Beef: “I’m all for the golf ball rollback – it will save some classic courses”

Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston weighs in on the golf ball rollback debate and wants to see more strategy and control back in the game with greater risk-reward for pulling out the driver.

Any professional complaining about the golf ball rollback should’ve played my comeback event in South Africa. My caddie and I barely had to speak on the tees… the course was more than 8,200 yards so I just reached straight for the driver on every par 4 or par 5. No need for any other strategy, just hit it as far as you can and if you miss the fairway, you’ll still have a shot.

And don’t get me started on the par 3s – the shortest was 197 yards. That’s not the course’s fault – it was beautiful – but that’s what it has had to become to remain a challenge.

What happened to players having to create shots, using the land or the conditions to get the ball where they want it? The skill should be in avoiding hazards that are in the ideal landing spots, finding narrow fairways, and having the ability to land the ball on greens that are tough to hold.

The Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate home to the longest course on the DP World Tour.

Look at the driver now. If you swing at 130mph then it isn’t going to matter if you don’t button it out of the centre. The combo of the modern ball and uber-forgiving clubhead means it’s still going miles and never too far offline. And if you find the rough, you’re only a wedge or short iron from the green anyway.

Thirty years ago, when the guys were all using high-spinning Tour 90s and small-headed woods, the game was all about skill and creativity, managing the ball’s spin and shaping shots.

I want it to be about strategy and control again – let’s get the ball spinning up so you have to hit perfect shots. If you hit it offline, you should be punished.

And if rolling the ball back or limiting equipment means courses don’t need to be 8,000 yards to be usable then that’s great because we can start hosting tournaments at classic venues again. Original hazards suddenly become relevant and we won’t run out of land hunting for more space to extend yet another tee box.

Augusta National is just one of many iconic courses struggling to extend tee boxes any further.

I say all of this as a guy who isn’t the biggest hitter so limiting equipment could impact me massively.

If I drive the ball 300 yards and suddenly that’s being trimmed by ten percent, what was a 7-iron approach could now be a 4 or 5-iron as the rollback will impact distances with those shots, too.

The big hitters will still be hitting less club into holes, but they’ll have to think their way around the course more, and perhaps hitting a 7-iron from the rough won’t be as attractive as hitting a gap wedge.

I’m not desperate to see the bombers punished – in fact when I see things like Bryson DeChambeau driving the par 5 at Bay Hill I think it’s phenomenal and it almost leaves me on the fence. But ultimately I just want accuracy and skill to be better rewarded and for the future of some classic golf courses to be secured.

Bryson DeChambeau is definitely not jumping for joy at the prospect of tour's rolling the ball back.

Right now, I could hit every fairway in regulation across two days, shoot 11-under, and find I’m still on the same score as a guy who has hit one or two fairways. How is that right?

If you miss a fairway then the option of hitting the green – or at least getting it close – with your approach should be taken away. We all want to play fair golf courses where good shots are rewarded, and the leaderboard reflects the players whose game plan and execution were spot on.

During my injury I worked at The Open at Royal Liverpool and on every tee, I could see at least two or three shot options. A 3-iron short of the bunkers, a 2-iron where I could take one of them out of play, gamble on a driver but accept that if I got it wrong it could easily be a bogey or worse. That’s what every hole should do.

The course leveled the field because it took driver out of play for a lot of people and rewarded accuracy. And what happened? Brian Harman, a fairly short but accurate hitter found fairways and greens and cruised to the win.

Brian Harman showed his skill and creativity to win The Open in challenging conditions.

Right now, the only defense most courses have to protect them from 20 or 30-under-par winning scores is length, but where does that end? We’ll run out of land!

I hear the argument from amateurs that a universal rollback is unnecessary and it’s a fair point – very few high-handicappers are hitting it 350-yards, but I genuinely don’t think it will have a huge negative impact on your games, especially if you’re the sort of amateur who’s just as happy using a box of lake balls as you are a shiny new Pro V1.

Roll back the ball, reduce the size of the driver, tighten up the courses, make hazards a punishment again, and let’s get back to precision being just as valuable as power.

Read more from Beef, including his thoughts on his comeback, Rahm’s rumored LIV move and how he’d solve the merger.

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About the Author

Andrew 'Beef' Johnston is a professional golfer who plays on the DP World Tour, host of Beef's Golf Club, and contributor to Today's Golfer.

Andrew Johnston – Professional Golfer and Podcaster

Andrew Johnston, better known as Beef, is a professional golfer on the DP World Tour who has also played on the PGA Tour and in three of the four men’s Majors.

The Englishman, who won the Real Club Valderrama Open de España in 2016, has his own YouTube channel and is the owner and co-host of the hit Beef’s Golf Club podcast alongside fellow Today’s Golfer contributor John Robins. He has also tried his hand in the commentary booth and in front of the cameras at both The Open and the Ryder Cup.

A huge fan favorite, Beef is a Cobra Puma player and is coached by Jamie Gough. Away from golf, he is a huge Arsenal FC fan and lives in Portugal with his wife Jodie and daughter Harley.

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