Preparation -- or a Golf Ball Limit

By Adam BarrNovember 6, 2004, 5:00 pm
You could hear a dimple drop around the golf industry Wednesday when commissioner Tim Finchem began to wrap up his state-of-the-PGA Tour talk at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
 
Lastly, before I take your questions, I want to talk about the golf ball and equipment, Finchem said.
 
The Tour has been much involved in recent years in the debate about how far golf balls fly when struck by the worlds best players, and what effect that might have on the game. Those of us listening to Finchems presentation held our breath for a moment ' and what we finally heard sounded like a line being drawn.
 
The commissioner noted that since golf ball distance discussions began in earnest three years ago, most aspects of equipment that affect ball flight have been regulated, or existing regulations have been updated. The U.S. Golf Association and its overseas counterpart, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, have recently instituted or revised limitations on coefficient of restitution (C.O.R.) for club-face resiliency, club length, clubhead size, and the Overall Distance Standard for golf balls. Because of the new regulatory framework, Finchem said, he expects annual average distance to grow at a rate of about a yard per year, as it did between 1981 and 1996, instead of up to seven yards annually, as it did between 1996 and 1999. He urged manufacturers to devote their research and development efforts to improved playability instead of leaps-and-bounds distance gains.
 
Any new distance gains, Finchem said, will come from ever-increasing athleticism in golfs elite echelon. He also said that some courses on the Tour circuit have been made longer to accommodate recent distance increases, and some of those courses ' most notably Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament ' are simply out of real estate for further expansion.
 
So we continue to believe, Finchem continued, that its important that the USGA move forward and complete the research necessary to determine what options are available to us if we were to determine at some point in the future that it was important to make a change with the golf ball; that is to say, deaden the golf ball, bring the distance back, regulate it back.
 
Whoa. Do we hear an official-size-and-weight Tour ball landing? Maybe not yet; maybe not ever. But:
 
Im quick to point out, I dont assume anything here, Finchem said. The only assumptions we're making at this point is that athleticism will play a role in generating average increase in distance. There isn't any reason to believe that distance will increase at the highest level, but we don't know that. It is prudent for us to be active in terms of researching options as we look out into the future.
 
Finchem has been trying to see beyond that horizon with the help of the USGA. Twice in the last four months, Finchem has visited the testing center at USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J. The USGA, for its part, has acknowledged more than once that the Tour has been the most important source of elite-player data for more than two decades. The USGA also said last year that it is prepared to spend big ' up to $10 million, if necessary ' on what the organization calls the most comprehensive golf-ball research project ever undertaken by the USGA. (The project is already two years old; final results are expected in a year or so.)
 
David Fay, the USGAs executive director, hopes it wont cost that much. But hes willing to go the distance to support any future changes with the hardest of data.
 
The USGA and R&A and the PGA Tour have all agreed that no changes are called for, based on todays conditions, Fay said. The need to make any future changes will depend ' naturally ' on how the game is played in the future. But that gets us back to research. We cant sit and wait for future changes ' or cross our fingers that therell be no evolution in how the game is played. We have to be fully engaged and prepared if and when the day comes when changes ' whatever they may be ' are considered necessary.
 
So were still clearly in the land of possibility and potential. But read Fays comments closely, and you can see that raw distance, by itself, wont be the only factor considered in any future decision about how the ball may be regulated. The relevant words: how the game is played.
 
Finchems comments echoed this theme.
 
We measure public opinion and attitude, Finchem said. Golf course owners and organizations are looking at it, as we are, from a competitive challenge standpoint, shot values, how the golf course was designed versus how maybe it's being played now, given where the golf ball is going and what it does and how equipment performs, plus how the athleticism of the players. So all those things combine to create some questions; are you comfortable with the way the golf course is playing, is the fan as excited about the golf course playing this way versus some other way, what things would you have to do to the golf course to get it to a point where you are comfortable, and do you really want to do that?
 
Does that mean an overdose of driver-wedge holes could trigger thoughts of an official ball? Finchem didnt speculate, but said, There is no litmus test.
 
Finchem did not mention conversations with players or players on the issue, and the Tour did not return phone calls before deadline. But some manufacturers reacted.
 
The proposal, if indeed it is formally made, is both unnecessary and unwise, said Bob Wood, president of Nike Golf. [We] would not be in favor of such a proposal, nor would, I suspect, our fellow manufacturers. Of the top 20 Tour players in driving distance in 2003, 18 have seen their distance decline this year.
 
Unless the Tour mandates that players use a 'Tour' ball and provides spec options for such, we will continue with business as usual, Wood continued. However, from a business perspective, the mandate of a Tour ball could have a significant impact on the ball segment of the golf industry for manufacturers, retailers, and golf professionals. For instance, between Sept. 1 and Oct. 1 alone, 18 different ball models were used on the PGA Tour. By mandating a Tour ball and requiring all players to use the same specs, essentially, you diminish the impact of the Tour player on ball sales. That would necessarily affect endorsement income for the Tour members.
 
Far more important than that is the issue of free choice in terms of equipment on the part of Tour player. The ball is a critical part of a player's arsenal. Each Tour player's swing and launch conditions are unique. Tour players would strongly resist this idea on the basis of that alone. The idea of one ball for all Tour players raises more questions than it answers in terms of an individual fitting the right ball to his or her game. Golf in that regard is not the same as basketball or baseball.
 
Callaway Golf took a different tack.
 
We have been consistent in saying we believe elite professional golfers are the only ones who could threaten the game of golf by hitting the ball too far, either off the tee or with their irons, said Larry Dorman, Callaways senior vice president of global public relations. We also have said that should the PGA Tour decide it needs to limit the distance the golf ball travels for players competing in its co-sponsored events, we would not be opposed to such limitations. We have the necessary technology and know-how to create such a golf ball right now, as do the other major golf ball manufacturers.
 
Titleist, whose balls are played by more players on the PGA Tour than any other companys, declined to answer questions about Finchems comments.
 
Throughout his talk and answers to press questions Wednesday, Finchem was adamant that any decisions on the future of the golf ball on the Tour will be based on hard data ' mostly provided by the Tours Shot Link system, which measures performance graphically and offers plenty of player information for a database. The USGAs Fay agrees, and both men appear to want to remove emotion and rumor from any decision process that may become necessary.
 
Finchem also mentioned that data from the 2003 season will probably provide the baseline for future assessment ' and that is what may have some people in the industry thinking that Finchems remarks have as much to do with line-drawing as with preparation.
 
Stay tuned.
 
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.