With professionals hitting the ball farther than ever, USGA executive director Mike Davis offered a candid assessment of the ripple effects tied to increased golf ball distance.
A recent Wall Street Journal report broached the possibility of using different balls at different levels of competition, an effort that would help curtail driving distance among the game's elite players which continues to increase.
It also noted some of the subsequent areas that become impacted by the ball traveling farther, including the costs tied to expanding course footprints as well as maintaining those longer layouts. It's a chain of effects that rubs Davis, who discussed the idea of a reduced-distance ball option at a symposium in March, the wrong way.
"You can't say you don't care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand," Davis said. "The impact it has had has been horrible."
The movement to slow the rapid evolution of golf ball technology continues to grow, and earlier this month it picked up the support of 14-time major winner Tiger Woods. Speaking on Geno Auriemma's podcast, Woods admitted that "we need to do something about the golf ball."
"I just think it's going too far because we're having to build golf courses, if they want to have a championship venue, they've got to be 7,400 to 7,800 yards long," Woods said. "And if the game keeps progressing the way it is with technology, I think the 8,000-yard golf course is not too far away."
According to the report, one possible solution would be the introduction of a "reduced-distance" ball with different specifications that could be used for play in certain tournaments or on certain courses. While no rule change appears on the immediate horizon, golf ball distance is one of several issues the USGA continues to examine in a tandem research effort along with the R&A.
GolfChannel.com has reached out to a USGA spokesperson for comment.
As for Davis, it appears that the myriad of cost and environmental factors tied to increased distance have led to a revised stance on one of the biggest hot-button issues currently facing the game.
"I don't care how far Tiger Woods hits it," Davis said. "The reality is this is affecting all golfers and affecting them in a bad way. All it's doing is increasing the cost of the game."