Gary Boyd - The Pros And Cons Of The Golf Ball Rollback

There has been a lot of talk in the media for a long time about how far golfers are hitting it and the boundaries people have pushed. In 2028 we are going to have a rollback ball where, with the updated test conditions, a drive hit with 125mph clubhead speed, with 11 degrees launch and 2200 RPMs, can only travel 317 yards.

This will result in a 13 to 15-yard decrease for the longest hitters, 9-11 yards for average pros, 5-7 yards for females and less than five yards for most club golfers.

For me there are a lot of for and against arguments. There is obviously the sustainability argument and, if we keep building back and back, it just ends up ruining golf courses from how they were originally designed.

We now have par 3s that are 280 yards, what is that all about? That is not golf any more. Then you look at some of the best par 3s in the world and they are less than 160 yards.

But I do think for the amount of cost it is going to be, trying to keep a lid on less than one per cent of the golfing world, to me I don’t see the point in it personally. When they brought in the groove change, they wanted to make the game harder but I think they ended up making the game easier. Because you just end up having back flags and you don’t have to take the spin off as much as you used to.

And pros will always adapt and the manufacturers will do the same. I don't know how they're going to reduce distances, whether it it will be increasing more spin or more launch, but it is all going to cost a fortune.

I’ve always been a massive believer in the set-up of courses, especially for professionals, and they can be tricked up a bit more than they are sometimes. Some courses that we play have little or no rough, the greens are soft and the pins are in straightforward positions.

If you simply look at the scores then, in my opinion, 12-16 under is a great golf tournament. It will be bunched up and whoever wins will have averaged three or four under a round. A round of seven under will have been a hot putter day.

Now we have some really low scoring weeks as the players are always trying to find that extra one or two percent to become better. Obviously with TrackMan and other launch monitors, technology has moved on so much in the last 15 years and the players have got so much better in all aspects of the game. Our wedge games are so much better now because we know exactly how far we hit it and we're doing games all the time to reinforce that.

I am a member at Woburn and here they built The Marquess Course with the longer tees and it is about 7,200 yards off the back tees. The Dukes is one of my favourite courses and that is under 7,000 yards. You have to think your way around the course, it is not driver everywhere because of the doglegs. I would love to see a Tour event back on the Dukes as it would be great for the fans to see a different kind of golf.

On average I will be around five under on the Dukes if I have a decent putting day as the greens are quite small around there. Obviously the distance that players do hit it now there are certain holes that will just get eaten up, and that is where you make your score with your wedges, but that's just part of the game.


I’ve never been a massive bomber but I’d be above average. There are some players that I play with who are just freakish how far they hit the ball. You can train speed, of course you can, but I think there are some genetics in there where people now are stronger, they’re fitter, they’re taller, more knowledgeable and they see the right people. I mean, 25 years ago, when Tiger came on the scene, he was one of the first players to transform the game to how fit you need to be, and you need to be a serious athlete.

I hit my driver around 295 yards carry and I hit my 5-iron about 212. I now hit my irons one club more than when I first turned pro. When I first came out on tour I used to carry a drive about 285 through the air but obviously now my ball speed has gone up because of the ball and club technology. Which is what I think the manufacturers will end up doing,

if we do go to this rollback then where does the evolution come from there? Do they start moving forward to where we are again? Do we not move forward again? I don’t know. In truth it doesn’t really bother me as everyone will be in the same boat.

With amateurs you have different tees and you go off wherever based on your ability. The better players will always test themselves and want to go off the back tees and see how hard it is. We're lucky in golf that we can test ourselves against the very best and you can't do that in many other sports.

You are just against the golf course and, on a 7,000 yard course for the average golfer off a handicap of 12, they are going to be out there for ever and they are not going to enjoy it. If they play at Woburn off the back tees and they only carry it 230 yards, it is not going to be enjoyable.

This is rarely mentioned but the tour pros use a different ball than the normal amateur anyway. Titleist ProV1 have got various different golf balls, the same at Callaway, and the balls are built for our speed and skill rate.

When they do bring in the new ball it really won't take long for the pros to get used to it, not with the technology that we have now. You have all your numbers there and after hitting so many 6-irons you will know how far the ball goes. Then it is no different when you go to a different golf tournament, say in South Africa, where you have to adapt to the altitude. There we'll have in our notebook that your 8-iron, which normally travels 175 yards, will now be 190 yards.

There is no doubt that it will affect every part of the game. The short game is all about feel and it depends what they do with the ball and whether it is going to be softer or harder.

If I had to guess I think the rollback ball will be maybe similar to the ball of around seven years ago where there was more spin. Obviously the ball now doesn’t really deviate through the air because it goes through the wind so well so I assume they will go for a softer feel. The more spin that it generates, the shorter it is going to go.

But then around the greens you are going to get more spin again, which then defeats the object of what they’ve done with the groove change.

As I say, players will always adapt. You look at some of the shots in the Ryder Cup, the spin on the chip shot that Rory McIlroy hit at the 17th was ridiculous. It was just a freak shot and it was one of those things he’s spent hours learning.

Likewise the manufacturers. I think maybe a change in the driver, where it is not quite as forgiving and you need to hit it more in the centre, would help as that has been lost a little bit. You basically hit it as hard as you can each time. The golf ball now doesn’t really shape that much because there isn’t much spin on it. Which is what I think they will go back to, the golf ball will generate more spin somehow.