by Mickey Smith on 

Golf’s Distance Debate

Many experts in the golf industry feel that the distance modern golf professionals are hitting the ball is having a negative effect on the game. For example, golf courses now must be significantly longer to challenge top players and not all facilities have the resources to make this accommodation.

​Some experts say the ball technology must be dialed back in addition to more restrictive rules on the design of clubs. Critics of this strategy make the point that the game is very difficult for the average player and therefore dialing back the equipment is unfair to the average player and will hurt the growth of the game.

As a result, some are in favor of having two sets of rules regarding equipment for elite players and average players. While I am not opposed to the concept of having separate rules for professionals and elite level amateurs, it gets very complicated when deciding where to draw the line and what restrictions should be put in place.

Perhaps the simplest and most logical suggestion I have heard so far came from six-time major champion, Sir Nick Faldo. He posed the question “what would happen if players were not allowed to tee the ball up?”.

​Rule 6.2 covers playing the ball from the tee area and states in part “the ball must be played from either: a tee placed in or on the ground, or the ground itself.” What if a local rule could be adopted that required players to play the ball from the ground when teeing off? In my opinion, this would significantly reduce the distance that current players achieve from the teeing ground with a modern ball and a modern driver. One of the secrets to achieving these distances is to strike the ball while the club is traveling level to the ground or slightly on the upswing while simultaneously contacting the ball at or just above the center of the club face. This type of impact produces high launch/low spin conditions which maximizes distance.

​With the ball on the ground, players would need to hit slightly down on the ball, with more loft, to achieve the most consistent results. To do this, the player would give up maximum distance.

​For tournament organizers wishing to dial back driving distances, it seems to me this would be a great place to start. This would eliminate the need for new rules about ball or club specifications or what is or is not confirming equipment. Players could still use any club they want to, but most would end up teeing off with a fairway wood or with a specially designed driver with a smaller head and more loft than they would use when allowed to tee the ball up.

​In recreational or club level competitions, organizers would have the option of not invoking this rule and allowing players to place their ball on the tee. Unlike dialing back, the balls or clubs, the average golfer is left unaffected.