Professional golf pundits have been talking about the golf ball for the past few years as the players are driving the ball further and further averaging over 300 yards. Courses have been lengthened to challenge the players. Augusta National is the most prominent among these courses while gems such as Merion can no longer host a major event due to its length. Some courses are as long as 7,700 yards but the professionals are unfazed as Rory McIlroy or Jon Rahm smash their drives 350 yards. The USGA and the R&A have decided to adopt a new standard of golf ball for the “elite” competitors to go into effect by 2026. There are many problems and/or questions for the “new ball”. What is the definition of “elite”? Will it apply to other “elite” competitions such as USGA events, Amateur Championships, NCAA Championships etc.? It seems that the competition will define itself as “elite” without a uniform definition for the sport. The ball has given the longest hitters on the PGA Tour a distinct advantage but this rule change will not effect that advantage. It just means that professionals will be hitting the ball 20-25 yards less than their current average and will bring long lost clubs like the middle irons back into the game. Today professionals are hitting 9 irons 150 yards. The game has seen the invention of the 450 yard+ par 4 and the 600 yard+ par 5. I’m not an expert in golf ball production but if the game does not have one uniform ball for all, then golf ball manufacturers will have to have different production lines for the “new ball” while producing the existing ball. The costs of dual production of golf balls will be borne by all consumers of golf balls. The LPGA will not be subject to the “elite” rule and not have an impact on the current level of play on the LPGA tour. What is strange about the USGA/R&A ruling is that it will have very little impact on the competitiveness on the PGA Tour. Players who are long drivers will continue to have an advantage over their lighter hitter competitors. Tournament scores might drop a bit but fans really don’t care about the scores–they care about the level of competition. The only advantage that I see in the revisionist ball scheme is that existing golf courses and some of the older gems will be more relevant and not have to be lengthened. There was some talk about an 8,000 yard layout but the new rules should kill off this idea. I’m sure there will be far more information and rules amendments as the USGA/R&A get closer to implementing the new “elite” ball for 2026.
Northern California Golf
Our region is being pummeled with atmospheric river storm after storm. Power outages and downed trees everywhere have pummeled Monterey County. We previously reported on the wipeout of the 14th hole at Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Dunes Course. on the Pacific Ocean, which has since been restored. What was surprising how different courses and their maintenance stands up to these storms. Yesterday we played Old Del Monte in Monterey, the oldest public course west of the Mississippi River. After 5 days without rains and some winds, the course should have never been open. It’s a very good track but yesterday it was wet and sloppy and well hit shots went begging with no roll and wet rough. At Spyglass Golf Club inside the 17 Mile Drive, course play was sporadic as conditions were only slightly better. Patience was necessary to play yesterday as the holes simply were not reachable in regulation (except for the par 3’s) so in these conditions it’s best to just keep it in the fairway and bring your A short game or its going to be a long day. Anything hit in the unmowed wet rough may not even be findable. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable experience especially the par on the 210 yard, par 3 (driver and two putts). I hadn’t played Del Monte in quite a few years but its a wonderful track with a lot of variety and challenge. I particularly like the par 5, 17th hole which carves its way towards the Hyatt Hotel nicely shaped but yesterday played about 700 yards.