The proposed golf-ball rollback would reward a certain kind of player

Rory McIlroy at the Wells Fargo Championship last week.

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Ed. note: You’ve likely heard about the golf-ball rollback proposed by the USGA and R&A. But how would this rule impact amateur golfers (if at all?), and what does it mean for the pro tours?

Overall, the proposal would impact the testing conditions for golf balls used in the professional and elite amateur ranks — and not impact ball rules for recreational use.

Whether you’re in support of a rollback or not, GOLF Teacher to Watch Lucas Wald contends it will bring into focus one major skill that’s often overlooked: technique. Below, Wald makes the case for why — if a new ball rule is enacted — better technique will be a key tool for pros to achieve distance and accuracy. — Nick Dimengo

Why the proposed golf-ball rollback would reward proper technique

Rory Mcllroy recently made a salient point about the proposed ball rule.

“The rollback will help identify who the best players are a bit easier,” he said.

As someone who appreciates the swings of the greats, I agree with Rory. An emphasis on technique has always given players an edge, and the players with the best form should shine.

Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Mickey Wright, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods had monumental careers, and are all known for their sound fundamentals and supreme ball-striking ability.

Hogan’s first professional win came at the 1940 North and South Open, at Pinehurst. In the second round on a 6,900-yard setup, he hit numerous long-iron approaches, and used either a 1- or 3-iron on three of the four par-3s. Hogan hit 17 greens and shot 67.

This graphic shows some of Hogan’s reported data:

Ben Hogan’s reported club choice and estimated length at 1940 North and South. Lucas Wald

Would Hogan’s ball-striking greatness be held in such high regard in today’s game?

Given the forgiveness of modern equipment, it’s doubtful. Drivers of this era allow most of the top pros to bomb their tee shots well over 300 yards, bridging the gap between supremely talented players and just plain old talented players.

I remember watching Woods do things in the 1990’s that no one else could do. When everyone else laid up on par-5s, he easily got home in two. Ditto John Daly, who frequently outdrove his peers by 70 yards.

Players with better technique have always benefited. Hogan, Nicklaus and Snead outclassed their competition with dominant ball-striking and unmatched power. Today’s players have the advantage of better equipment.

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Professional golfers don’t swing all-out on every tee shot, or on every second shot on par-5s, because they don’t have to. They can carry fairway and greenside bunkers with ease. Bomb and gouge.

If the ball is rolled back, the pros will have to generate more clubhead speed to get that same type of distance. And for some players, that will prove especially challenging. The faster you swing, the more pronounced your swing flaws become. Players with superior technique can, and will, ratchet up the swing speeds without sacrificing the accuracy needed to play at the highest levels.

Take guys like Jon Rahm and Tony Finau. Both have short backswings because they don’t need the the full backswing that produces more speed.

I have a ton of respect for all the top pros. The best men and women are geniuses around the greens and with wedges. Golf courses are firm and fast, and players with world-class skills perform the best because of their exceptional touch and feel. But I also know that many players like McIIroy, Finau and Hideki Matsuyama have a few more gears that they often don’t use because they don’t need to.

The proposed golf ball rollback could lead to unleveling the playing field — rewarding the players with the best technique, not the best equipment.

If rolling back the ball will make the game a closer version of what it used to be, then I am all for it. Placing added value on precision ball-striking is exciting for me as a coach. Understanding what great technique is, teaching it and applying it will only help future generations of players.

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