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“I’m quite concerned about where the game of golf is going.”

Gary Player was not mincing his words as he issued a plea to the sport’s governing bodies.

Having hit the opening tee shot to get the 88th edition of the Masters underway here at Augusta National, Player, along with his fellow honorary starters Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, retired to the interview room where they set the world to rights on a number of issues, including the so-called civil war and plans to roll back the golf ball.

And from what was a largely light-hearted question about how the trio have overcome poor golf shots in the past, Player detoured dramatically from discussing the importance of practising your short game to an impassioned broadside on the distance debate.

“Nothing about the game today, not one single thing, is the same as when we played,” the three-time Masters champion said. “Not one single thing.

“We need the R&A, the USGA, and the PGA to get together wisely in making a decision about a golf ball.”

In December, the R&A and USGA announced a landmark proposal to reduce hitting distances across the board, with conforming balls expected to be up to 15 yards shorter at the elite level, and five yards shorter for regular amateurs.

But for Player, a nine-time major champion including three Green Jackets, it’s not enough.

“We’ve got to cut the ball back 50, 60 yards. Otherwise, the whole concept of the game, the history of the game, the par-five, par-four, par-three, that’s gone. There are no more par-fives. These young guys are hitting eight-irons to par-fives.

“We are changing the whole history of the game.”

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Player, instead, would prefer to see an implementation, in one form or another, of bifurcation.

“There are two different games,” he explained. “The R&A never agreed with me, but there are two different games – professional and amateur.

“Go and watch Jack in his prime, or Tom, or Tiger. You’ll see how different it is to the way you guys play.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. They talk about making golf courses longer. The world is running out of water. Seriously.

“And the costs of the machines, mowers, fertiliser, labour – why do that?

“Cut the ball back. It’s so simple. Very, very simple.”

Listen to Masters daily commute episodes of The bunkered Podcast from Augusta.

author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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