PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus has been extremely outspoken regarding the need for a reduced-flight golf ball and the negative impact he believes distance has had on the sport in recent years.
Nicklaus says that longer courses and modern golf balls are largely to blame for slow play on the PGA Tour. He beat that drum again Tuesday at PGA National ahead of this week’s Honda Classic.
Nicklaus said he discussed the matter with U.S. Golf Association CEO Mike Davis over dinner Sunday night.
“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.’” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”
Nicklaus said sarcastically he assumed that meant the USGA would be studying the issue for ‘another 10 years or so.’
“(Davis) says, ‘Oh, no, no, no. We’re not going to do that. I think we’re getting closer to agreements with the R&A and be able to do some things and be able to help.’ Because the R&A has been – sort of doesn’t want to do anything. I’m hoping that’s going to happen. I’ve talked to Mike a lot. Mike’s been very optimistic about wanting to get something done but hasn’t been able to get there yet.”
Nicklaus has suggested use of multiple golf balls based on a course rating system which dictates the use of an 80 percent ball, a 70 percent ball, and so forth based on course length.
The 18-time major winner believes the modern golf ball and length are the biggest culprits leading to slow play, something he was admittedly guilty of as a younger player. Nicklaus said he was a “slower player” when he first started and was penalized as such by then-PGA Tournament Director Joe Black during the 1962 Portland Open.
Black told him he had to be ready to play when it was his turn, and Nicklaus said he didn’t want to walk around and possibly distract other players when they were hitting.
“He says, ‘You’ve got to. It doesn’t make any difference how long it takes you to hit a golf ball. It’s being ready to play,’” Nicklaus said. “So I started from then on lining up my putts while other people were putting, and that cut a lot of time out. … I got tired of being slow, and I never really tried to increase (speed), tried to rapidly play another shot. I just basically prepared myself and learned how to play golf and learned how not to really be a guy that would hold up everybody else.”
It’s a timely discussion considering it took J.B. Holmes more than four minutes to hit his second shot at No. 18 in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open last month, along with complaints about documented slow players such as Kevin Na and Jason Day.
So while Nicklaus is still of the belief that a reduced-flight golf ball would solve many of these problems and has been told the USGA is getting closer on the issue, his own experience suggests many modern pros could speed things along by simply playing ready golf with the equipment already in use.