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  1. In recent days, the idea that the golf ball should be rolled back 20% has been floated about. Every time I hear someone tell me that the golf ball should be rolled back 20%, I think to myself "have they actually done the math?" and then, shortly afterward, "are they freaking insane?" At what point in time would a 20% roll-back be? Dustin Johnson hits the ball 315 yards, let's say (because it was his average exactly in 2017). Well, welcome to 2021, where the new and improved Dustin Johnson absolutely annihilates the ball 252 yards! Dan Pohl led the PGA Tour in driving distance in 1980 - 1980 - with a driving distance of 274.3 yards. That's just over 87% as far as Dustin Johnson, so if you wanted to roll back to 1980 standards, you're way, way closer to 10% than 20%. That's as old as driving distance stats get, but the equipment didn't change much between 1980 and 1960, when Jack would regularly bust 300-yard drives of his own. So a 20% roll back goes back to, when… 1930? Best as I can figure… Let's also consider the guy who hits it 250 now. He's going to be content to hit it 200? The guy who hits it 215 and plays from 5900 yards? He's happy with 172? Proponents of rolling the ball "back" suggest that golf courses are spending money hand over fist to build new longer tees (despite no course in my area adding significant yardage in the last 20 years), but a ball roll-back could actually have them spending money to build longer tees. If you play the blue tees at Whispering Woods (scorecard image here) at 6475 yards, your 80% yardage is 5,180, which means you could play the Yellow tees at 5298 or the red at 4760. If you play the white tees now, at 6043, you're pretty well set for the red tees. But if you play either of the forward two tees, the course is now too long for you, and needs two new sets of tees forward of the forward-most existing tees. Sure, they can let the black tees go to pasture (6804 becomes 5443, which is about where the yellow tees are now), along with the blue and possibly the white, but they're just going to have to rebuild those tees further forward. And… Whispering Woods clocks in at a par 72, 74.0/144 rated/sloped course from 6804 yards! It was built about a decade ago, well into the distance boom. If you think courses are building new back tees now, just wait until they have to build all new forward tees, or risk seniors, women, and children not being able to play the game. The ball roll-back would be the opposite of "Grow the Game." BTW, green-to-tee walks? Instead of the most commonly used men's tee being situated close by, you'll find yourself walking or driving 80 to 100 yards forward, past the tees that have been left to pasture, to get to your new men's tees. If you've ever had to drive or walk forward to the forward tees, that's what every hole will be like now. Additionally, the entire scope of the game will be thrown out of whack with a 20% roll-back. Consider a 30-yard wide fairway now, with a golfer hitting it 250 yards. To hit that fairway, assuming he's aiming at the center, he has to hit the ball within roughly 3.4° left or right to hit the fairway. At 200 yards, he's got 4.3° to hit the fairway - an extra 26%. To provide the same challenge, we'd have to narrow fairways that same 20% to only 24 yards. And let's consider a 400-yard hole played by a guy who hits his tee shot 245 and his second shot 155. Right now he plays that hole with a driver and a 7-iron, so there's a fairway bunker 150-160 yards from the center of the green. The new hole is 320 yards, and our fella hits his tee shot 196 yards, leaving him 124 yards. Now, that 124 yards is still his 7-iron, but that fairway bunker… guess what? It's now completely out of place. At 155 yards from the tee, it's now 30 yards behind where the guy is playing his second shot from, and will now punish people who currently hit the ball shorter than 245 off the tee. Punishing the short hitters… that's what golf is all about, amiright? If a critical hazard on a hole's tee shot can't be moved - like a creek that tempts players to carry it - then you'll be faced with the decision to move the entire green closer to the tees. If you talk with any course architect, the first thing they tend to do when routing a course is locate possible green sites. They're carefully selected, and it would greatly undermine the architecture to have to move more than a few green sites per course. Oh, and let's not forget the greens themselves. Right now, from 155, players are often asked to hit a green that's 30 yards deep and 24 yards wide. But, with the same club in their hands, that 155 yard flight will again be reduced to 124… yet the green dimensions will stay the same. Greens will start to feel like massive targets. They'll play completely out of scale to the way they did now. They, too, would have to be shrunk 20% in both dimensions (resulting in greens that are 64% the size of current greens) to maintain the same challenge. And guess what? If you reduce the size of a green, you're going to have to again move greenside bunkers and hazards. Pin placements will become greatly reduced. Wear will increase given the smaller area of concentrated traffic. But your alternative - leaving the greens the same size and not moving any hazards - will result in lower scoring across the board, by all players. I wouldn't want to have to make that choice, or incur those costs. So in addition to the new tees, golf courses may incur other expenses as well: Consulting with an architect once again, even though their course operates well now. Narrowing fairways, tree-lines, etc. Moving hazards, bunkers, or green sites. Possibly changing the dimensions of greens, and all greenside hazards. Completely changing the value of par or the course rating and slope. Punishing shorter hitters with existing hazards. Consider, say, the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. It plays about 140 yards. With a 20% roll-back, the hole will effectively play 175 yards. Consider, say, the 12th at Augusta National. It's a devil of a hole at 155 yards. Players will hit anything from 8I to Wedge. It plays 155 yards, slightly downhill, and to a historical average of 3.28. Over a quarter shot over par. After a 20% roll-back, it will effectively play 194 yards. That green is not built to accept shots from 194 yards! But that's okay. Augusta National can afford to blow up one of the most famous, tested, tried and true holes in golf. Right? For maybe 95% of golfers, 6500 yards is fine. I've yet to see numbers on how many courses are really undergoing massive costly projects to add significant length. I think it's a small minority - just as the PGA Tour and players of a similar skill level are a really, really small % of golfers. Consider the massive disruption to golf around the world if this 20% roll-back were to occur. Consider that the Honda Classic - yes, not an "awesome" course, but still - held players in nearly perfect conditions to a -8 winning score at "only" 7100 yards. Consider that we're still playing major championships on courses dating to the early 1900s or earlier, and that the winning score at Oakmont, for example, was only -4. Consider what a 20% roll-back would do to your game, your enjoyment, and your home course. And then you'll likely find yourself asking the same question I ask whenever I hear someone say 20%: are you nuts?
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