Sunday, 14 August 2011

Interesting Letter from Stan Bush

About 10 years ago I played most of the back 9 at CPC with Sandy Tatum, a few years after he retired from his tenure as the president of the USGA.  We talked about the prodigious lengths that the pro’s were hitting the ball.  He said that the source of the problem is primarily the ball, with the clubs being a minor “nuisance”, as I think he put it.  He said the USGA had conducted extensive testing to determine what was the source for the distances being achieved by the pro’s.

[On that score, here’s a relevant aside. At Firestone I watched on TV as Bubba Watson reached the green on a 625 yard hole in two strokes and he did it with his driver and a 4 iron!]

 Tatum’s principal concern was that too many great golf courses were becoming obsolete.  He specifically mentioned Merion and Baltusrol.  He told me that the USGA had tested the modern ball and the metal-headed drivers by comparing the distance results of the two technologies: the Pro V1 ball and other balls of its ilk ball with a 1960’s steel-shafted persimmon wood and compared the results of that by hitting 1960-type balata balls with modern metal headed drivers.  The result (which you probably already know) is that they found that it was almost entirely the technology of the ball, not the clubs, that was the reason for the increased distances his by pro’s.  On the basis of that data Tatum tried to persuade the USGA should try it on an event like the U.S. Amateur by requiring all competitors to use the same standardized ball provided by the USGA.  Of course that idea went over like lead balloon - the USGA board rejected the idea out of hand.  So, what do you think?  Might one think that perhaps the USGA and the R&A too beholden to the likes of Titleist, Taylormade, Wilson, Bridgestone, etc.?

A couple of years later I heard that the Ohio Golf Association required all competitors in the Ohio Amateur to use a standardized ball which was provided to them by the OGA.  As I recall it, that program lasted for two years and then was dropped.  I don’t know why… but I can guess.

In my opinion, using a tournament ball would not be effective in levelling the field.  After all, the longest hitters would still be the longest hitters with the mid-length hitters would still be yards behind them.  No, the main reason – and Sandy Tatum was right about this – the main reason for a tournament ball is to preserve the game and the history of the game by keeping the older (e.g., the shorter) courses in the USGA portfolio of championship venues.



  1. I think it is a crying shame that the ball can emasculate so many of the classic , beloved and historically important golf courses. Yes, in my opinion, there is far too cosy a relationship between manufacturers and the supposed guardians of this game of gowf.

    Yours Colin

  2. Let the pros hit 80% range balls. It might not be as awe inspiring but it might just confirm how great Jack was and keep history as part of the game and keep maintenance costs down. Win, win, win. Ian contact me if you wouldn't mind. Tom Brain

  3. In the early 70s the American Softball Association went to a restricted flight ball for exactly the same reasons that Mr. Tatum stated for older golf courses. It worked very well as would a lower compression golf ball. It has been proposed for decades and yet nothing has been done. The simple answer is money. The ball makers threaten to pull advertising dollars and the ruling bodies crumble at the knees. The answer is to get someone in charge who is rich and has a spine. Jack Nicklaus... are you listening..?