The man who’s caddied for Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Darren Clarke spoke to NCG about distance…
Legendary caddie Billy Foster believes golf has been destroyed by distance.
Foster says there is “no punishment” for not striking the driver purely and equipment now goes too far.
The R&A and USGA announced a proposed model local rule in March that could see distance decreased by 15 yards across elite levels of the game.
A number of tour players publicly rejected this but Foster told NCG’s From the Clubhouse podcast he wants “skills levels back” and blames the forgiveness and size of clubheads for the game’s rocketing length.
“To me, having seen the best players in the world for 40 years, I think the game’s been destroyed,” he said.
“It’s not getting destroyed, it’s been destroyed. You don’t see shot-making anymore, you don’t see guys shaping shots into flags and hitting it at the middle of the green then hitting a 10-yard cut to a back right flag and seeing who’s got the real quality.
“Bunkers out there at 300 yards, you couldn’t reach them 20 years ago, now they’re flying them. It’s completely changed. They just stand up now, tee it up and just bomb 310, 320, 330, 340 yards some of these guys.
“500-yard holes and they’re hitting driver wedge. They were hitting driver, 5-iron 20 years ago. It’s ruined it to a certain degree, but a lot of that is down to the forgiveness of the driver.
“The driver is too big. If you hit it out the heel with a persimmon, it would go 230 yards. Now, you do the same with one of these big metal things and it goes over 300 yards.
“There’s no punishment for not striking it purely and the ball doesn’t move half as much as it used to. All it does is make the good players and the fantastic players so much closer together.
Does less distance and golf ball roll back favour better players?
No one is better placed to discuss change in golf than Foster who’s caddied in the professional ranks since 1983 for the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.
The man from Bingley St.Ives in Yorkshire has seen the impact of driving distance first-hand by looping for Matt Fitzpatrick since 2018, helping him to win the US Open four years later.
Fitzpatrick averaged under 290 yards off the tee in 2019, but this has risen to over 300 yards in 2023 and he’s become a two-timer PGA Tour winner in that time.
Rory McIlroy said the governing bodies’ proposal could “help identify who the best players are a bit easier” and said olf has been “dumbed down” at the elite level.
Foster alluded to this side of the debate by explaining better players could benefit from less emphasis on distance and more on shot-shaping.
“Back in the day, your best players coming down the stretch always seemed to win, now any of these lads can win really, within reason,” he added.
“That’s because the equipment is so forgiving and goes too far.
“For as much respect I have for all of these lads, they never saw how it used to be 30 or 40 years ago.
“They never saw the qualities and the ball striking of some of these lads would be arguably greater. They’d set the gap between the next best because they are that good that they would benefit from less forgiving clubfaces or shaping shots more because they are the best players.
“So that would make them move one step ahead of the rest.
“It needs reining back and the skill levels back. People love to see great golf shots, now it’s just let’s see who can get to 400 yards first. Let’s see who can drive it over the first green at Augusta and chip back.”
Now have your say
Is Billy right? Has distance destroyed golf, and can it be reigned back in? Let us know how you feel on X.