Monday, 19 December 2011

Solheim's Ball Proposal

 image courtesy Asian Pacific Golf Group
In the current on line issue of Golf World you can find a piece written by the Ping Chairman John Solheim titled A Long Term Response to Distance
In the piece John provides his solution to the debate on the distance the ball travels. He recommends a system where a variety of golf balls, longer, shorter and the same as today be created and players choose their ball and then a new handicapping system makes allowances for the tee and ball selection.

The following is from John’s suggestion:

Here is how I think we can do just that:

-- Replace today's single golf ball distance limit with three different "Ball Distance Ratings" (or "BDRs") - one that is the same as today's limit, one that is shorter and one that is longer.

-- Adopt a "BDR Condition of Competition" -- each event could apply the BDR appropriate for its course design and yardage, and for the skill level of the golfers competing at the event.

-- Include BDR as a factor in calculating handicaps -- just as "slope rating" or choice of tee box does today, the BDR of the ball you use will factor into your handicap.
The flaw in his idea is the inclusion of a longer ball. Almost all recreational players will want to play even longer ball. They would rather be given an advantage than work to find the improvement in their game necessary to overcome their weaknesses. Allowing this to occur may be a manufacture’s dream, but runs contrary to everything that makes golf great.

As a designer I’m frightened by what an additional 30 yards of distance will do to the safety of golf courses. Most city courses are already having a tough time dealing with the proximity of urbanization to the course and adding another 30 yards is going to increase the problems by a large factor. 

Finally as a designer I have enough trouble trying to create an interesting course for “all” levels of players. I have to rely on the correct use of multiple tees to address the disparity in driving distance. How would I possibly design for a situation where players can choose different balls with a further 60 yard variation on the current day?

Ideas like this are not practical. Speaking of practical, why don't we address the issue with common sense. Golf is clearly in decline. Consider this stream of thought and you’ll understand why I think the only smart choice is a shorter ball.

Shorter ball flight = less land = lower costs to build and maintain = lower price point for consumer = more participation