Jack Nicklaus rarely misses an opportunity to question or criticize today’s golf balls. The Golden Bear has long been the lead voice in calling for a rollback of golf ball distance. The premise has always been that today’s ball technology allows players to hit ball too far, thus obsoleting many of the classic golf courses the old guard, such as Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, played early in their careers on the PGA Tour.
I’ve never really bought into that argument, but at this week’s Honda Classic, Nicklaus took it in a bit of a different direction. He still sees today’s balls as the villains in the game today, but not necessarily because they’re longer than balls of 30 years ago, but because they’re creating a bigger gap between the game’s best player and average players.
“There’s nothing wrong with the game today. It’s just a different game than I played,” Nicklaus said. “When I played, if I would play with an amateur at his club, and we both played from the back tees, I might out‑hit him 15 or 20 yards. It wasn’t a big deal. You play with him today, the guy’s out‑hitting (an amateur by) 100 yards.
“It’s not even close to a contest. They are playing with the same equipment. Something’s different. And whether it’s the golf ball or the club or a combination . . . the only issue that I have always had with this thing is that the Tour is a showcase of the game, and the Tour should be the example of how the game should be played for the average golfer. And when the average golfer cannot relate to the game that the Tour guy is playing, how can you say it’s the same game?”
In other words, average players are having a more difficult time relating to what they see on the Tour.
“People want to come out and watch it, because it’s exciting because they can’t do it,” Nicklaus said “But what I always thought was, the excitement was being able to come out and play this game that on any given day, if I were an amateur, I could go out and do what Tiger (Woods) does or do what Phil (Mickelson) does. They can’t do that.”
I’m still not sold on rolling back the golf balls, but that’s an argument that makes more sense.