PING’s Solheim Proposes Ball Rating System

Not sure if this is the right forum so feel free to move it.
A friend of mine sent me this and I didn’t know if anyone here had seen it. I think it’s an interesting proposal but I’m not sure that it doesn’t make the situation worse. But at least there is someone willing to make some kind of suggestion for keeping the great golf courses in play.

PHOENIX (December 19, 2011) – John Solheim, Chairman & CEO of PING, is proposing that golf’s rule making bodies consider a “Ball Distance Rating” system (BDR) that would replace today’s single golf ball limit with three different ball distance limits – one that is the same as today’s standard, one that is shorter and one that is longer. Solheim’s “A Long Term Response to Distance” explains how including a BDR system with a new “Condition of Competition” would give professional events and golf courses an efficient way to address future concerns about distance.

“A BDR Condition of Competition would create a simpler way to control distance at the tour level – and keep the competitive design of the world’s great courses in play,” said Solheim. “This concept addresses the unique talents of the top 0.1% of the world’s golfers without hurting the other 99.9%.” Solheim also noted that a key aspect of the idea is to give players who would benefit from it the option of using a longer ball, a choice many golfers may appreciate, especially when taking on today’s longer courses. “The distance rating of the ball used would factor into handicaps, just like slope rating or choice of tee box does today.”

Solheim recently sent his BDR idea to golf’s governing bodies, and suggested it could be a positive factor in helping to sustain and grow the game. “I appreciate the challenges faced by those who help govern the game,” said Solheim. “I am hopeful they give my idea further consideration and use it as a starting point to address some of the issues the game is facing. The positive impact golf has on so many groups requires that we explore a variety of ideas to improve the health of the sport. I hope others have suggestions to offer as well.”

John Solheim’s “Long Term Response to Distance” follows:

A Long Term Response to Distance

For as long as I can remember, golf has been challenged by concerns over driving distance. Unfortunately, over the past dozen or so years, many actions taken in response to that challenge have often been short sighted, costly and/or controversial – such as altering some of golf’s most revered courses and adopting restrictive golf club rules. Now, we learn average driving distance on the PGA Tour just had another increase – it broke through 290 yards for the first time (and with so many dynamic young golfers working toward a Tour card, who knows where it will go from here). So, once again we are hearing the question: “what, if anything, should be done about it?”

With so many other challenges facing the game, we need to be sure any “distance discussions” focus on the long term – on solutions that can quickly and easily respond to future increases in distance (no matter the cause); on ideas that give professional events and courses a tool that allows each to best address the distance concerns unique to their venue; on proposals that recognize it is far simpler to adjust the ball to the course, than to adjust the course to the ball. Finally, we need a response that will resolve this issue once and for all. To get this discussion rolling, here is how I think we can do just that:

  • Replace today’s single golf ball distance limit with three different “Ball Distance Ratings” (or “BDRs”) – one that is the same as today’s limit, one that is shorter and one that is longer.

  • Adopt a “BDR Condition of Competition” – each event could apply the BDR appropriate for its course design and yardage, and for the skill level of the golfers competing at the event.

  • Include BDR as a factor in calculating handicaps – just as “slope rating” or choice of tee box does today, the BDR of the ball you use will factor into your handicap.

BDR golf balls should have similar flight characteristics as today’s ball (trajectory, spin rates, etc) with the only variable being distance. Some details may be challenging, but I have no doubt the USGA and the R&A are up to the task. With distance as the only variable, an example of what could be done would be to adopt a color code for the several BDRs (just like we do with tee boxes), perhaps using “gold, silver and bronze”. A “silver dot” rating could apply to balls that conform to the current distance limits, a “gold dot” rating to balls that are longer (perhaps 30 yards longer), and a “bronze dot” rating for balls that are shorter than today’s ball limit (again, maybe 30 yards shorter). More BDR levels could be added, if needed, to address future increases in driving distance by Tour professionals.

If the game adopted a “BDR Condition of Competition”, I believe the vast majority of events would choose to allow the same balls (and ball limit) used today. Most courses hosting professional tour events were built with, or have added, sufficient length to challenge the world’s best golfers. Perhaps a small number of tournaments, those played at some of the game’s classic courses, would find it exciting to put the original design elements of the layout back in play by requiring shorter rated golf balls. These events may even generate a lot of interest, and TV viewers. A key point of this idea is that it puts control over those decisions with the event itself. It also gives each venue a new “long term” option for responding to future increases in driving distance – bring in the bull dozers, or simply adopt a new BDR.

I recognize asking tour professionals to occasionally switch to a different rated ball creates a new challenge. However, rising above golf’s toughest obstacles is what they do best. These skilled athletes likely realize that imposing equipment limits on tens of millions of amateurs – a group that is critical to golf’s future – is not the best way to resolve issues unique to competitions played at the highest levels. I think the most talented professional golfers in the world would be willing to switch to a shorter ball once in awhile, if that would benefit the remaining 99.9% of us.

Giving amateurs the option of playing a new, longer rated, ball is another key aspect of this idea. Many golfers find it very difficult to play today’s longer courses. Using a longer ball should make that experience more enjoyable. It may even bring some ex-golfers back to the course. Perhaps this idea could even reduce the time needed to complete some rounds, a goal shared by everyone.

There will likely be occasions when amateurs tee it up with a shorter rated ball. Some golfers may choose to do so when playing some classic courses, ones that cannot add yardage, in order to bring out the competitiveness of the original design. Others may choose to do so because it has a positive impact on their handicap. Some courses might even recommend using a shorter rated ball. Higher handicap players may find it easier to play alongside more experienced golfers – from the same tees – when using different rated balls. Each of these choices gives some control over the distance issue where it is needed most – with the golfer and the course.

This proposal could also help the USGA and the R&A. The handicap system may benefit from adding “ball rating” as a factor. This solution is also consistent with the Joint Statement of Principles announced by the USGA and R&A in 2002: it provides an immediate and an efficient way to address future increases in distance, and it is not bifurcation – amateurs and professionals will still play to a ball limit, just not necessarily the same one on the same course. Adopting a few new ball distance ratings is basically the same as adding a few more tee boxes – and adding tee boxes is not bifurcation.

In order to fully evaluate this idea, the constructive input of golf ball manufacturers will be needed (PING currently does not sell or manufacture golf balls, but we did for over 20 years). I realize this suggestion presents challenges, but a BDR system brings with it new opportunities as well. Adding new categories of “conforming” golf balls should lead to exciting new ways for golf ball companies to competitively innovate, and it could increase golf ball sales. If it were as simple to develop a club rating system that included a similar opportunity to innovate longer drivers, I know I would welcome it. However, if golf once again chooses to address driving distance, it needs a practical long term solution, and I believe a BDR system would do the job.

All of us, including those in the manufacturing community, have a responsibility to offer new ideas and appropriately work with the rule making bodies to help improve the game It can be done, as demonstrated by the positive results from the November 2010 Vancouver forum, and the solution PING provided in resolving the Eye2 controversy on the PGA Tour in early 2010. I will continue to do what I can, and I believe others will as well. The game has seen many positive changes over its long history, changes that appropriately recognize the relationship between the challenge and the enjoyment of the game at all skill levels. I believe a BDR system would provide a way to continue do just that – for a long time to come.

John A. Solheim

Chairman and CEO of PING

here is the original link:

The company that invented cavity back irons and square grooves then sued the USGA is now suddenly concerned about the virtues of the game?

And the spider said, “step into my parlor…”

And now for something completely different…

I hadn’t even considered the irony. Nice catch.

I can see the major ball manufacturers shooting this down in a heart beat.

But I wish they would do something to keep from obsoleting so many great courses. I realize that average golfers aren’t “obsoleting” many courses so rolling the ball back is going to hurt the average player lot more than the pros. (or so they will think it does). This entire exercise is aimed at the major Tours in an effort to control how far the pros hit it and to allow some shorter, but magnificent, courses to stay in the rotation for majors.

I may be simple minded, but it looks to me that if the USGA and R&A would just up the spin off of the Driver it would at least force the players to improve their ball striking and bring accurate driving back to the game. Bring back the side spin we had in balatas and most of the current crop of bombers can find a fairway with a Google map. Plus, the additional spin should reduce distance as well.

Obviously, I’m not expert and my idea may be the dumbest in history. But…what the heck.

Otto - well said!

You’re not alone. I too have been saying for a while that increasing the amount of spin will solve many of the ball-related problems. If there is a minimum level of spin mandated for all clubs including driver, then I’m positive that players will have to either dial back their tee shots or improve their accuracy, otherwise they’ll be playing from two fairways over.


I just noticed I forgot the the “t” in can’t. I meant the current crop of bombers CAN’T find a fairway.


The USGA and R and A are essentially the same organization. They didn’t use to be, having different sized golf balls and other rules, but now they just follow one another.

They were supposed to be the custodians of the game. Their job was to protect golf’s integrity and historical significance. To protect the great courses from becoming obsolete, and put forth a rule book that keeps the game sensible and even more importantly keeps play moving swiftly around the golf course.

I can’t in any way see how they have succeeded at anything. They have been the worst, most failing organization to ever oversee a traditional game.

What is the most shocking thing to me is how everyone seems to just go along with whatever they say like blindfolded sheep falling off a cliff onto a pile of rocks, yardage scopes, cavity backs, frying pan drivers, over sized over lengthened clubs, over bloated golf courses, cheap plastic golf balls, and so on.

I can’t think of a more hypocritical mission statement. “it’s good for the game”

Their job had been to stop exactly what has happened from happening.

If they wanted to make the game easier, they could just make the hole bigger. End of story.
I would love to hear what their argument would be for not doing so. Because that would break tradition? Of course it would. But to allow these giant headed clubs that weigh 10 ounces, with no regulation until recently on head size or shaft length or overall dead weight, and to allow a ball that rockets off the clubface the way it does breaks tradition also, every bit as much as making the hole the size of a coffee can.

So you have the ruling body trying constantly to make compromises with the gear making industry, and the industry trying constantly to find any possible loophole they have overseen, and it becomes a silly frenzy of absurdities going back and forth between non golfing, ego driven businessmen and marketing experts trying to exploit the upscale demographic fighting a beaten up entity who won’t admit failure or wrongdoing that lives inside a protective monopolistic bubble of self appointed importance and arrogance.

So we had this beautiful cleverly laid out game, rich in history, which probably required more skill to play than any sport ever invented… and we had these beautiful vast playing fields blanketing some of the most desirable property on earth, such as the Monterey Peninsula, and all the pricey downtown locations. The best that real estate could offer, and our forefathers secured these gem locations for us. We had a culture of talented wood workers and hand craftsmen putting forth beautiful works of art for golfers to enjoy, each one slightly different and unique to each player using organic woods that both played great and sounded even better when you hit them.

We had a caddy culture where the values of the game were passed from one generation to the next. Where young people could learn the game’s skills, manners and values while making contacts with prominent respected people of the local communities whom would often help them through life as they moved up through the hierarchy of society.

Golfers used to walk courses, doing wonders to keep them fit and healthy.

So certainly a lot has been lost, without even discussing how it’s damaged the technique used to properly swing a club.

With all that being said… what is the solution?

Simple I think. Fraction the game into two games. The silly modern version, and the traditional version. A new organization rises, with a new tour, that acts as a much better custodian of the game protecting the values, the courses, the gear, pace of play and the technique and skill required to play it. These fractionings happen in other sports, religions, politics, and now golf.

It’s already starting to happen.

Getting back to Ping’s solution… there is a hint of sanity in there. But it’s only half the problem. The Frying pan has to go also.

It seems people who have any concern fall into two categories, those that blame the ball, and those that blame the club.
Most blame the ball, probably because they don’t want to part with their frying pan. The ball sounds like an easier solution.

Better to scrap them both. At the pro level you would then find out who can play golf. At the amateur level you would also find out who can play golf.

We need to look at the playing field (course). Step back from the forest trees, and open our eyes, and look.

Let’s look at the course and study how it was designed. Why are the bunkers at the classic tracks positioned 230 to 250 yards off the tee? Could this be because we are being asked to shape a shot in between them? Why are the greens bigger on the longer par fours? Is this to accommodate a lower trajectory shot into them? such as a long iron or fairway wood? Why are the par five greens more heavily protected and also smaller in size? Is this to discourage a player from taking the risk to go for it in the rare occasion they have the opportunity to go at it in two shots? Isn’t a par five intended to be properly played by three shots to the green? Is there a reason players carry 14 clubs or in the past 16 clubs? Should then not be required to use all of those clubs if playing the course properly? Is it not common sense that the gear used should be in harmony with the course that is being played? Was Ben Hogan correct in stating the most important shot in golf is the accurate placement of the tee shot? or is the PGA Tour correct in showing statistically it is the least important shot?

So much in golf has changed since I started playing. And I agree that we’ve lost some of the purity of the game. I caddied when I was a kid and learned the game with a 5 iron and a putter. I still remember my first tip. Dr. Jenkins gave me a whole dollar for 18 holes.

But I’m afraid the big club genie is never going away. There’s too much of it and everyone thinks that golf is a game of big drivers, GI irons, and guys that hit it 340 all day. I’m afraid that the USGA and the R&A missed the chance to stop the direction the game was moving way too long ago. Plus now, people have invested thousands of dollars in equipment that would need to be removed from play eventually. Just remember the cacophony of the wedge debacle. I had to toss out 1 year old wedges in order to play in a USGA qualifier and I was pissed. That really rustled my britches because wedges aren’t cheap and my old ones were still in great shape. It was a stupid rule that didn’t come close to solving the “problem”. Heck, they have already come out with new wedges that are legal and spin just as much, if not more, than the “non conforming” wedges that they made me toss out.

It just seems to me that the ball is the one thing that can be changed easily. You HAVE to buy new balls anyway. They wear out or in the case of most amateurs, get lost in the bushes, lakes, OB’s, and the general wilderness just off of many fairways. So changing the ball is a normal activity for golfers already. Just slow down the ball and distances will come back to where courses don’t become obsolete. The only complaint I can see is from amateurs that can’t play the back tees on their 7200 yd courses anymore and have to play the up tees they should be playing anyway.

One of the most interesting things I ever read was a post by a gentlemen that a few years ago won the Pub-links and got to play at Augusta. He got to play 2 practice rounds and he wrote about the experience and posted some beautiful pictures. Anyway, in his first practice round he played the course from the back. He admitted that it was not a fun course. It was a brutal and unforgiving tract that demanded 300+yds off of most of the tees. If you couldn’t get out to the proper flat areas or positions in the fairways, you couldn’t get the balls to stop on the greens or even have a shot at some of the pin placements. It was playing golf like painting by number. No creativity to it at all. Bomb it as far as you can and hope for a flat enough lie so that you can hoist it up and get it to stop on the greens.

After the round he was talking to a member that was there and discussing the course. The member told him that nobody played Augusta from the back except when the Masters was coming. The member tees were the old Master’s tees. Even when the past champions come to play, they play the member tees. So, the next morning he played the member tees. He talked about how much fun the course was. That the greens become accessible for different kinds of shots and you could plot out your strategy and get to the best spots with normal drives. The course came alive and the challenge became hitting it close, not just survival.

I don’t really know the answer. My ideas are probably seriously flawed and I just haven’t thought it through to the logical conclusion. But I wish there was at LEAST some serious discussion in the halls of those that are supposed to protect and foster the game to address this very real problem. Technology hasn’t made the game much easier if you examine the handicaps of amateur players. And lengthening the courses to give the pros a challenge hasn’t made golf much more entertaining on TV unless all you care about is 300 yd drives. Golf is moving further and further away from it’s history and I fear it’s losing it’s soul sometimes.

Maybe I’m just a crazy person, but I miss watching those guys working the ball both ways and having to hit some long irons into par 4’s and fairway woods into par 5’s. I’m not all that impressed by guys hitting 5 irons to 30 feet on the par 5’s then 2 putting for birdie all day. I appreciate that the guys are long, but golf isn’t supposed to just be a distance contest.

my .02.

images-9.jpeg … mfKbggEt5s … kxDcA4qnsA
images-10.jpeg … oIhgZqGAo8 … 5X3yxoWCYA
images-16.jpeg … O63ohddcYM … lfVBwFPy9w
images-24.jpeg … nftqMXZS4Q … pYITfI1ib4

I disagree… they have already changed the groove rule showing they reccognize the need to change… Just keep it rolling… Lets get rid of big headed drivers too! Make them out of whatever material you want, but a smaller head won’t get the trampauline effect off the face like they do now… All they have to do is change the head size rules mandating smaller heads and the game is back!.. Accuracy is more of a challenge, ball goes shorter (even with today’s balls), and the long drive champs of the PGA tour are gone! … that’s an easy fix.



you forgot:




The groove change seemed to me to be a way to try and appease those who demanded change without actually dramatically changing anything. The real problem is that professional golf has really just turned into a means of marketing and advertisement for the big equipment companies. Obviously the equipment changes that NEED to happen at the professional level will be very unpopular with amatuers, so equipment manufacturers would have to still manufacture the other stuff along with the new professional equipment. There may be a small market for the professional equipment among good amatuers who want to compete at a high level, but for the most part the amatuer golfers will cling to the game improvement bomb and gouge stuff.

Then, how will handicaps be figured out? Will there be an adjustment based on equipment type? There is so much money backing the other side of this argument that I personally think it will be nearly impossible to really create any mass exodus from the modern game. I think the best way for this to be done is converting people one at a time, just like ABS and John Erickson/Bradley Hughes have been so successful at doing.

The solution is simple.

Put up prize money for the pros to play for. Ideally just a notch or two above what the minitours are paying out.
Hand everyone a new rule book, with strict equipment guidelines, and hand out checks to the players who do well.

Word will spread like wildfire… the press has a controversial new story other than Tiger, and let guys pick which gear and events they want to play in.

Problem solved. We are working on it…

Add money and stir.


fyi - if schedules permit I hear there’s a guy with 3 top tens on the PGA Tour in both 2010 and 11 that may make it to Vegas in 2012. :slight_smile: