What does a tour pro think about the possibility of playing a tournament ball?
Bunker ambassador Gary Boyd on this week’s Distance Insights report
It’s been a big talking point for the past five years. It’s a tough one, golf has made such big strides with the equipment and fitness side to pushing towards hitting the ball further, and now how Bryson DeChambeau plays the game, and in that respect it’s a bit disappointing that they are trying to tame the distance.
You do have to ask how much are we really gaining? I think it was three yards on the PGA Tour in 2020 but courses have to adapt to that and over 10 years it all adds up so something needs to be done. In the pro game everyone hits it 300 yards whereas, 10 years ago, you might have 20-30 guys maybe who were up there and everyone else was around the 280 mark.
When I first got on the European Tour in 2010 my average was around 294 yards and now it is 310 so it’s at least a club difference. I’d say I’m quite a long hitter, I’ve never really had an issue or worried about it anyway. We don’t know what might be done but the long hitters are still going to be the long hitters. It will just make it harder for the guys who don’t hit it quite so far. If we do start hitting it 50 yards shorter then it will make a massive difference.
With the new groove regulations in 2010 it actually made the game easier. Realistically you could never get to the back flag as you were generating too much spin, now you can. With a new spinnier ball you will see a lot of wedges spin back like the old days and we’ll have to find a way of taking that off. I play at Woburn at the 3rd at The Duke’s, which is a downhill par 3 with a severe slope from back to front, could be interesting with a spinny ball. The Duke’s used to host the British Masters on the European Tour but it would be considered too short these days. I might not hit the driver until the 7th or 8th and I might hit five in total off the back tees as you just run into the trees.
It’s worth remembering that guys aren’t shooting 30-under every week and you want to see pros making birdies. One problem if we’re playing with different clubs and balls is that it might be that a lot of amateurs will always want to use the same equipment as Tiger and Rory and that does take a lot away from the game. I was definitely like that as a youngster. Whenever I play with amateurs I will hit it 40-50 yards further than them and they want to do the same and that won’t be the case in the future when we might be only 10 yards in front of them. Amateurs want to see the pros hitting it a long way and that’s always been the case – it’s just that the bottom end of tour pros have caught up.
The pro game is probably further away from the amateur game than it was 10 years ago. The pros will always adapt - it happened with the grooves - and pros will find a way to hit it further which is what they’re doing now. I wouldn’t hit a 4-iron very often at all to a par 4 now. If you’re hitting it 300 yards then a hole has be realistically over 500 yards to hit that club. You only really hit your 4-iron into a long par 3 or 5. You have par 3s in majors that are around the 300-yard mark now and that doesn’t make sense – all the great ones are under 160 yards.
Some forget that we are already playing courses that are 1,000 yards longer so we need to hit it 50 yards further. That’s what tee positions are there for - they should be there for handicaps like they do in the States.
With TrackMan etc it wouldn’t take too long to get used to any new equipment. It would be interesting to try a spinnier ball, if you hit an old ball with the latest driver it goes nowhere in comparison. If you hit an old Balata or Tour Prestige it is like hitting a sponge ball. The ball back then was adapted to how the driver reacted to it which is what they do now to get the optimum launch.
I’ve never tried a longer driver. When I was growing up, to get a bit more control, you would take half an inch off it and have a slightly heavier shaft. The shafts now are so light they can have a 48-inch driver and the wider the arc the more speed you will generate. They should do the same with a putter and worry about it if someone is 6”9!
If they do change things about then some of the great links are going to be really interesting. Links courses have always been renowned for needing the weather to defend them. Royal St George’s is always a brutal test, I’ll always remember the 4th where you look at that giant bunker and you think why’s that there and then you’re into the wind and you get it. Lytham have moved a lot of bunkers about so what will happen now and what will the cost to the course be?