USGA doing research on implementing Golf Balls that play shorter...
The genie is out of the bottle, his pockets full of every "longest" golf ball on the market today, but is someone trying to stuff him back in?
For going on 10 years, and maybe a little longer, the golf ball has been flying farther and farther.
Every year's new version is just a little longer, a little hotter than the last.
Do you remember the days when 250 yards was the benchmark of hugeness off the tee? Today, that's puny, and well, yesterday's number, unless of course you're talking about Phil's or Bubba's four-iron.
What's the end point to this ever-longer game?
There is apparently somebody who doesn't think it's necessarily farther down the fairway, though putting the toothpaste back in the tube, so to speak, is going to be one tough assignment.
That "somebody" may well be the United States Golf Association, which has asked three different ball manufacturers to come up with a prototype of a less-hot ball.
That experimental idea is well-known, but a little research now seems to be in the offing.
Already part of the group of golf-governing bodies who have implemented a new groove standard -- mandating grooves not as deep or as sharp with the intention of making spin less of a crutch and again making accuracy paramount -- the USGA has apparently approached the Canadian Tour to help it conduct some of that research.
Asked about an unofficial upcoming dialed-back ball day, Tour deputy director Dan Halldorson threw up his hand like a stop sign last week during the Players Cup at Pine Ridge. He said he couldn't speak about it.
What we do know is that the Tour, after one of its events next month, is going to have a couple dozen of its players come back on a Monday for some research.
They'll play in what could be termed a one-day tournament. It might be better termed a lab experiment, and they'll all play with the same kind of golf ball -- one of these less-zippy models.
Word is these "prototype" balls will be anywhere from 10 to 20 per cent shorter, with the 20 per cent figure applying only to the hardest-hit and longest shots from the driver.
The group of pros will include Wininpeg's Adam Speirs. They will have just played a 72-hole tournament and will have assembled a good diary of information about distances and clubs hit.
Then on lab-experiment day, they'll have a new set of figures to plug in.
What the results will tell is not known. What the USGA and other golf bodies will do with the data is also not known, and it's likely there will be other tests and research to come, but you can bet there will be a faction within the game that will be cheering them on.
The loudest proponent of cooling off the golf ball has been legend Jack Nicklaus, especially architect Nicklaus, and it's no risk to guess that a long line of designers are behind him.
The technology of new metal-headed clubs and new materials in the manufacture of all equipment, the ball included, has resulted in an enormous increase of possibilities with a golf swing.
And what it's doing is rendering classic old golf courses useless for modern championships, largely because they've become too short without changing a thing.
Room to expand
Many have no room to expand -- land's expensive and in short supply in may cases anyway -- and new courses are being built with heftier yardage totals than ever before.
The new Southwood, for instance, will have a back tee total distance of something like 7,400 yards.
A common debate among today's architects is when will the first 8,000-yard course hold a tournament?
Nicklaus has long pleaded for governing bodies to stop the insanity. He has always held that putting limits on the golf ball is the easiest solution.
Of course, equipment and ball manufacturers don't agree with him. For example, do you think the makers of Titleist and its smash-hit ProV1 ball are on board with that?
Not a chance, and they'll probably fight this newest line of experimentation every step of the way.
The worst that will come of it, though, is some sober second-thinking with some actual data -- good ammunition for a fruitful debate.