Jack Nicklaus Says Modifying Ball Will Solve Two Big Problems for Golf

Jack Nicklaus
The Associated Press

Jack Nicklaus, arguably the best golfer in the history of the game, offered a fuzzy argument that golfers can speed up play and courses can avoid closing their doors if only we modify the size of the golf ball. 

Speaking at the HSBC Golf Business Forum in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, the world record holder of “major” golf championships with 18—four more than Tiger Woods—explained that in the last decade more golf courses have shut down than new ones have opened. The reason for this Nicklaus claims is due to a great extent “in the golf ball and the distance it travels.”

The 76-year-old Golden Bear added, “Courses have had to change along with it. It’s now a slower game and more expensive than before, and that can’t be a good thing.”

Undoubtedly golf ball and club technology has improved greatly since Jack teed it up on the PGA tour. In his day drives of 250 yards were considered prodigious. Now, golfers such as Dustin Johnson, J.B. Holmes, and others resort to four and five irons when standing that distance away from the hole. This change in the game motivated many golf course owners to lengthen PGA Tour layouts hoping that the field will be sufficiently challenged.

In the past, Nicklaus has made a reasonable argument that calming down the golf ball could save course owners great expense by not needing to renovate courses to fit the long hitters. Yet, other than making a golf ball that will listen to you when you shout “stay out of the trap!” or “Go in the hole!” the notion that somehow modifying golf balls for pros and amateurs alike will hardly speed up play.

Many PGA professionals are notoriously slow players most likely due to the risk of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars for a crucial missed putt or an errant shot in to the drink. Long ball or short ball, nothing will change that.

As far as speeding up play or increasing golf pleasure for amateurs, ball modification won’t do much. The reason for that, Michael Shamburger writes at The Big Lead, is “because most amateur golfers suck.”

According to a 2005 report, the National Golf Foundation, an industry research-and-consulting service, the average 18-hole score for the average golfer is 100. And, it has been that way for decades. If you consider all the technology upgrades over the last 50 years, which includes multiple iterations of golf ball improvements, golfers still average 100 hacks a round. Consequently, Nicklaus’ suggestion will hardly make a difference in improving one of America’s favorite pastimes.