From The Inbox

Distance rollback would hurt average golfer

The problem with increased distance in golf affects only a small fraction of players, yet all golfers would be affected by a change

I find it interesting that the USGA & R&A now are going to close the barn door after the horses have gotten out (“USGA, R&A release ‘Distance Insights’ project,” Feb. 5).

Their first fusillade in the distance debate has been fired. A year from now, after feedback and – egads! – more study, will there be a definitive action taken? Will a ball rollback, smaller clubheads and COR, bifurcation, be the answer?

I may have missed something, but are the distance discussions and study biased toward what the elite golfers – aka the professionals – are doing to the iconic courses? In the U.S., is the rollback warranted for all of the tournaments sanctioned by the PGA and Korn Ferry tours versus the millions of rounds played by Joe Average Golfer?

What will the LPGA do? Will the women’s tour shorten courses to reflect whatever is adopted as the rollback?

Have these respected and august ruling bodies taken into consideration the fact that the average golfer is always looking to hit it farther?

With a rollback, will the "Play It Forward" mantra be part of the new paradigm? Isn’t it interesting that the "lengthening" dilemma is only to challenge the fraction of 1 percent elite golfers?

It seems that a rollback will reinforce the egos of the ruling bodies but not really address what the public wants: more distance.

I suggest that the distance rollback may not be well received by the average club member or the backbone of the industry, the daily-fee player.

Dave Richner
St. Johns, Fla.

Controversy? What controversy?
Well, the distance controversy isn't going away, and the powers-that-be are on it. Maybe. Still, I think this is mostly a solution in search of a problem for about 90 percent of golfers (“USGA, R&A release ‘Distance Insights’ project,” Feb. 5).

The USGA and R&A report on distance even concedes that most golfers already are playing from tees that are too long for them, and if you're a non-elite woman, good luck finding a course that has appropriate tees. With the average driving distance of "recreational" male golfers at 185-240 yards, I doubt there are many courses that can no longer "keep up.”

Most courses could shorten their yardage, with no detriment to play. The report is long on statistics. Mark Twain said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” The statistical selections in the report seem to have been designed to make the situation as dire as possible.

The report brings up elite players in state-level competitions that may require longer courses. Here in Minnesota, the Minnesota Golf Association has no problem finding suitable courses, and they are unlikely to be "too short" for state championships any time soon.

But what about the national championships and the PGA Tour? The Tour's problem is just that: the Tour’s problem. The Tour is rolling in money, and I'm sure that officials will work it out. The USGA just might be worried that the winner of the Open will be below par. I will concede that Augusta National is a concern. It would be a shame if the Masters no longer could be played on this iconic course. However, courses such as Pebble Beach and Riviera, already too short, manage still to challenge today's pros.

If Oakmont or Winged Foot (or insert your favorite iconic venue) no longer can host PGAs or Opens, well, so be it. They would join a long list of former venues. The fact is, there are more ways than distance to present a challenge to the world's best golfers. All this holds true across the Atlantic, too.

If golf to you is all about the PGA Tour and the two Opens, then you can dismiss all of the above; or golf is about the hundreds of thousands of "recreational" golfers who finance the Tour and the Opens.

This is a tempest in a teapot and requires no action at all.

Blaine Walker
St. Paul, Minn.

The long and short of it all
I wrote in once before regarding distance and rolling back the ball, with which I totally disagree. Let me try and put it simply in golf layman's terms (“USGA, R&A release ‘Distance Insights’ project,” Feb. 5).

I'm fortunate enough at age 66 to be able to hit it long enough still to have wedges into some par 4s. The friends with whom I play are not, and they usually are hitting 6- and 7-irons in.

Now, let’s say that the USGA and R&A roll back the distance and I now am hitting 7-irons into par 4s. It stands to reason that my friends are going to be hitting 3- and 4-irons. I would assume that my friends would much rather that I hit wedges and they keep their 7-irons in their hands.

How does rolling back the ball’s distance make any sense for them? How does it make the game any more fun?

The ruling bodies seem to want to make shot-making more important and take the driver out of the hands of the longer hitters on the professional tours but forget that they will in essence put enormous pressure on the shorter hitters to be near-perfect. What a way to even the field.

I find the ruling bodies always trying to find ways to take the fun out of the game. Let's continue to destroy the game until there is nothing left to enjoy.

Wake up, R&A and the USGA, before you have completed your self-appointed mission in life.

Robert Fish
Prescott, Ariz.

1 game needs 2 different balls
You can ask 100 golfers why they play golf, and you will get about 97 different answers. Everything from “I just love playing" to "I play only to get to the 19th hole.” I have heard both, and 95 others in between.

The length of golf courses and the distance that balls are being hit and the forgiveness of clubs and balls might not ever even be one of those 100 reasons for playing or not playing (“USGA, R&A release ‘Distance Insights’ project,” Feb. 5).

The game at the professional and amateur levels is at least night and day. If distance and the other issues are such a major problem, then make the pros play a golf ball designed just for them and let the rest of the mortal golf community use whatever we want.

Am I nuts?

Bob Geismar
Boca Raton, Fla.

Changing Pebble Beach dates would come with a price
In regards to John Hawkins’ article about date changes at Pebble Beach, I am sure that the owners at Pebble Beach might consider a date change from off-season to prime-time season, if the PGA Tour ponied up all the lost revenue that they would incur (“Pebble Beach deserves better fate with PGA Tour,” Feb. 4).

Start with $500-per-player green fees lost for a week’s worth of play, then add whatever else they contribute to the running of the tournament.

I don't think Pebble Beach needs the exposure.

Tod Laudonia
Cos Cob, Conn.

Pebble Beach and its spectacular view
There are more difficult and demanding courses on the PGA Tour than Pebble Beach (“Pebble Beach deserves better fate with PGA Tour,” Feb. 4).

The same could be said for St. Andrews.

However, only Pebble offers spectacular views of the Monterey coastline, which truly are spectacular. Pebble is a special place and should be put on display as often as possible.

Duane Peterson
Eureka, Calif.

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