In Tiger Woods’s prime he averaged roughly 300 yards off the tee, which put him in rarified air on the PGA Tour. Today there are more than 50 players whose driving distance average exceeds 300 yards, with 10 players averaging 320-plus.
Woods isn’t wild about the power surge.
“We need to do something about the golf ball,” he said on a podcast with UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. “I just think [the ball] is going too far.”
Woods said that for courses to hold professional tournaments they need to be at least 7,400 to 7,800 yards — or longer.
“With the game progressing as it is, I think the 8,000-yard golf course is not too far away,” he said. “That’s pretty scary — we don’t have enough property to start designing these types of golf courses, and it just makes it so much more complicated. … The USGA’s already looking at it. They’re doing some research on what would the world look like if you rolled [the ball] back 10%, 15% and 20%.”
In discussing his thoughts on the ball, Woods also reflected on the state of the game, noting that it’s “in kind of a down-cycle as far as participation. We don’t have a whole lot of new golfers coming into the game, we don’t have any sustainability in the game.”
(Editor’s note: The number of beginning golfers in 2016 actually grew to 2.5 million, according to the National Golf Foundation. That number represents a 14% increase over 2015. It also represents an all-time high, edging the previous mark of 2.4 million set in 2000.)
“So with that being said you don’t want to [take away] amateurs’ [ability] to hit the ball further and straighter. But with the tour pros, you might want to roll the ball back.”
He said he and his fellow players have had talks with the Tour’s policy makers about where an appropriate “line of demarcation” should be should they decide to roll back the ball.
“Do we have it at the PGA Tour level? Do we have it at the Web.com level? Do we have it on all mini tours? So there’s that debate as well. I don’t see it happening in the near future but at least there are talks about it now.”
Woods said that tennis’s governing bodies have made alterations to the tennis ball at the professional level to combat the speed and power of today’s elite players — “they’ve got [the ball] more fuzzy, a little bit heavier, it doesn’t travel as fast” — and he says the golf would be wise to follow suit.
“Why not do the same thing with another ball sport?” he said.
As for Woods’s own power game? After recovering from back surgery and eyeing his return to competition at the end of the month at the Hero World Challenge, he seems to be in excellent form.
“I can’t believe how far I’m hitting the golf ball,” he said later in the podcast. “I’m back to hitting it my full numbers, and not really trying to do that.”