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NEWS: USGA’s Davis Says ‘Variable-Distance Golf Ball’ Could Be in Future Plans

Shinnecock Hills
Shinnecock Hills will play 2,000 yards longer at next year's U.S. Open than it did in 1896. Photo Credit: Action Images / Brandon Malone

Imagine if golf balls were tailored specifically to golfers and courses.

A scratch player could use a ball that goes shorter and could play with others of lesser ability from closer tees. Courses that are now considered short for the pros could be preserved instead of lengthened and altered.


This is the concept of a “variable-distance golf ball,” something many in the golf world have been clamoring for in the past decade. According to USGA Executive Director Mike Davis, there could in fact be a future for them.

It’s not about professionals hitting it longer – the statistics say they aren’t – but it is about land and pace of play.

“We don’t foresee any need to do a mandatory rollback of distance,” Davis told GolfDigest.com. “We just don’t see it. But that’s different than saying if somebody comes to us and says, ‘I want an experience that doesn’t take as long or use as much land, can we allow for equipment to do that?’”

Davis made reference to the fact Shinnecock Hills will be played at around 7,500 yards for the U.S. Open next year. In 1896, it played about 2,000 yards shorter.

“Anybody is hard-pressed to say that as distance has increased in the last 100 years that that’s been good for the game,” he said. “We all want to hit the ball farther. We get that. But distance is all relative. When you think about the billions and billions of dollars that have been spent to change golf courses, and you say, has that been good for the game?”

There is a case that golf may be alone in having to alter its playing surface based on technology.

“Think about baseball in the United States,” Davis said. “If they were using titanium bats and a hot baseball, and they had to go to Fenway Park and say move the Green Monster out another 75 or 100 feet? That’s exactly what’s happened in the game of golf. And you have to say what good has that done? I can’t think of a good reason for it. Maybe it’s helped architects and construction companies, but by and large it’s cost a lot of money.”

 

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