(PHOENIX) Jan. 3, 2012 –The chairman and CEO of Ping says three different balls should be approved by rule-makers — one longer, one the same as and one shorter than balls currently approved for play.
Shorter balls could then be mandated as a condition of play on classic courses hosting PGA Tour events — keeping them competitive. Longer balls could be allowed for amateur play. Ball distance could even be factored into handicaps — like course slope ratings, says PING head John Solheim.
The proposal is a radical departure from the principle underlying the Rules of Golf that a single ball with a single distance limit be played by players at all levels, even though many golf authorities believe the length of the modern golf ball is the single biggest factor in making some of the great courses of the 19th and 20th centuries obsolete for professional play.
In a letter to the USGA and the R&A, Solheim proposed a “Ball Distance Rating System” to categorize balls into three distance categories. “This concept addresses the unique talents of the top 0.1 percent of the world's golfers without hurting the other 99.9 percent,” Solheim said.
A “silver dot” rating could apply to balls that conform to the current distance limits, a “gold dot” rating to balls that are longer (perhaps 30 yards longer), and a “bronze dot” rating for balls that are shorter than today's ball limit (again, maybe 30 yards shorter),” Solheim said.
“More BDR levels could be added, if needed, to address future increases in driving distance by Tour professionals,” he said.
“Most courses hosting professional tour events were built with, or have added, sufficient length to challenge the world's best golfers. Perhaps a small number of tournaments, those played at some of the game's classic courses, would find it exciting to put the original design elements of the layout back in play by requiring shorter rated golf balls,” he said.
Higher handicappers could play a longer ball to make them competitive against longer courses, Solheim said.