Limits on Golf Ball Performance

The topic of limiting golf ball performance has been addressed recently as a way of reducing the distance professionals hit the ball on the PGA/ Nationwide tours. We have witnessed some incredible performances from Robert Garrigus, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, and John Daly before them. Talk has been circulating that great golf courses are becoming obsolete due to the tremendous distances players can hit the ball. Also, with a pair of 59’s shot on the PGA Tour this year (Goydos and Appleby) and a 58 by Ryo Ishikawa on the Japan Tour, the mantra has gone out that the golf ball is too hot. Is this really the case? Similar claims were made in the early 1900’s when the “Bounding Billy” golf ball was developed by Coburn Haskell, and Sandy Herd was the only player to use the ball throughout the 1902 British Open, shooting 307 and defeating Harry Vardon and James Braid by a shot. The same hue and cry arose about the added distance provided by the Haskell ball and how golf courses would be overpowered. While scores improved nominally, they didn’t plummet to record numbers as expected. As a matter of fact, Byron Nelson set a scoring record by averaging 68.34 strokes per round in 1945 that lasted over 50 years until Tiger Woods broke it with a 68.17 scoring average in 2000. The PGA Tour leader in driving distance in 2000 was John Daly with an average of 301.4 yards; Robert Garrigus led the Tour in 2010 with an average of 315.4 yards. However, scores have not gotten better with the increase in distance. Tiger’s 68.17 remains the lowest scoring average in history, reflecting the accuracy of the saying “Your drive for show, but you putt for dough.” While distance will always be a factor in the game of golf, it is not the only factor. All of us can improve our games by working on that magic distance inside 100 yards – and almost all of us can hit the ball 100 yards without straining! So spend more time on your short game, and you will be able to challenge the long hitters every time you go to the course.