The new golf ball should be an opportunity for recreational golfers to play smarter, not longer.

It’s easy to understand why professional golfers might oppose the plan to reduce the distance balls travel in the air, but using recreational players as leverage to oppose the change is disingenuous at best and ridiculous at worst.

Losing an average of 3 to 5 yards won’t negatively impact club golfers or weekend warriors who fantasize about being the next Happy Gilmore. It will not materially change your score. The reduction is so insignificant as to be insignificant.

But when professionals like Keegan Bradley call the change “monstrous” to fans, they water a seed that should never have been planted.

Bradley grew up in a golfing household and his father is a club professional, so he understands that recreational players lack the technique, swing speed and accuracy to be affected by the plan, which the USGA and R&A will implement. for professionals in 2028. for everyone else in 2030.

His statement earlier this month to reporters in the Bahamas was disappointing because it seemed like an attempt to manipulate a gullible audience, which is what recreational players are. He gave us another reason to blame everything and everyone for our failures in the course except ourselves.

Bad shot? We tell ourselves it has to be the balls or the clubs, so we buy a dozen balls for $50 even though we know we’re likely to lose at least two or three per round because we’re not as good as we think we are. We are, or we will spend thousands of dollars on irons because we believe they will make our shots travel longer and straighter without the required practice time. Bad driving? It has to be the controller, which is why we’ll spend hundreds of dollars to replace the one we bought the year before.

Perhaps Bradley felt he could help pressure golf’s leaders to reconsider their plan by getting the common man to join his fight. But the truth is that changes are necessary to compensate for advances in technology and equipment. USGA data shows that the number of top professional players averaging at least 300 yards off the tee has increased from 13 to 98 over the past 10 PGA Tour seasons, making it easier for them to avoid a well-placed bunker or a group of trees just going over them.

Keegan Bradley gave his opinion on the changes to the golf ball. (John David Mercer/USA Today)

That was the concern of the USGA and R&A early last year when they issued joint statements that read, in part: “The governing bodies continue their work to address the long-term cycle of increased hitting distances and lengthening of courses that threatens the long-term continuity of golf. long-term sustainability and undermines the basic principle that a broad and balanced set of playing skills must remain the primary determinant of success in golf.”

Some courses have tried to fight back by extending hole distances, but there is a limited amount of property and money available to everyone. As a result, course management and shot setup appear to be playing increasingly less important roles in laying plans for success.

The irony of Bradley’s statement is that he is pushing a narrative that is detrimental to recreational golfers. They should focus on how to get around a hole instead of trying to drive like Bryson DeChambeau or Rory McIlroy. There’s a reason golf sages remind us to drive for show and putt to make money, because the short game is the most effective and proven formula for lowering scores.

Our obsession with distance is one of the reasons we can take nine consecutive hits out of bounds and at the same time keep throwing punches towards the moon, hoping that the tenth hit will find the sweet spot and squeak in. the air, eliciting oohs and aahs from onlookers as he finds the street. . But the fact is, we’re never going to go as far or as accurately as the professionals, regardless of our delusions of grandeur.

The USGA and the R&A sampled handicap driving distances among club golfers in the United Kingdom and found that male amateurs at all levels averaged about 215 yards off the tee, than those with handicaps between 13 and 20 They averaged 200 yards, and those between the high single digits and low double digits averaged just under 220 yards. Golfers with handicaps below six averaged approximately 240 yards.

Losing 3 to 5 yards won’t affect your games one way or another, but the switch to the golf ball could significantly impact professional players if the modification estimates are accurate. According to the USGA and R&A, the changes will reduce drives by 11 yards for tour professionals and 7 yards for tour players, although Bradley maintains that testing by Srixon, a major ball manufacturer, showed a loss. 40 to 50 yards when used. the new specifications.

“I think the USGA…everything they do is reactionary,” Bradley said. “They don’t think of a solution. “They just think we are going to affect 100 percent of the golfing population.”

Normally, the common man’s argument would be laudable, but this one is missing because something needed to be done at the highest level of the game. If Bradley and his followers were honest with themselves, or if they wanted the opinion of recreational players like me, they would know that the men’s professional game is becoming less interesting because it lacks those moments on the tee that require real reflection as to the consequences. versus benefit. Too often we get: long drive, pitch, putt.


Golf has enough challenges that deserve serious discussion, such as the PGA Tour and LIV Golf determining whether they can ever coexist and what the game would be like if they merge. Spending time complaining about a 3-5 yard reduction in recreational players’ drives should be a two-stroke penalty, if not an automatic ejection.

(Top photo: Luke Walker/Getty Images)