Tiger: We need to talk about the golf ball
“I can’t believe how far I’m hitting the golf ball. I’m back to hitting it my full numbers, and not really trying to do that.”
The first part of this could be any of us sat in the clubhouse after a recent lesson had helped crank our swing speed up to 98mph, the second part would just be a bit weird and might well, and quite rightly, see you excluded you from next week’s fourball.
But these are the words of Tiger Woods last week and, rather than being a humble brag, instead he’s been talking about the modern golf ball. And when Tiger talks, we all sit up and listen.
Jack Nicklaus has been one of the more vocal exponents of ‘rolling the ball back’, the Golden Bear would favour something like a 10 per cent reduction in the distance that the ball travels.
Last year at the Masters he had these options on the possible changes to the world-famous par-5 13th at Augusta.
You could make it a par 4, not going to happen.
You could buy some additional property from Augusta Country Club, which is the plan.
You could move the green back 30 yards or you could reroute the stream and put some more trees in.
Or, as Jack laughingly added: “The simplest solution is change the frigging golf ball. The golf ball goes so far, Augusta National is about the only golf course in the world that financially can afford to make the changes that they have to make to keep up with the golf ball. I don’t think anybody else could ever do it.”
Tiger, making his podcast debut with UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma (me neither), said that he could see an 8,000-yard course – so imagine your home course and then adding maybe 1,500 yards – being around the corner in order to stage a professional tournament.
“With the game progressing as it is, I think the 8,000-yard golf course is not too far away,” he said. “That’s pretty scary – we don’t have enough property to start designing these types of golf courses, and it just makes it so much more complicated. We need to do something about the golf ball. I just think [the ball] is going too far.
“The USGA is already looking at it. They’re doing some research on what would the world look like if you rolled [the ball] back 10, 15 and 20 per cent. You don’t want to [take away] amateurs’ [ability] to hit the ball further and straighter. But with the tour pros, you might want to roll the ball back.”
Jack’s been saying it for years, now Tiger is well on board as is anyone with half a brain.
So, when can we expect all this to happen?
In truth, no time soon. Like we said Jack’s been banging this drum for some time and nothing’s changed so any backing down by the governing bodies might make them look a bit silly. Why now? Tennis brought in a new ball in 2002 so why is golf so late to the party?
Think of the huge bundles of money involved to keep the ball manufacturers happy.
At best someone might trial a tournament with rolled back ball which brings back in all the incredible courses that have become outdated and lost to tournament play in the past few years, or a variety of exhibitions.
Think of all the amazing recovery shots we might get to witness with the ball now being able to be manufactured around the course, think of a tournament where 20 under isn’t the winning total. It’s quite exciting isn’t it?
Tiger said he and his peers have spoken with the tour’s law makers about how a roll back might work.
“Do we have it at the PGA Tour level? Do we have it at the Web.com level? Do we have it on all mini tours? So there’s that debate as well. I don’t see it happening in the near future but at least there are talks about it now.”
As for Tiger getting back to hitting it full pelt he also had this to say which, to even someone as cynical as me, it does begin to get the mind whirring with the ‘what if he could contend again’ just a little.
“I didn’t realise how much I had dropped off because of the pain in my back and from me going at it and hitting it normal just because I just lived it from day to day and I really couldn’t tell the difference. But now I can tell the difference and my posture is so much better over the golf ball.”
He’s back in action at the Hero Challenge on November 30.