Golf Ball Research Brings Uncertainty

By Associated PressMay 31, 2005, 4:00 pm
More than 100 fans pressed against the white picket fence to watch Davis Love III go through a short practice session. He started with a few wedges and worked his way through the bag until he was launching tee shots on the range at Quail Hollow Club. This got their attention.
 
His work done, Love looked over at them when asked a question that has been making the rounds lately.
 
Is too much power ruining golf?
 
Go ask all these people if the game is ruined, if its too easy, he said.
 
Then, perhaps realizing he was in Charlotte, N.C.'the heart of NASCAR country'Love offered an analogy to show the difference between PGA Tour players and the people who only dream of being that good.
 
If you give me Jeff Gordons race car out there on the track at Charlotte, I cannot make it go as fast as he can, Love said. But he can make it go as fast as the car will possibly go. So, you give us this equipment, we can make it go as far as it possibly can go, because were better than everybody else.
 
These people, they need the help.
 
The governing bodies are more interested in elite players, such as Love, and how far they are hitting the ball. The biggest buzz yet in the debate over distance came from an e-mail the U.S. Golf Association sent to manufacturers, inviting them to take part in a research project by building a ball that goes 15 and 25 yards shorter.
 
For some, it sounded more like a warning shot across the bow.
 
There certainly was some head-scratching, Srixon vice president Mike Pai said. Every time one of these things happens its like, What are they up to now? Where are we going?
 
The e-mail from USGA senior technical director Dick Rugge was sent April 11. That was one day after Tiger Woods won his fourth Masters, and five days after Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson'who first floated the idea of a tournament ball three years ago'said he was encouraged by progress the governing bodies were making on the ball.
 
Where it leads is anyones guess.
 
We had questions about it, just like everyone else, Callaway spokesman Larry Dorman said. After consulting with them, we were comfortable with the idea they were doing research, and that they have no preconceived notion of where that research is going to go.
 
Rugge insists this is not the first step of a plan to roll back the ball. He said in his e-mail, which was first obtained by Golfweek magazine, that now is the time for companies to take part in this research and get involved in the process of changing the rule if that becomes necessary.
 
We dont think a change is necessary, Rugge said in an interview. Its human nature that people are interested if something else is behind this. But its truly a research project.
 
The ball has received the brunt of the blame for shots going farther, even though there are other variables involved.
 
  • The heads of the driver can be as large as 460cc, nearly twice as big as models 10 years ago. Nick Price says drivers used to have a sweet spot the size of a pea. These things have got a sweet spot the size of a peach, he said.
     
  • Course conditions are so pure that under dry conditions, the ball can roll some 60 yards. Bernhard Langer, 136th in driving distance last year, was among the top five in the final round at the baked-out Colonial.
     
  • More golfers resemble real athletes, and the teaching is better than ever.
     
  • Computerized launch monitors have allowed players to maximize their distance by matching their swing speed and launch angle with the best spin rate of golf balls and shafts for their clubs.
     
    But the ball has a large posse of protesters, led by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, all of whom have lucrative golf course design businesses; and Johnson, who is intent on keeping Augusta National current, even though the defense of the course was never its length.
     
    We listen to people, Rugge said. We listened to Jack, and to Hootie. It doesnt mean we better do something about this. It means we ought to be at least investigating or studying. Were doing a really conscientious work to understand the issues.
     
    Rugge said there are early signs of cooperation among manufacturers, although no one has submitted a sample. Titleist and Callaway officials say it could take anywhere from three to six months to make a prototype.
     
    Titleist chief Wally Uihlein called the research project more of an intellectual exercise than emotional and attitudinal bits and bites. But to drive home his argument that it isnt just the ball, he said Titleist would supply the USGA a ball and a club specification that would produce rollbacks.
     
    We can make the ball lighter, he said. But if youre not careful, the game will hardly be what it is today. Not only will it be more subject to crosswind and headwind, but because the spin rates change, drivers no longer are compatible.
     
    Titleist recently hosted a group from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, and he said a parade of USGA officials also have come by to bone up on what goes into making a ball.
     
    Nicklaus and others think all youve got to do is go into the kitchen and set the oven at 300 (degrees) instead of 350, Uihlein said. Its not that easy. You cant just set the accelerator so it cant go more than 55 mph.
     
    The average driving distance on the PGA Tour increased by just 1 yard last year to 287.3, and the average drive on tour through the Colonial was 284.5 yards. While driving distance is up 15.5 yards over the last 10 years, the scoring average is down only a fraction during that time, from 71.18 in 1996 to 71.13 last year.
     
    Rugge doesnt expect more big gains in distance.
     
    Were going to be in the Eisenhower years'very stable, he said.
     
    And he is adamant that the purpose of this research is simply to be prepared if scaling back the ball becomes the best option. That could be years from now, if at all.
     
    Above all, the USGA and R&A are committed to one set of rules for elite players, as well as those pressed up against the white picket fence.
     
    Thats what made Loves analogy noteworthy. Any decision on equipment ultimately affects recreational players.
     
    If you made three balls, you had two balls perfect for the marketplace and one for the tour, what do these people want to play? Love said. These people want to play what we play.
     
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    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

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    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.