By ED TRAVIS
The USGA and R&A proposal to “roll back” performance of the golf ball used by elite players has created negative reaction from recreational players even though only the top few golfers in the world will be affected.
TaylorMade Golf, makers of the TP5 brand balls used on the PGA Tour, released the results of an online survey conducted recently showing more than eight out of ten responding disagree with reducing the allowable performance of golf balls at the elite level.
David Abeles, TaylorMade Golf President & CEO, said in the press release, “The goal of our survey was to give golfers the opportunity to voice their opinion on this proposed ruling as we absorb the MLR and its potential effects on the everyday golfer. We are grateful that nearly 45,000 golfers across the world felt the need for their voice to be heard. The overwhelming amount of responses show the passion, knowledge and care for the game our audience possesses. Each response and data point is being reviewed as we will utilize this feedback in our preparation to provide a response to the USGA and R&A.”
Of the 44,517 answering TaylorMade’s questionnaire 81% said they did not agree with the proposed golf ball rule while the same number were against a bifurcation of the rules—professionals versus amateurs—and a modified ball is not good for the game in general.
The basis for the rule’s modification is the opinion of the USGA/R&A that the best players hit the ball too far with solution being a reduction in ball performance but in direct contradiction the TaylorMade survey showed 77% of respondents were of the opinion that was not true.
Perhaps as telling as the numbers are words used by survey respondents including “unnecessary,” “bad,” “ridiculous,” and even “stupid.”
A separate survey by Golf Datatech reported 52% don’t like the proposed rule commenting it penalized elite players for being elite.
“This golf ball rollback is a hot button topic across the professional tours and among the amateur golf community, especially among better players who rely on distance as key part of their game,” Golf Datatech partner John Krzynowek said. “For this reason, we expedited this survey to put a stake in the ground so we can assess how perceptions and opinions shift on this issue over time.”
To add fuel to the fire Mark Broadie, Columbia Business School professor, author of Every Shot Counts and creator of the Strokes Gained calculation recently published a paper entitled “Impact of Distance Changes in Professional Golf, With a Focus on the ShotLink Era.”
According to Broadie analysis of the “ShotLink Era” 2006 through 2022 among other information shows that even with the lengthening of golf courses and acknowledging tee ball distance is only one of the factors showed “round scores declined at a rate of 0.43 strokes per decade.” To say that another way that’s less than one stroke in twenty years. For those wishing to delve deeper the above link to the Broadie paper makes for interesting reading.
The PGA Tour is yet to be heard from but at least they know what business they are in, that of providing golf entertainment to the millions who follow the “Best Players in the World.” Will they acquiesce and stipulate the reduced performance ball? My guest is probably but remember they are also in a head-to-head fight with LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed league playing 54-hole exhibitions, who are unlikely to accept playing with a ball that performs like those in the 1990s.
Also, it is beyond reason that the golf ball makers such as Acushnet Company (Titleist brand), Topgolf Callaway Brands (Chrome Soft) and TaylorMade Golf won’t seek a legal remedy to the disruption of their businesses and a replay of the square groove controversy.
Broadie’s data and the overwhelming anti-roll back opinion of recreational golfers will make no difference to the USGA and R&A. Despite the fact the golf’s ruling bodies say they have publicized the proposed rule for comment they have also made it clear they have already decided to make the change.
This is does not contribute to growing the game it is simply another example of them being out of touch with game and golfers.