The principal of Occam’s razor: entities should not be multiplied without necessity. In English, fewer assumptions and considerations usually lead to the best solution.

The analysis by golf pundits after the release of the USGA’s Distance Insights Report has been a swirl of ideas, statements and conjecture that spite Occom’s razor:

– there has been speculation about a distance roll-back on the ball for everyone;

– there has been speculation about rules bifurcation, creating different ball requirements for elite players and everyone else;

– there has been speculation about creating a local rule for competitions requiring the use of a tournament ball or tournament clubs, perhaps even specific to a single course or event.


Most of these speculations and ideas do not solve for the primary issue.

USGA logoIn reading the USGA report, the only area where distance gains are truly a problem is with elite male players. It’s clear that the best-of-the-best guys are able to move the modern golf ball further than in the past, and further than “normal”.

The reason? The optimization of the core, cover and dimple patterns in the modern solid ball has created an out-sized gain as a player’s swing speed increases.

Not a higher gain relative to the increase in swing speed, mind you, but an out-sized gain. These balls activate to yet another level when the highest of swing speeds is achieved.

An overly-simplified example:

Player A swings at 100 mph and carries the ball 220 yards.

Player B swings at 110 mph and carries the ball 240 yards.

Player C swings at 120 mph and carries the ball 280 yards.

See the issue? The added 10 mph of swing speed at the higher range is out-sized vs. the benefit of the same 10 mph gap at the lower range. The makeup of the ball provides multiplied rewards as a player swings faster.

So what is the easiest solution? The USGA has already figured it out.

When bigger drivers started showing a “trampoline effect”, the USGA created the Coefficient of Restitution Test (COR). This driver test looked for an out-sized gain earned exclusively by the club’s flexing face. Then they wrote a rule limiting the amount of flex based on a machine test. Fail the test and the club doesn’t conform.

The USGA needs to create a ball test that ensures the increase in carry distance and swing speed run up the scale in equal parts.

The test could be truly simple: hit a ball with a robot at increasing increments of 1 mph. On a chart, the carry distance should go up-and-to-the-right in a straight line equal to the increase in speed. If the test results come out in a straight line, the ball conforms. If the test results jump to the sky at the far-right end, the ball doesn’t conform.

No need for bifurcation, roll-backs, local rules, or tournament balls.

Players who swing faster will still hit it farther than everyone else. Just not stupid far because the ball jumps after a certain clubhead speed.

It’s the Occam’s razor solution the USGA needs. Solve only for the problem at hand: create a new test for a conforming ball used by all golfers with “straight-line” distance specs.

(Now if the USGA wants to get really crazy, they can set a baseline distance x speed result for what conforms. Watch the lawsuits fly!)


1 Comment

  1. February 11, 2020

    Al, I see you have the same thoughts, I have believed the ball once it exceeds the USGA testing parameters goes exponentially farther. I think the ball can be engineered to lose a little more off the top end. with no change for lower swing speeds, And yet still reward the best athlete with distance, In the end something has to be done, because golf courses do not have an infinite amount of land.

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