Lee Westwood believes the days of accuracy and the need to hit the driver out of the screws are gone as distance dominates the day…
Lee Westwood doesn’t just want the golf ball rolled back, but the driver too.
Amid the governing bodies’ plans to alter the ball at all levels of the game, the Englishman also holds the driver responsible for the “premium on accuracy” becoming diminished.
The R&A and USGA announced tour pros could see up to 11 yards cut off their tee shots when changes come in 2028, while the recreational game will be minimally affected.
With 44 professional wins to his name, Westwood excelled off the tee when arriving on the scene in the late 1990s as wooden drivers were on their way out.
As well as a sustainability standpoint, Westwood says the best drivers of the ball have “lost their edge” during an age where he believes technology has brought players to the same level.
“I think there needs to be a roll back on distance,” he told NCG. “I think golf courses – the length of them are getting out of control from a sustainability approach.
“It’s costing more, it’s of detriment to the environment and, like I’ve said on X/Twitter, they’ve gone hand in hand, the driver and the ball.
“One is matched to the other. The driver head has got bigger and easier to hit balls. They’re made for the driver and the driver is then made to suit the golf ball and how quickly that was progressing.
“What you do see now is my generation that used smaller heads and balls that spun a lot swinging very differently from the generation that’s playing now.
“The generation that comes out now, they’re technically different in that they swing to try and launch the driver higher with no spin on it, basically they go 110% at it because the driver heads are bigger and the ball is made to go straighter.
“There’s not that premium on accuracy, whereas my generation, and the generation slightly before me, the likes of Nick Price, Greg Norman and Ian Woosnam and people like that, there was a premium on hitting the driver out of the screws.
“They used to say ‘he’s hit that one out of the screws’, out of that part in the middle of a wooden driver. I didn’t use wood, but I remember using laminate Ping and stuff like that and smaller-headed metal drivers and you’d have to hit out the sweet spot to get the most out of it.
“And then it progressed. The driver head got bigger and all of a sudden, one would go a long way high out of the toe. To me, that was when it started to get out of hand really.
“I think great drivers of the golf ball have lost their edge over the last 20 years – Rory is probably an exception.
“He gets an advantage for how far he hits the ball off the tee, Bryson would be another one, but there are very few great drivers of the golf ball because everyone has been brought up to that level of technology. So, that speciality is gone from the game.”
Lee Westwood: Roll back crucial for places like St Andrews
Westwood’s former caddie Billy Foster echoed similar thoughts to the former World No.1 when appearing on the NCG Golf Podcast.
Foster went as far as to say the game “has been ruined by distance” and there’s no punishment for missing the middle of the club face.
Westwood, set to begin his third season of LIV Golf as co-captain of the Majesticks next month, says golf ball roll back is positive if shotmaking is to return to the fore.
But roll back has been roundly rejected by many players and manufacturers, including Westwood’s LIV colleague Bryson DeChambeau who said it was “the most atrocious thing you could do to golf.”
Rory McIlroy has been the silent source of support amongst the distance dissent, and Westwood recollected times with Foster when technology would trounce the variables that go into hitting a golf shot.
“I would turn to him (Billy), and I would say which way is the wind from, and he would say ‘Ah there’s no point in worrying about the wind!’” he said.
“The ball just pierces through the wind so well, the dynamics of it are so good.
“If it brings back shotmaking and highlights great drivers of the golf ball, they get the advantage back, great iron players and people start to see shots being shaped in and stuff like, it’ll give the opportunity to play some of the older golf courses again.
“The last thing we want is golf courses like St Andrews and places like that to become obsolete.
“We want to see the great players playing the great traditional golf courses – you’ve only got to look at the Sentry where 29-under won. That’s not fun viewing in my opinion.”
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