Jack Nicklaus suggests ‘rating’ system to keep shorter courses challenging

December 15, 2017

Jack Nicklaus has long held the position that golf courses don’t need to get longer — the ball needs to be reigned in.

But this week he went a step further, suggesting that golf courses’ lengths should be rated by the USGA and assigned a percentage score. Then players could choose from several “rated” balls to adjust the difficulty of the course to their abilities. 

“Take an old course that 5,800 yards. That doesn’t challenge anybody,” Nicklaus said at an appearance in West Palm Beach, Fla., as reported by the A Position. “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.’’

In March, the USGA’s Mike Davis also advocated for a variable-distance ball as a way to ease the pressure on courses that feel like they need to get longer, while simultaneously serving as a handicap system of sorts.

“If you think about it, we already bifurcate distance,” Davis said. “We bifurcate distance because we play from different teeing grounds. But what happens if all of a sudden I want to play with Dustin Johnson and say Dustin, here’s an 80 percent golf ball, I’m going to use a 100 percent golf ball and we’re going to play the same tees. It sounds radical, but it might not [be].”