The modern golf ball debate heated up significantly this week stemming from an article published in the Wall Street Journal in which Mike Davis, the executive director of the USGA, and Angel Ilagan, chief executive of Bridgestone Golf, voiced the popular opinion that the golf ball was going too far and could render classic courses obsolete.
Both executives also made mention of the increasing costs that would face golf courses, especially those who have ambitions of hosting major championships in the future.
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) November 22, 2017
One industry magnate opposed to those claims is Achusnet CEO Wally Uihlein. In a letter to the WSJ on Monday, Uihlein fired back at Davis and Ilagan.
The chief executive of the game’s best-selling ball manufacturer is unconvinced of the need for a reduced-flight ball.
In a letter to The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Wally Uihlein, president and CEO of Titleist’s parent company, Acushnet, questioned the evidence that a longer ball is negatively impacting the game. The letter came in response to USGA executive director Mike Davis, who suggested in an interview with WSJ’s Brian Costa that the costs of lengthening courses were making the game more expensive for all.
“Is there any evidence to support this canard…the trickle down cost argument?” Uihlein wrote. “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?”
Uihlein, who is retiring from Acushnet at the end of the year, mentioned several other factors that may play into the recent groundswell behind a reduced-flight ball, including instruction and player fitness. He also cited a lack of imagination from course developers.
“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a ‘championship golf course’ was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” he wrote.
Uihlein also floated a possible motive for Tiger Woods’s recent public stance that the ball is flying too far: Bridgestone, Woods’s sponsor, could stand to benefit from the change.
“Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball,” Uihlein wrote.
Titleist has long been the market-share leader in the ball space and represents several of the world’s top players, including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.
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