Ball Regulation?

Added on July 18th, 2014 by
Posted in General, Slow play, The ball

Hickories have proved to me that it is the ball that needs regulation.

Walton Heath golf course, (near Redhill) which was Herbert Fowler’s first design and James Braid’s club for 45 years, sets the scene for classic, open heathland, running-golf. 

I was honoured recently to be invited to play in the triangular ‘Hickories on the Heath’ match between WHGC, the Royal and Ancient GC and the British Golf Collectors Society. Each three-ball, six-some match was played with the usual level of intense competition but I am not sure that which team actually won overall was that important to the spirit and banter of a lovely day. 

Among the many legends playing were Perry Somers who hails from Germany, a champion hickory professional and Tommy Horton, an early hero of mine from reading his tips in the Sunday Express. 

Tony Hunt of SE Hickories,

Tony Hunt of SE Hickories

I had hired some beautiful pre-1930, hickory-shafted clubs from Tony Hunt for the day (only £15 including breakages) and spent the entire 18 holes  trying to discover how to use them effectively! 

But the most interesting thing that I discovered was that using a 1920s, small, wooden-headed, hickory-shafted brassie (2-wood) and with my confidence gradually climbing throughout the round, I was able to hit the modern ball from the tee almost as far (providing I hit the tiny sweet spot) as with my modern driver. 

The major advantage of modern, peripheral-weighted irons and large headed drivers is that they make the sweet spot larger and so for the recreational golfer it reduces the number of bad shots. 

The best professional and amateur golfers have always hit the ball so well that peripheral weighting does not help them that much. Many do use the recreational looking clubs to help the equipment manufacturers encourage others to purchase them, not because they improve their own performance much in distance or accuracy. 

Back in the clubhouse, a few knowledgeable companions confirmed to me that modern drivers have only added about 15% extra distance to the former hickory/persimmon drivers, over the last one hundred years. 

It is the power of the modern ball that has predominantly changed the distance game rather than modern clubs. 

This is an interesting addition to the argument over whether the power of the ball should be reduced, as Jack Nicklaus has been saying for some time. Jack favours a 20% reduction and Tony Jacklin a 15% one. 

The big equipment and ball companies are now using the best and most astute PR and advertising agencies. They know they are under criticism. As Jacklin says: “The big companies are preaching to a vulnerable audience, because every golfer wants to be longer”. 

The key issue is; has the game improved in enjoyment since the extra length with which we all can hit the ball?

or is the recreational golfer not only just hitting it further into the rough but also taking too long to play the round? 

Temple GC is to host an open competition – The Nick Park Memorial Tournament (Restricted Ball) – on September 29th. The course will be played, as near as possible, from course architect Willie Park Jnr’s original tees and thus will be approximately 5,500 yards in length (present white tees are 6210 yards). Competitors will play with specially manufactured Kingbo ‘restricted distance’ modern golf balls.

It will be interesting to see if the competitors find it as challenging and how long the eighteen holes take to play. Will they need the four lob-wedges that are in their normal bag of clubs?

In last year’s inaugural FineGolf Enjoyment Day at Temple GC using FineGolf’s ‘speedier’ golf rules, the average time taken by the three ball flights was three hours fifteen minutes.


Reader Comments

On July 23rd, 2014 Cliff Martin said:

Modern high COR drivers can hit any ball further than a hickory/persimmon driver. Bobby Jones ordered custom golf balls suited to the conditions he thought he would face ( compression, size and weight of the ball were not yet regulated ). Courses are too long, take too Long to play and cost too much to build and maintain . The clubs and balls need rolling back, a sub 7000 course for a US open played in under 4 hours should be the goal.

On October 25th, 2014 Domingo Hospital said:

We need to come back to the liquid center golf balls, this will bring back automatically older golf clubs for better flight control!!

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