should our classic courses ever be put under the knife?

What is the golf ball roll back solution for you? Tell us on Twitter/X!

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spent time with some of the biggest names in the sport.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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