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Nicklaus wants limits to golf ball technology

The humble golf ball is in danger of steering the game down the road of ruin, according to Jack Nicklaus.

He warned that thousands of golf courses around the world will become obsolete, overpowered by the game's elite players, unless the sport's rule-makers take the brave step of limiting the distance a golf ball can travel.

"Is it right to build 6800-metre golf courses and make courses here like Royal Melbourne, Metropolitan and Kingston Heath obsolete?" he asked. "But they'll actually be obsolete because of the ego of the ball manufacturer.

"In US now only 25 golf courses are long enough to play major championships.

"If the golf ball went back 10 per cent we'd have several thousand. It's still all the same relatively but everything doesn't become obsolete.

"My feeling is that the golf course owners of the world ... will turn to the USGA and R&A to stand up in their role as custodians of the game. I think they are going to force it to happen."

The six-time US Masters champion said the committee of Augusta National came close to stipulating which ball players could use in their tournament.

"Augusta could have got away with it but they did not want to put themselves in that position of putting the game in that position," he said.

Only space to modify the course "making it three or four shots harder" had kept Augusta "ahead of the curve" and stopped the committee from making what would have been a momentous decree even by their autocratic standards.

Now Augusta will be "right for four or five years", Nicklaus believes.

But he predicted eventually all golf course owners will have to lobby the game's custodians to place limits on the golf ball.

The golf ball rather than technological advances in clubs was " the problem", he said.

Nicklaus described his long-running campaign to limit the golf ball "like hitting a mountain with a sledgehammer".

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