The golf-ball rollback will reward 1 kind of player, says Teacher to Watch

With the golf-ball rollback now official, GOLF Teacher to Watch Lucas Wald argues that it will benefit players with the best technique

With the golf-ball rollback now officially happening, technique will be rewarded, a teacher says.

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Over the weekend, the USGA and R&A officially announced that a golf-ball rollback will be happening.

While there are still plenty of unknowns about what that exactly means — a USGA spokesperson declined to comment, saying only that “the USGA and the R&A continue to work together and will provide a more definitive update related to distance in the days and weeks ahead” — many golfers (pro and amateur) have voiced their frustration with the decision.

Given the fallout and reactions, four-time major champ Rory McIlroy replied to some of the critics, simply saying he doesn’t “understand the anger” following the announcement.

Regardless of your stance on the decision, a golf-ball rollback is coming soon. So what’s this really mean for the average golfer? How about for players on the pro tours? Is McIlroy correct with his latest statements?

So I decided to check in with GOLF Teacher to Watch Lucas Wald to see what he thinks about it all.

Wald contends that the golf-ball rollback will bring into focus one major skill that’s often overlooked: technique. Below, he makes the case for why better technique will be a key tool for pros to achieve distance and accuracy.

Why the golf-ball rollback will reward proper technique

“Earlier this year, Rory Mcllroy made a salient point about the ball rule, saying, ‘the rollback will help identify who the best players are a bit easier.’

“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 it with their driver, with many clearing well over 300 yards. This bridges the gap between supremely talented players and just plain old talented players.

“I remember watching Woods do things in the 1990s 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.

“To that point, it’s no surprise to see that Woods supports bifurcation as McIlroy does.

“When asked about the rollback plan after his third round at this past weekend’s Hero World Challenge on Saturday, Woods said, ‘As I told you guys, I’ve always been for bifurcation,” Woods said. “I’ve always said that. Just like wood bats and metal bats [in baseball].’

“I’m in agreement with both Woods and McIlroy.

“I don’t see why we need to penalize 50 million golfers with a ball change. But I do think this rollback could lead to better technique from professionals and separate those with more speed and distance from the field.

“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.

“This is where Woods’ baseball bat analogy is so relevant.

“In the MLB, players use wooden bats, whereas college and amateurs play with composite bats — which are really light and have a bigger sweet spot in order to hit the ball farther. It’s why so many positional players in college hit home runs.

“But playing in the majors requires having much better technique to hit 30-plus home runs due to the wooden bats. This is similar to golf, where a mishit is much more apparent due to the equipment.

“Once the rollback is in place, 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.

“With the golf-ball rollback now coming, it could lead to unleveling the playing field — meaning a reward for players with the best technique, not just 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.”

How you can improve your swing sequence and technique

Wald told me earlier this year there are a number of ways to improve your swing sequence and technique, but one of his favorite is using the right mental representations. This will help sequence it properly, which is something the great Hogan used to do.

“Having it in your mind is important to see success. This is how Ben Hogan practiced,” Wald said. “He meticulously worked from start to finish in the concentration drill — going super slow from start to finish. By practicing correctly, you will become deliberate in your reps.”

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He reminded me that all elements of the swing sequence matter, as they reinforce one another for improved shots and better play.

“The engine of the golf swing is in the middle,” he said. “How you move your core, pelvis, hips, spine, and legs ultimately determine how good your swing is.

“These are the key traits of the dominant golf swings in this game. You may see the greats get into different positions with their arms and club, but they all move their middle the same.”

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