USGA: Solheim's big idea would break tradition
While John Solheim’s suggestion to create three distance tiers of golf balls is not being dismissed by the U.S. Golf Association, the revolutionary plan will encounter some hazard-filled terrain as the USGA plots the direction of the Rules of Golf.
USGA executive director Mike Davis, reached Tuesday, first complimented Solheim, chairman and CEO of Ping. “We have a very good relationship with John Solheim,” Davis said, “and they (Ping) have done so much good for the game.”
Then Davis surveyed the reality of the golf ball landscape.
“We have a longstanding belief, going back more than 100 years, that one set of rules for all golfers is one thing that has made the game so strong,” he asserted. “This (Solheim’s plan) would be a break from that principle.
“It would be a departure from how we have regarded the game for a long time now, and that would be a pretty big hurdle (for Solheim’s idea).”
In other words, prevailing USGA sentiment lies with maintaining one set of golf ball regulations.
In a press release Monday, Solheim called for the creation of three tiers of golf balls -- one identical to today’s standard, another that flies somewhat shorter and a third that goes somewhat longer. Under Solheim’s plan, individual tournaments would choose which of the three balls to use in competition.
Solheim would incorporate the three balls into the USGA’s official handicap system, producing equitable handicaps for golfers of all abilities.
“I can tell you the letter was not summarily dismissed,” Davis said. “Everybody who saw the letter thought it was really well written.”
Solheim sent his formal proposal to the USGA and R & A, golf’s rulesmaking bodies. At the recent Presidents Cup, he discussed his proposal with several prominent golf officials for worldwide golf organizations. He reported that the concept was positively received.
“What I would like to see happen is a serious and transparent discussion,” Solheim said. “I think that would be healthy for the game.”
Over the history of the USGA, which was founded in 1895, public forums related to the Rules of Golf have been few and generally confined to golf equipment issues.
Still, Davis was complimentary of Solheim. “What John is doing is what all of us have to do,” he concluded, “and that’s look at the long term. I believe all of us have to be open to the future.”
Although, for now, that future appears to contain one set of regulations for golf balls.