USGA, R&A propose rule to limit distance golf balls can travel in professional events
This week, the USGA and R&A proposed a rule that would limit the distance a golf ball can travel at the professional level starting in January 2026. This is a rule that does not affect recreational players and is not required at elite professional events, the golf ball travels. The goal is to limit the insane distances that professionals hit the ball from the target, while avoiding the need to often increase the golf courses.
Essentially, this rule will reduce the ball speed limit at high club speeds. Otherwise, the ball could only travel 317 yards with a 3-yard tolerance at a club speed of 127 mph.
“Over the past 20, 40, and 60 years, the reach at the elite level of the game has steadily increased,” USGA CEO Mike Wang said in a statement. “It has been two decades since we last reviewed our ball distance testing standards. The predicted constant increase will be a major problem for the next generation if not addressed soon. [rule] we offer an easy-to-implement, forward-looking, and no impact on the fun game.”
According to the USGA and R&A, this implementation “will reduce the distance of strike by an average of 14 to 15 yards for the furthest hitters with the highest club speed.”
Wang acknowledged in a conference call on Tuesday that the proposal is not a long-term solution, given that there is a chance that in 15 years everyone will be in the same place again.
Distance is undoubtedly an issue at the elite level. Augusta National moved the tee for this reason this year on his famous 13th hole. And while this addition to the rules, under which manufacturers and stakeholders can provide feedback until August of this year, is a positive thing, it probably does not solve the overall problem.
What’s amazing about the world of golf is that it doesn’t have a higher governing body. The USGA and R&A may eventually set this rule, but as long as it is a local rule, other organizations such as the PGA Tour are not required to follow it.
The PGA Tour itself was noncommittal.
“We continue to work closely with the USGA and R&A on a range of initiatives, including the topic of distance,” Tour said. “With regard to the notice to manufacturers announced today, we will continue our own extensive independent analysis of the topic and will work with the USGA and R&A, as well as our members and industry partners, to evaluate and provide feedback on this proposal. The Tour remains committed to ensuring that any future decisions benefit the game as a whole without negatively impacting the Tour, its players or our fans’ enjoyment of our sport.”
Hardware companies were less enthusiastic. Acushnet CEO David Maher called this rule “a solution in search of a problem.” Acushnet owns Titleist.
“Golf is an inspiring sport and we believe it is at its best when the equipment and rules of the game are unified. The health and vibrancy of golf are at historically high levels,” he said. “In our opinion, the existing rules for golf balls in terms of total distance and muzzle velocity are very effective. Over the past two decades, the PGA Tour’s average playing length has increased by less than 100 yards, and the average has remained virtually unchanged.
“The average PGA Tour club head speed of 114.6 mph in 2022 was well below the current 120 mph and proposed test conditions of 127 mph. The proposal to split the golf ball is in many ways the solution to the problem.”
All of this will happen in the coming months as other organizations such as Augusta National and PGA of America get involved. We will also hear from players and officials at the highest level.
What is certain is that it will be controversial. Wang acknowledged that on Tuesday he said that part of the management knows that you will get feedback on your decisions.
However, this is a proactive move by the USGA and R&A for the future, which was needed years after research and inaction, and which will create a wave for a long time to come.