Caddie Confidential: Would distance rollbacks on the PGA Tour hurt golf?

Should Dustin Johnson and other PGA Tour pros use limited-distance golf balls? Our caddies weigh in. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the sixth installment of our “Caddie Confidential” series, with monthly, inside-the-ropes perspective from dozens of Tour caddies on rotating golf topics. Up this month: we tackle distance, whether it’s taken the skill out of the game and more.

What would happen if the PGA Tour limited the distance a ball used in competition? Would it actually level the playing field?

We polled nearly four dozen PGA Tour caddies to get their opinion on a variety of questions related to distance, promising them all anonymity in an effort to get their most honest answers. Let’s dive in to what they told us.

In your opinion, would distance rollbacks on the PGA Tour would hurt the game, help the game, or make no difference?

  • 37.5% of caddies said distance rollbacks on the PGA Tour would HURT the game
  • 15% of caddies said distance rollbacks on the PGA Tour would HELP the game
  • 47.5% of caddies said distance rollbacks on the PGA Tour would make NO DIFFERENCE

Now, let’s turn the attention to the “b” word we’ve heard a ton in recent years: “bifurcation.”

By definition, bifurcation is, “the division of something into two branches or parts.” As it pertains to golf, it’s quite simple: two sets of rules — one set for professional golfers and one set for amateurs.

For caddies this is a divisive topic (as for most in golf).

“No,” one caddie said. “Golf is the one sport any amateur can play / compete with the top players in the world. We already have a handicap system to make it competitive so players of all different abilities can compete with each other. We do not need two different rules and/or equipment to close that gap. On top of that, where does it stop or begin? What is top-level amateurs? College, High school? I don’t think that would ever work.”

Said another caddie: “Yes. Because Touring professionals need to be held to the highest level of standards and procedures while the common amateur needs to be able to have a simple set of standards and procedures that do not hinder or slow down pace of play. Pace of play is one of the greatest deterrents from the game continuing to grow. It’s not enjoyable to have over 5 hours of your day taken up by golf.”

Should there be bifurcation in golf (one set of rules for top-level amateurs/pros and another set of rules for everyday golfers); why or why not?

Check out this selection of responses from caddies:

No. Keep the game uniform for all.

No. People that want to play at a high-level are going to play by the rules that are in place. Recreational players are going to play by the rules they want to play by. No need to have a separate set of rules that could maybe create confusion for someone. For example, a kid that grows up playing one set of rules, then has to learn new rules once he/she becomes a high-level player.

There basically already is bifurcation on some level. Recreational golfers don’t adhere to the rules “by the book” most don’t take drops properly, mulligans, gimmes, etc. Would have no problem with it.

No, that’s one of the cool things about golf and one of the biggest profit makers for the manufacturers — anybody can play the same stuff Rory or DJ do.

No, the public wants in my opinion to play the exact game as the professionals on TV.

Yes, but not major differences. Only ones that are applicable to the level the Tour plays at.

Absolutely! The Tour is a business and entertainment industry. There needs to be stricter rules for the Tour. The normal golfer is out to have fun and enjoy. Not be strapped with what they can and can’t play with and all the other ridiculous rules they don’t know.

No because golf can be played the same regardless of skill. The real opponent is the golf course.

No! Lawsuits out the ass. Just put limitations on all balls.

Yes. I think this could help golfers on amateur level enjoy the game and possibly speed up play.

Yes. At the highest level, there are a set of circumstances completely irrelevant to the everyday or amateur player. The major leagues don’t play by the same set of rules my local little league team plays by. Just think where we’d be if, like Major League mandating wooden bats instead of aluminum, if the USGA and R&A had made the same decision. I doubt there’s a persimmon tree anywhere that would produce a piece of wood that could send a ball 370 yards in the air.

Yes! Every other sport has different variations of rules and golf should, too!

I think that could be something to look into more in depth. Maybe it already is being done.

Yes. Does it really matter if an 80-year-old is anchoring his putter or using square grooves in his wedges?

No. I think it would hurt the growth of the game.

No. The beauty of the sport is all levels can compete regardless of skill level (handicap system)

Yes. Pros play the game at a completely different level than amateurs.

Yes. To protect the integrity of the courses. This in turn will have a positive economic impact, too.

No. Standardization of the Rules of Golf allows all levels to know where they truly stack up in relation to the professional level. It also helps avoid confusion at every level of play.

Yes. There is in other sports like baseball and football and basketball with different rules for an amateur vs professional.

Yes. The Pros play a different game, a game most amateurs cannot relate to. The game needs to be sped up for the casual golfer and many of the rules in golf, by design, slow the game to a crawl at times.

Yes. Because most everyday golfers don’t even know the rules, and even if they do most don’t follow them. Make the rules simpler for everyday golfers so it’s more enjoyable.

Interested in more from our June 2021 installment of Caddie Confidential? Be sure to check out whether or not caddies believe rollback talk from the USGA and R&A is directly related to Bryson DeChambeau.  

You can view all the results from our entire Caddie Confidential by clicking here.

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