Jack Nicklaus has seen enough. Well, he’s seen enough for several decades now. After his course, Muirfield Village, was torched last week (the winning score was 19 under) and currently under attack from 400-yard drives by Bryson DeChambeau, Nicklaus called out the USGA and R&A to make equipment changes (to the golf ball) in the near future.
“The golf ball is a very simple thing to fix and I’ve been preaching about it for … 43 years I first went to the USGA,” Nicklaus said in the Golf Channel booth during the first round of the Memorial Tournament on Thursday. “I mean, that’s a long time to be studying something. Guys, stop studying it and do something, will you please?”
The governing bodies of golf — the USGA ad R&A — have been studying distance reports for forever. Earlier this year, they actually said that golf does have a problem with distance (if you’ve watched Bryson hit a 423-yard drive, you would agree), but no steps have been taken yet to correct any of this.
The implications here are innumerable. We see this all the time at major championships. Courses have to be made so fast and so firm to test players properly that it borders on the absurd. If they’re left soft and slow, players will obliterate them.
While a ton of scoring may be fun for a time, you eventually get into some trouble with golf course design and setup. DeChambeau himself touched on this earlier in the week when he discussed how he would play the iconic 13th hole at Augusta National Golf Club.
“I will say that I’m going to try and hit it into 14 fairway if I can, if it’s the right wind,” DeChambeau said. “If it’s into the wind, there’s no way, obviously, but I’m going to try to give myself the best opportunity to launch it as high and far down the chute and draw it with the contours of the hole and try and get as far down there as possible. I won’t hold up on that hole, for sure. I just feel like if I can take the left out of play, even if it goes in the trees on the right I can still chip it out and hopefully make a birdie with a wedge.’
It’s worth wondering if this is what we want golf to be, beasts like DeChambeau overwhelming some of the most strategic, interesting holes in golf history. There are no easy solutions, of course, but Nicklaus is correct. There has to be a reckoning here at some point or the entire world of professional golf will turn into something it was never intended to be.