HOUSTON, Texas — RIP John Solheim’s idea for three different golf balls.
The death certificate was signed at 10:23 a.m. by U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis, who addressed a small gathering of journalists at the USGA annual meeting and slammed the door in the face of bifurcation.
The B word, meaning the best players in the world would play under one set of equipment rules while everyone else would play under another set of equipment rules, clearly has emerged as Public Enemy No. 1 in the Davis administration.
“We (USGA and Royal & Ancient) are steadfast in our commitment to one set of rules for all golfers, whether they are beginners, male, female, whatever,” Davis said. “We continue to feel that way. While we recognize that there may be some arguments to bifurcate, when we look at it on balance, we feel that there is a strong — and I can’t underscore that enough — a strong reason to continue with one set of rules for all golfers.”
Although Davis did not mention Solheim by name and has continually praised the Ping CEO for his contributions to the game, the USGA executive director made it clear that three different golf balls is two too many.
Solheim proposed in December that the USGA and R&A, which govern golf worldwide, consider the implementation of three different categories of golf balls. One would be identical to today’s ball, while a second ball would go shorter and a third would go longer.
Under Solheim’s plan, the three balls would continue to be produced and sold by a variety of manufacturers. Tournaments would have the freedom of choosing one of the three balls for competition. Everyday players would have the same choice, and adjustments would be made to handicaps based on the type of ball used during each round.
Davis didn’t spare any words in his endorsement of one set of equipment rules for all golfers.
“We believe there should be one formal way to play the game of golf,” he said. “There are a set of rules, and those include equipment. That’s one of the pillars of our game that we would argue makes it really strong. We can think of scenarios (under bifurcation) where golf would really become chaotic.”
While expressing his resolve “to preserve and protect the game that we know and love,” Davis threw his support behind informal games (such as golf with eight-inch cups) that might influence more people to take up real golf.
“This shouldn’t be a signal that we think other forms are bad for the game, or cheating,” he explained. “We would promote other kinds of games if they help with enjoyment, bringing new players in.”
But, he concluded, “At the end of the day, we’re going to protect what’s been around for hundreds of years.”
New USGA president Glen Nager, an attorney who has argued 13 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, summed up the USGA position with a vivid image: “I fear we would be eating our own children if we went to two sets of rules.”