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Ryder Cup legend Tony Jacklin is “frustrated beyond words” about the “distance problem” he believes is hugely damaging golf.

Speaking to bunkered.co.uk, Jacklin claimed the powers-that-be are “doing the game a disservice” by failing to enforce sweeping changes to protect its future, with modern driving distances threatening to render historic courses as obsolete.

Golf’s governing bodies, The R&A and USGA, pitched a Model Local Rule (MLR) proposal earlier this season aiming to mandate distance-reducing golf balls in elite competitions and increase the test for the game’s top stars.

• PGA Tour have say on rollback debate

• What is the proposed Model Local Rule?

The plans – which won’t come into effect until January 2026 at the earliest – intend for tour players to play a different ball to amateurs that is expected to rein in the biggest hitters by up to 15 yards.

However, the PGA Tour and the PGA of America have both rejected the proposals and are under no obligation to adopt them, meaning distance-reducing balls would only be used in limited R&A and USGA events, notably The Open and US Open.

Jacklin believes the proposals are futile when the likes of Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau are already routinely crushing drives of over 350 yards.

“There’s no question in my mind that the ball goes miles too far,” said the two-time major champion.

“What they were proposing to do wasn’t sufficient anyway. The fact they’re not doing it doesn’t make a bit of difference.

“It needed to come back 40 yards at least. They’re not going to do it so they’re very content for the pros to be playing courses hitting wedges and nine-irons into 12 holes a round. It just becomes a putting contest.

“When I won my majors at Hazeltine and Lytham I was hitting medium irons into par-fours all day. There was a balance there. You don’t see that now.”

• DeChambeau fumes at rollback proposal 

• Titleist responds to news of golf ball rollback

Such imbalance has increased pressure on renowned golf clubs to lengthen courses so they are still a challenge for the best players, who are benefitting from advanced technology that has enabled equipment manufacturers to create balls that fly further and straighter than once ever imaginable.

Critics like Jacklin argue that the sport is now suffering as a spectacle with its inherent difficulty diminished by the soaring distances.

The four-time Ryder Cup captain has debated this burning topic for decades with legendary triumvirate Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and the late Arnold Palmer, but is exasperated that the opinions of the game’s greatest have so far been largely ignored.

“We’ve been talking about this, Jack and I, Arnold before he passed, Gary. Our views are not relevant to the conversation they are having, otherwise they would have listened and they haven’t. Now the players are making the rules. ‘We don’t want the ball to be rolled back!’ Oh, OK. When I was playing we didn’t have anything to do with what the R&A and USGA decided.

“Somebody said to me, ‘Of all the senses, common sense is the least common.’ Anybody with half a brain can see that if you play a 7,200 yard golf course with a ball that only goes 280 yards you don’t need to lengthen those courses and have 520-yard par-4s and 300-yard par-3s. Bulls*** is what it is.

“How else can you advertise a golf ball? Longer and straighter! You have an opportunity to make a difference and if you don’t do it you’re doing a disservice to a game that put you in the position. Nothing they’ve done has made the game better. It was better when Jack Nicklaus and I could only hit a seven-iron 150 yards.”

Jacklin, meanwhile, does not see the golf ball as the sole problem with golf’s growing distance headache. He is just as concerned by the specifications of the clubs themselves.

“The fact they’re creating these swing speeds is all to do with the head size on the driver,” he added.

“I think pros should be playing persimmons. The technology wasn’t meant for the pros, it was meant to improve the amateur experience. The powers that be at the R&A and USGA let that go. They’ve been fearful of doing the right thing and the horse has bolted now. They can’t shut the gate and say we should have done this 15 years ago.

“I’m frustrated beyond words about what they haven’t done with the professional game to keep it professional.”


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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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