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Jack Nicklaus takes issue with hopped up golf balls, increasing course lengths

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Now that golf’s governing bodies seem poised to address the issue of whether the golf ball flies too far, Jack Nicklaus said he is willing to offer his insight and influence.

In fact, he said just that to Mike Davis, executive director of the United States Golf Association, during a dinner earlier this week.

“I’m happy to help you,” Nicklaus told Davis. “I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.”

Nicklaus, 78, has long been an advocate for rolling back the golf ball at the elite levels of the game.

And he believes the golf ball is among the game’s problems, including slow play.

“The golf ball is the biggest culprit of it,” Nicklaus told reporters at PGA National, site of this week’s Honda Classic. “If you took a golf course that we played … we used to play 6,500 yards, 6,600 yards, and that was a championship golf course. Today, you’re 7,500 or 7,600 yards. The older golf courses, the tees, the greens were very close together. The golf courses built today, they spread them out for real estate purposes.”

Nicklaus, the winner of 18 major championships and a prolific golf course designer, said he is hopeful that the USGA and R&A are at the point where they might do something.

“There’s three things we have in the game of golf that really causes it to be slow and take longer: that’s the golf ball, the length of the golf course, the time that we play. The amount of money it costs is a very big detriment, because if you have more land and more fertilizer, more water, it costs more money. It costs more to play the game and the game is pretty difficult.

“The game is a great game today the way it is. The game when I played was a great game, and the game they played 20 years before me is a great game. However, times change. I think you need to change with the times. 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.”

Nicklaus said he’d like to see the golf ball of today rolled back 20 percent in terms of distance traveled, and he is not opposed to recreational players using a 100 percent ball.

In recent weeks, Davis has said increased distance is “not necessarily good for the game.” Last week, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said, “We have probably crossed that line,” as it relates to the distance the ball travels.

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