Jack Nicklaus has insisted that advances in equipment technology can be blamed for slow play in golf and called on authorities to work on limiting the distance a ball can travel.
The pace of play on the PGA Tour has been a widespread topic of discussion in recent weeks, particularly at the Farmers Insurance Open in January when the final threeball on Sunday took over six hours to complete their rounds at Torrey Pines.
Players again came in for criticism last week at Riviera, when both the first and second days’ play were suspended due to darkness despite having no weather delays, and Nicklaus is adamant that the root cause of the problem is golf courses being lengthened significantly to accommodate the modern golf ball.
Speaking ahead of this week’s Honda Classic at PGA National, local resident Nicklaus said: “The game is too long, and the golf ball is the biggest culprit of it. We used to play golf courses that were 6,500 yards, or 6,600 yards, and that was a championship golf course.
“Today they are 7,500 or 7,600 yards. The older golf courses, the tees, the greens, were very close together, but the golf courses built today, they spread them out for real estate purposes.
“I think it just takes longer to play now, and I don’t think that’s good. I think the golf ball is something that, if you bring it back 20 percent, that will bring it back to about what it was in about 1995 when we last played with a wound golf ball.
“When I was growing up, the best player at the club was the one who kept it down the middle, bumped it up around the green, and he’s the guy winning the club championships, and they are playing in about three hours, or three hours, 10 minutes. That doesn’t happen today.
“The game is a great game today the way it is. The game when I played was a great game. The game they played 20 years before me is a great game. However, as time changes, I think you need to change with the times. Today, people don’t have the time to spend playing five hours to play golf.
“A lot of people don’t have the money to be able to do that, and they find the game very frustrating and very difficult. So if the golf ball came back, it would solve I think a lot of those issues.
“For the good of the game, we need to play this game in about three and a half hours on a daily basis. All other sports on television and all other sports are played in three hours, usually three hours or less, except for a five-set tennis match, but all the other games are played in that time.
“It’s about the people watching the game and the people that are paying the tab. The people paying the tab are the people that are buying that television time and buying all the things that happen out there. Those are the people that you’ve got to start to look out for.
“And the growth of the game of golf? It’s not going to grow with the young kids. Young kids don’t have five hours to play golf. Young kids want instant gratification.
“But the game, we need to shorten it down, reduce the cost and reduce the difficulty for the average guy, not necessarily the pros. But that has to happen.”
Nicklaus also revealed that he first warned manufacturers they would be getting into a “war on how far the golf ball goes” as early as 1977, and he did not agree with the new style of ball even though he was one of the longest hitters in the world.
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“I didn’t think that the game of golf should be dictated by how far a golf ball goes,” he added. “It’s how well you play the golf ball, not how far you hit it. And even though I was a long hitter, I always enjoyed shorter golf courses, frankly.
“I thought it took more skill to play them and I thought it was more reward to go work your way around rather than just pounding it out. I could pound it out obviously a long way because I hit it a long way, but that’s not what I really thought the game of golf was all about.”