Ernie Els defends modern equipment, says to make Tour rough “knee high”

Ernie Els chimed in on the distance debate in a recent Twitter post.

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Bryson DeChambeau has breathed new life into golf’s great distance debate with his game-changing strategy off the tee (Tony Finau has joined him, as well). It leaves the game of golf with important questions going forward; they are questions that have been asked before, but the concerns are getting more thunderous.

  • Should courses continue to lengthen layouts?
  • Should courses grow the rough out and speed up fairways/greens?
  • Should stricter standards be put on new golf clubs?
  • Should the golf ball be “rolled back” to an earlier time in history?

The USGA and R&A put out an official Distance Insights Report earlier in 2020, and more recently, the R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers spoke out on Bryson-mania. While he’s “fascinated” by DeChambeau’s recent gains, he says, “it’s important to have a balance of skill and technology.” Regarding the golf ball, more specifically, Slumbers also said, “it is too simple just to say change the ball … it’s the relationship between ball and club which is most important, to me.”

While Slumbers’ take is cryptic, it can certainly be interpreted as displeasure with the current state of equipment (at least, in the professional game).

Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Gary McCord are a few notable figures in our game to speak out with their opinions on the matter. Nicklaus has been at it for years calling for the golf ball to get rolled back, and Faldo recently suggested a ban on golf tees. McCord, on the other hand, said that bifurcation would be a legal hassle, and that distance is entertaining.

Now, four-time major winner Ernie Els (two U.S. Opens and two Open Championships) spoke out on the matter via Twitter.

Brandel Chamblee, a stalwart student and outspoken analyst, sided with Els.

As Chamblee hinted, it’s possible that Els’ take is somewhat biased since he’s had such success on courses with long rough and firm fairways, as evidenced by his two U.S. Open victories. Surely, Els was also exaggerating about “knee high” rough length, but we understand his point.

It’s also interesting that Els, at 50-years-old, is defending modern equipment whereas most of the old guard has spoken out against it. If nothing else, Els’ comments are a feather in the cap of golfers who side with technology and distance.

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Andrew Tursky Editor

Andrew Tursky is the Senior Equipment Editor at GOLF Magazine and