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North-east-based ex-Scottish Golf president has say on plan to reduce ball flight; Hazlehead golf courses set for extensive winter work

This week's north-east golf round-up also includes a hole-in-one at Meldrum House.

A decision on whether to rollback golf ball distance is imminent.
A decision on whether to rollback golf ball distance is imminent.

The R&A and USGA will tomorrow unveil their blueprint for a reduced-flight golf ball which will see the biggest change to the game in decades.

The roll-back move comes after continual distance improvement by the top tour players which have left many of the world’s most-esteemed courses helpless.

It has taken the ruling bodies five years to compile their changes which at one point had hinted any restrictions would not affect the average amateur.

However, the introduction of the new ball is understood to reduce the leading tour professionals ability to drive a golf ball by 15 yards, an average tour pro by nine yards, while an amateur is expected to have their Sunday-best effort curtailed by four yards.

It had also been suggested pros and amateurs would go down different paths with only the paid ranks playing a restricted ball – a move called bifurcation – as the R&A and USGA did not want any negative vibes at amateur level, especially after the golf boom brought on by Covid.

However, probable financial implications were costly and the ruling bodies now expect golf ball manufacturers to supply a conforming ball for the professional game by January 1, 2028.

Amateurs will have a two-year grace period before joining them on January 1, 2030.

‘Doing nothing is not an option’ – David Fleming

The change has split the ranks of the elite tour players with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods giving their backing while Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Rickie Fowler claiming it will be the worst change the sport has seen in recent times.

Former Scottish Golf president David Fleming said: “I tend to agree with Martin Slumbers, the R&A chief executive, who said: ‘There are only three options: We can bifurcate; you change the whole game; or you do nothing. And doing nothing is not an option.”

Former Scottish Golf president David Fleming. Image: Alan Brown

Fleming, a member at Portlethen and Royal Aberdeen, added: “The governing bodies have listened to the feedback earlier in the year (from golf equipment manufacturers), which rallied against bifurcation.

“That only leaves making changes for all – as most golf courses don’t have the land to give the option of lengthening holes, which would be expensive, even if possible.

“Restricting the distance the ball goes makes sense. And from what is reported about the updated proposal, it won’t make a huge amount of difference to the majority of amateurs.

“We already have restrictions – for example on the face of drivers – so now turning the attention to the ball makes sense.”

Course maintenance planned at Hazlehead Golf Club

The first snow of the winter descended on Hazlehead last week. Image: Alan Brown.

The Granite City’s municipal golf courses are set to undergo extensive maintenance programmes over the winter months.

The MacKenzie and Pines (Hazlehead Golf Club’s No1 and No2 courses) will close on alternate weeks on Monday to Fridays from January 1 until March next year.

However, both courses will be open at the weekends – although all openings will be weather dependent.

The MacKenzie course will have drainage lines levelled on the 15th fairway, drainage work on the 16th fairway, while the 12th tee-box will be levelled and returfed.

Drainage pipes will be laid and ditches filled at the 11th, 12th and 14th fairways on the Pines, while there will be drainage improvements at the approach to the right of the 14th green.

Both courses will undergo bunker maintenance and tree management programmes.

A ditch will be introduced at the fourth and fifth holes on the nine-hole course in a bid to improve drainage.

The Kings Links programme will include extensive gorse removal at the sixth, 12th and 17th and a new bunker is set to be installed at the latter.

The tee-box at the 18th at Balnagask will be levelled and returfed, while new tee markers will be introduced.

Fairway mats must be used and especially when teeing off with an iron.

Mats are not required when playing from the rough.

Bunkers are ground under repair.

Entries open for Aberdeenshire Coast Links

Eentries are being accepted for the Aberdeenshire Coast Links Championship over four of the North-east’s top courses next year.

Trump International, Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay and Fraserburgh will host the competition from Monday, April 15 until Thursday, April 18.

The entry fee is £569 per person which includes tea/coffee and bacon rolls plus dinner at Trump International.

The format for both ladies and gents is Stableford.

For more details see

Craig’s ace at Meldrum House

Meldrum House member Craig Chalmers had a hole-in-one at his home course. Image: Alan Brown.

Meldrum House member Craig Chalmers had a hole-in-one at the 178-yard third hole at his home course using a five-iron. He was partnered by Steve Tawse and Neil Forbes.