Nicklaus Still Calling for Changing the Golf Ball

By | December 16, 2017

Jack Nicklaus suggests ‘rating’ system to keep shorter courses challenging | via  Golf.com

“If you made that a 70 percent golf course and have a 70 percent ball for it, it would play [difficult]…. If you want to play an 80 or 100 percent ball, go play it. All you’re doing is making the course play shorter and faster.’’

If Mr. Nicklaus thinks we need different golf balls who am I to tell him he’s wrong? I’m going to try it anyway.

I understand the greater problem that Mr. Nicklaus is trying to solve. With increased distance and the reduction of side-spin, top players are turning many of the classic golf courses of the world into putting contests. Fairway bunkers that were designed to intimidate and punish are being flown over without a second thought. Greens designed to challenge a player’s ability with a 5-iron are being attacked with wedges. The problem is real.

Now, let’s assume that the various manufacturers could produce a ball that performed the same in every way to the current product less the relative distance. The level of complexity it would introduce to the game is non-trivial. As players, we’re already factoring in ability, weather, slope, playing partners, and sometimes more than 5 different tee boxes when deciding how to play a particular course. Now we’re supposed to calculate in up to four different balls? Add to that the obvious additional expense of gaming multiple types of ball and the problem only becomes worse.

Mr. Nicklaus clearly says that the choice would ultimately be left up to the player. If you want to overpower a course with a 100% ball, or you think the whole idea of having different balls for different courses isn’t for you, that’s still your right. Which makes me question how many recreational golfers would bother to participate.

What this conversation really feels focused on is professional golfers. Mr. Nicklaus and others want to see classic (short) golf courses come back into consideration to host professional tournaments as long as the players are handicapped with 70% or 80% balls. I’m going to have to assume the ball manufacturers won’t be too keen on having to do the R&D and manufacturing to make a product that gets mostly ignored by the average golfer and only played by the pros a few times a year.

Let’s not forget that the USGA and R&A are in the middle of a movement to simplify the rules of golf and make the game more appealing to the casual player. I just don’t see this idea going very far with the average golfer even if it is Mr. Nicklaus pushing for it. And if this idea ends up not being a new profit center for companies to support, it isn’t going anywhere.

Image via Wikipedia.com