'When we play courses that are nearly 8,000 yards it will be the most boring week of the year'
Like slow play the thorny subjects of technological advances and the modern golf ball are constantly discussed. Jack Nicklaus has touted a rolling back of the ball for years and Tiger Woods has now joined the debate.
But European Tour pro Paul Waring had plenty of fascinating things to say on the matter over Twitter as the governing bodies try to keep a lid on driving distances so we asked the Wirral star to give his solutions to a seemingly never-ending debate.
“Everyone is screaming about changing the golf ball and rolling it back but, in my opinion, it’s an uninformed view.
The ProV1 was introduced in 2000 and there was a massive usage of that ball and, with it, an initial spike in distance gains but the big courses were already being built. It wasn’t that the ball came out and everyone reacted to it. People blame this massive increase in land on the new ball but it was already happening.
There has been a more noticeable increase in extra yards recently but that can come from, among other things, TrackMan and better information, shaft technology and fitness and strength – I don’t see a direct correlation with the ball.
They moved to a bigger golf ball 35 years ago but that didn’t fix the problem as we have the same problem now, it was a Band Aid solution.
Look at club handicaps; ball technology has not made an outstanding difference to the handicap golfer.
I understand the obsolete point of overpowering the great courses but that issue only applies to less than one per cent of golfers. If you go back hundreds of years, especially in the UK, they were designed with no irrigation, they were bone dry and the ball ran for miles. We couldn’t water them like we do now. Irrigation systems came in 1932 at places like Merion and Pinehurst and because the new courses were then built in a certain way technology, through the years, has solved the problem.
Everyone wants to live on a championship course and on a gated community which means having 7,000+-yard courses. As I said before these courses had already been designed before the ProV1 came out, it’s just that the ball enabled us to play these courses. So technology is solving a problem and the problem here is the distance.
Now think of somewhere like a Sunningdale Old (below) with no irrigation and try and control this modern ball on a rock-hard surface. You can’t hit driver so the problem now is you need more spin and a softer flight and a need to shape the ball.
You stand on a bomber’s course and the criteria is that you don’t have to shape it, you just need length and a big-headed driver.
When it comes to bifurcation, which means the pros and amateurs playing a different ball, it just doesn’t work. If you qualify for the Open as an amateur then you would have to change your golf ball. You use different bats in baseball but that is the thing hitting the ball, they haven’t changed the ball.
People also talk about using just one ball but where are the parameters to that? Is it high or low launching or high or low spinning, we all use the ball in different ways so if you bring out one ball then it will suit 10 per cent of the field and the rest will struggle and will have to tweak their equipment or their swings. Just because you swing it a certain way you will get an automatic advantage from a rules change and that is unfair.
If you were to reduce the ball then I guarantee you that within five years someone will have produced a shaft that increases club speed so you can’t actually put a limit on this. You can control the springiness of the face or the ball but if you get a shaft that adds speed then you are back to the same problem. And someone will do it.
Technology will continue to add distance as long as it is needed to do it. When you take away the need to hit it this far the whole distance race falls away.
Things have got so out of hand because of what we need as pros to deal with these 7500-yard courses.
At Le Golf National one pro bet a 3-handicapper that he wouldn’t break 100 off the back tees on the Monday after.
We are all obsessed with Augusta and, a few years ago, Phil Mickelson put in two drivers because the standard neutral head wouldn’t shape the ball enough. That’s not technology making the golf courses evolve, that’s the golf courses forcing the technology.
They have moved the tee at the 13th at Augusta further and further back but what if they moved the tee forward and to the left so you can’t hit it over the trees? You would then have to shape it or lay up to the corner. That solves the problem of driver-wedge at a par 5.
Billy Horschel said this a couple of years ago on the 13th: “If they move that tee back any more, if they buy land and move the tee back and move it back by 40 yards – I may get kicked out of there, but it’s the dumbest thing in the world. I mean, I’m being nice about it. I think it’s a great hole already. Golf is going in the wrong direction by adding length to the golf course.”
Golf is hard enough without rolling the ball back for amateurs so you just can’t do it. So then who is going to use the pro ball and buy it? The elite amateurs maybe who might be about to turn pro so that just means that the ball will be incredibly expensive as nobody will be using it or paying for it but it will cost millions, and it will cost millions, to develop and get right.
So then all these companies will increase the price for the standard sleeve of balls, they have to.
The biggest ball manufacturer on tour, Titleist, are against it so that says it all to me. Is it a marketing strategy by other companies to get some market share back? I don’t know, but that is the biggest indicator to me.
Rather than changing the golf ball why don’t @RandA @USGA look at course setup instead.Take Mexico last week, course actually with altitude -15% played close to 6200 yds. Winning score was -16! So distance isn’t everything #coursesetupismoreimportant ?
— Ross Fisher (@RossFisher) March 7, 2018
Ross Fisher Tweeted this last week after playing the WGC in Mexico. In Hong Kong the course measures around 6,700 yards and the winning score was -11 last year and -13 in 2016. Sergio won at Valderrama on -12.
If I go and play social golf and we play a ‘championship course’ then I hate playing off the back tees as you are just smashing it with the driver and there is no thought, diversity or skill to it. I don’t enjoy that sort of golf. Think of the amateurs playing a 600-yard par 5 and hitting driver-3-wood-8-iron – what a waste of space.
At the Hoylake Open in 2006 they had it so hard and fast so the course dictated what the technology would allow. Tiger couldn’t control the driver on that style of course with it being so bouncy, the course wouldn’t allow it.
If we played more courses set up like that then I and a lot of my peers would be turning to the manufacturers and saying ‘I need a driver that shapes the ball a bit more now, I need a ball that spins a bit more and goes up my nose’ – that will push technology down a different path.
We are not losing these courses on the European Tour because of technology, we are losing them because of infrastructure and we can’t get the moving circus into these plots any more.
Again look at Hoylake at the 2014 Open, the course was able to stand up to it but we still had the practice ground at a municipal over the road as they couldn’t fit everything around it in.
I really enjoy the charm of the Old Course but we are not playing it the way it was designed. They have moved the tees and direction of the holes around so some of the bunkers are facing the wrong way now.
Think of somewhere like Royal Melbourne and it’s playing hard and fast. You might hit driver on a par 4 but you might make a two or a six and that is true risk and reward. You wouldn’t care about a fast, low-spinning ball as you wouldn’t be able to control it on those surfaces. You would be asking for a different ball and driver and a different criteria, then take that to the Old Course and the technology all fits again.
When we play courses on tour that are nudging 8,000 yards then you will hear moans over that than you will about somewhere like Valderrama, 100 per cent. It will be the most boring week of the year.
Realistically the only memorable courses from last year were Hong Kong, Denmark for the short 16thand Valderrama, beyond that they merge into each other. They are all full of 470-yard par 4s with a trap down the right and staggered trap down the left and a funky green, there is nothing else to it.
We talk about course set-up a lot on tour but we never talk about technology and how far the ball is going. The technology fits the courses that we are forced to play on.
The only reason anyone moans about the shorter courses are because the current technology doesn’t fit that course and you can’t control the ball. It’s a chicken and egg thing but this is all our own fault as we have created these longer courses thinking that will make golf more difficult – technology has solved that problem and bridged that gap.
Just maybe if the pros were competing on a different style of golf course it would result in a different path for technology to naturally go down.”