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USGA executive director Mike Davis notes ‘horrible’ impact of increased distance; governing bodies researching reduced-distance balls

November 20, 2017

Editor’s note: The headline on an earlier version of this story mischaracterized USGA chief Mike Davis’s remarks. Davis said that the distance boom in golf, which has been triggered by a variety of factors, has had a “horrible” impact on the game. He was not referring specifically to the ball, as the headline suggested.    

A reduced-distance golf ball may soon be a reality — but is it a concept that would be widely adopted? Or will the average golf consumer even care?

Those are the big questions the game’s governing bodies and numerous equipment manufacturers are currently mulling. According to the Wall Street Journal, the R&A and the USGA are currently researching how distance restrictions on balls would impact the sport. USGA executive director Mike Davis did not mention the impact of the modern ball specifically in the article, but he did join the chorus of voices worried about the effects of increased distance on the game.

“I don’t care how far Tiger Woods hits it,” Davis told the Journal. “The reality is this is affecting all golfers and affecting them in a bad way. These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand. All it’s doing is increasing the cost of the game. The impact it has had has been horrible.”

Earlier this month, Tiger Woods voiced his support for “roll[ing] the ball back” while being interviewed on UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma’s podcast.​

And just last week, Bridgestone Golf president and CEO Angel Ilagan told GOLF.com’s Ryan Asselta, “As it relates to the Tour…there needs to be something to standardize [the ball] because the guys are hitting it way too long.”

Legends of the game like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have been longtime advocates for restrictions on the golf ball’s distance. 

Classic courses rendered obsolete by players regularly pounding drives over 300 yards is the main impetus for action on the ball. One potential solution is for individual tournaments or courses to mandate a particular ball for participants.

The obvious choice there would be Augusta National, a course where many renovations have taken place over the last two decades to accommodate the Tour’s longest bombers.

But, as noted in the Journal piece, when Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley was asked about whether the club would consider rolling back the ball for the Masters, he replied: “It’s not something we would want to do.”