Is it The Club or The Ball?

Frank and Valerie,

Thank you for the information you pass on to us weekly.

I, frankly, always look forward to opening my e-mails from you guys. Please keep them coming.

My question is that now un-anchoring is a done deal and the USGA has made its decision without compromise, is the next move to decrease the distance the ball goes or the club that hits it?




Thank you for the question and kind comments.

Yes, the USGA has indicated that it is considering the distance the ball goes.

Some elite golfers – about 0.001% of the golfing population are hitting it too far in the minds of a few.

Most of us (99%) don’t hit it far enough. The average golfer hits the ball about 190 to 200 yards – but thinks he hits it 230 to 240 yards (see our Growing the Game study report).

 One sure way to make the USGA unpopular is for it to roll the ball back. I don’t think that this is in the best interests of the game.

Before we get too excited about the distance that some PGA Tour and elite amateur golfers have gained over the last eighteen years – about 25 yards—we need to recognize that it has now reached a plateau, as shown by the PGA Tour average gain in distance over the last six years of 2.5 feet in total.

Let’s make sure the blame for the increase in distance is assigned appropriately.

The facts are:

No ball used on tour has exceeded the overall distance standard—with some upgrading modifications– adopted by the USGA in 1976.

 The spring-like effect in drivers – which violated the rule not permitting this effect, is the major contributor to the increase in distance of about 25 yards on tour since 1995.

The synergy of the spring in the face of the club and the new multilayered ball allowed the ball to be launched at optimum conditions for maximum distance.

Today’s ball is the equivalent of a Super Pinnacle i.e. great off  the driver with low spin, and high “drop and stop” spin off short irons.

Mark, the bad guy is the club, not the ball and because most of us don’t often hit the sweet spot on the driver, we haven’t gained as much distance compared to the pros on tour.

Let’s make sure the next move the USGA makes is to address the real problems facing the game – NOT grooves – NOT anchoring – and NOT the distance some elite  golfers can hit the ball but rather, Slow Play and no Bunny Slopes for Beginners. These are some of the real problems. ( See my book Just Hit It published in 2008)

 Hope this helps and please let us know what you think about decreasing the distance the ball goes.



12 thoughts on “Is it The Club or The Ball?

  1. When I started playing more than 50 years ago, even the pros talked about playing within themselves, only occasionally ‘letting out shaft’ with the driver. This included the long hitters of the day and following – Snead, Palmer, Nicklaus all played ‘within themselves’ especially with the irons.
    Then came Tiger. He was 30 yards longer than, say, Ernie Els, because Ernie’s ‘normal’ swing with the driver was probably about 70% effort, and he’d occasionally bump it up to 85%. Tiger arrived on the scene hitting it with 95+% effort all the time with all the clubs.
    Within a few years, Tiger was being outdriven by 20 or 30 bigger, stronger, Touring pros, but he retained his competitive advantage because he had never played within himself.
    Now, kids are taught to grip it and rip it. Hogan played his equalizer for all shots from 110 yards in (that’s a pitching wedge) with 10 yard increments. That works out to a 140 yard 7-iron. Jack famously said he hit 7-iron for all his 150 yard shots – uphill, downwind…adjusting effort accordingly.
    But the money is so good now, the pros don’t have to make every cut, they have to kill the ball and putt lights out for 3 rounds and not shoot over par for the 4th to make an excellent paycheck that would exceed a year’s salary for most of us. Do that 5 times a year, and you’re swimming in dough.
    The drivers have helped, the balls are better, i.e. straighter, and nobody curves it 30 yards in the air (except Bubba) because everything is engineered to produce a straight ball flight.
    But the biggest difference is every pro now swings at close to 100% effort, all the time.

  2. I agree with Mr. Powers. Why bother the golf ball companies with trying to make the ball go shorter. Set your tee in the fairway at a distance where you can hit your drive and your second shot into the green. Forget the tee box. Play your own game.
    Mike Esparza

  3. Hi Frank and Valerie,
    Let us not forget the shaft. I remember playing NDWS steel shafts back in the 70s.. That was real lumber. Now I have a 65 gram graphite shaft with flex that helps my swing. In the name of distance control do we mandate that everyone go back to a 130 gram shaft that swings like a broom? This is probably a moot point. My boomer generation will pass. Each successive generation is less interested in a costly, slow and sometimes elitist sport. The game will eventually roll back to what it was in the early 1900s. The Olympics will not rescue it.

  4. Spring-like effect doesn’t explain the 200 yard 7 iron (and yes I know lofts are stronger and shafts are longer and blah blah blah, but it’s two clubs at the most over the clubs of the past).

    It also doesn’t explain how five foot tall Korean girls can hit it 280.

    It’s also got nothing to do with stronger and better athletes. There were great athletes on Tour in the past, and a 7 iron went 150 yards and 260 yards off the tee got you into the top 10 in driving distance.

    It’s the ball.

    My interest in professional golf is at an all time low because I can’t relate to it anymore. I used to be within one club of those guys in distance. Now it’s five clubs. It’s like comparing flag football to the NFL.

    Since we no longer play the same game, we shouldn’t have the same rules. The ball needs to be rolled back ON TOUR ONLY! Bring back the 210 yard 2 iron. Then it will be interesting to watch again.

    • you just knew someone would want to change the rules of the game. my 8 iron still goes 150, mind you the pros uses wedges that do this. they hit the centre of the club 99.9 percent of the time, mine well about 50 percent. if jack Nicklaus says it is the ball I certainly would not doubt him, Frank!

    • The game has a LOT to do with physical conditioning. These new golfers are in great shape when compared to the older golfers. Ball, shalft,clubs yes but give a lot of credit to the hard work these guys go in conditioning themselves

      • Sorry, I think that’s just put out there to take the attention off the ball, and a lot of people swallow it. Jack Nicklaus was a great athlete in his youth and prime. Sam Snead was freakishly gifted. Everyone has gained distance from the ball. Craig Stadler. Corey Pavin. Tiny Korean LPGA players by the droves. Everyone.

      • Does physical conditioning not apply in other sports as well?
        Of course it does, but a 50 yard field goal is as hard as its always been.
        We don’t see TD passes of 90 yards in the air.
        Other than in the steroid era, 40 home runs is still a great season.
        Why haven’t those standards changed like they have in golf?
        Because those sports haven’t allowed their equipment to get out of control, that’s why.
        Aluminum bats would change everything if they were allowed in MLB.
        You’ve got to believe it’s possible that footballs could be modified aerodynamically to fly farther and could be made hotter to go farther when kicked.
        But those sports governing bodies don’t want to have to rebuild stadiums where it’s 550 feet to center or a football field that’s 150 yards long.
        Why can’t that sort of common sense apply to golf?

    • 25-30 years ago, during a lesson, my local pro showed me he could hit a ball 200 yards with a 7 iron. But he explained that he never hit it more than 155 in competition. I interpret that as meaning pros of yesteryear could hit it 200 yards, but chose not to. Todays pros do choose to hit it that far.

      • Sorry Jack, I just don’t believe that was typical of most of the players of that era. There have always been a few who were unusually gifted. I had a club pro that was freakishly long too. But most were not.
        I’m not suggesting that today’s tour pros aren’t gifted. They certainly are. Just not more so than players of the past.

  5. Nice to hear some common sense about the rules of golf. Moving it forward is desperately needed on nearly every course. We were caught behind a foursome of 20+/- handicappers at Pasatiempo who insisted on playing from the back tees….it was painful to watch and even more painful to play behind them!!

    • Moving it forward doesn’t help a thing if those same guys you’re writing about wait for the greens to clear on holes they think they can reach (even though they can’t). The biggest backlogs on every course are short par 4s and 5s and par 3s, and moving it forward creates an entire course of them.
      It would work if those moving forward had the intelligence to manage themselves properly, but if 20 pluses don’t have any more sense than to stay off the back tees then there isn’t much hope, is there?

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