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If Jack Nicklaus is to be believed, a much-discussed golf ball rollback could finally happen next year.

After getting the COVID-delayed 2020 Masters underway, Nicklaus and fellow honorary starter Gary Player retreated to the media centre at Augusta National for their now customary sit-down with the press.

In a wide-ranging discussion, the subject of modern equipment and driving distances came up – and 18-time major champion Nicklaus might just let slip what the governing bodies intend to do about it.

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“I believe they will bring the golf ball back,” said the six-time Masters champion. “I believe that they probably would have brought it back this year if it wasn’t for COVID, or at least they would have thought about it or got serious about bringing it back. 

“But both the USGA and the R&A said they’re serious about it.”

Nicklaus, a long-time advocate of rolling back the ball, revealed that he first went to the R&A and USGA about the issue in 1977.

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He added: “I remember Bobby Jones wrote in his book that I think the one thing that we’ve got to watch out for in the future is how far the golf ball goes. That was in 1930. 

“It’s always been an issue. I think that if we had unlimited land and we had unlimited resources, then I don’t think it really makes a whole lot of difference but there’s not many places that have that.”

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On the subject of Augusta specifically, Nicklaus echoed the fears voiced by many that the course is in danger of becoming obsolete without technology being reined in.

“If you get some dry-ish conditions in the springtime, there will be several holes here that you’ll get the ball awfully close to if the equipment remains the same,” he said.

“They have to make some changes with it, otherwise all the old golf courses, all the strategy and everything else that you’ve had on golf courses is gone.  It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.”

Player echoed Nicklaus’ sentiments.

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“They’ve got to cut the ball back, and they will cut the ball back,” said the three-time champion. “They’re going to drive this first green at Augusta. “In fact, DeChambeau, if it was not this wet weather, if it was firm weather, he’d drive it on the green, and take a 3-wood and putt it on the third green.

“We’re seeing things we never thought of. And let me tell you, we’re in our infancy  You’ve got players coming along, I don’t know how many years’ time, that will carry the ball past where DeChambeau ends up now.”


author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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