USGA dismisses Solheim’s 3-ball concept

John Solheim's eccentric 3-ball concept has nothing to do with Odyssey's 3-ball putter (Photo:

No, John Solheim’s 3-ball idea has nothing to do with Odyssey putters — although the Ping exec’s recent plug for golf to employ a trifurcated system of dimpled spheres may seem to some as surreal a sci-fi notion as “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
On Monday, Solheim, Ping’s chair and CEO, recommended that golf’s governing entities, the USGA and the Royal & Ancient, adopt three types of golf balls that would travel different distances and that individual tournament organizers would employ at their whims. Under the plan, which Solheim presented as a way to protect classic courses from pros’ increasingly lofty lengths (the PGA Tour average just broke 290 yards) and make the game more enjoyable for 20-handicappers, one set of pellets would meet current distance standards, a second would come up short, and the third would shoot past the other two.
In addition, Solheim would have the USGA establish handicaps based on which ball a golfer used for each individual score. What in the name of sand-baggery could possibly go wrong with that plan?  Reading between the lines of the first official response to the eccentric idea, one can imagine USGA executive director Mike Davis doing the “Are you serious?” eye roll as he gives Solheim a virtual “There, there” pat on the back. “We have a very good relationship with John Solheim,” Davis told Golfweek’s James Achenbach on Tuesday, “and they [Ping] have done so much good for the game.”
Davis brought Solheim’s suggestion back into this galaxy by noting that golf has relied, for more than a century, on “one set of rules for all golfers.
“[Solheim’s suggestion] would be a departure from how we have regarded the game for a long time now,” said Davis, “and that would be a pretty big hurdle [for the concept to overcome].”
As Geoff Shackleford noted, Solheim did have one thing going for him: he typed an exquisite epistle, for which Davis offered the author the most backhanded of compliments.
“I can tell you the letter was not summarily dismissed,” Davis said. “Everybody who saw the letter thought it was really well written.”
While Solheim’s 3-ball document was clearly headed for the dead-letter box, Achenbach noted that Davis gave the Ping honcho his due by urging others to think outside the box about the state of the game.
“What John is doing is what all of us have to do, and that’s look at the long term,” Davis told Achenbach. “I believe all of us have to be open to the future.”