USGA, R&A roll out plan to roll back the golf ball for elite players

A rollback is coming.

The USGA and R&A are issuing a joint statement Tuesday morning to announce a proposal that would change testing conditions for golf balls used in elite competitions to a local rule model by January 2026, a move that would shorten the distance of stroke at the highest levels of play. and split the equipment. rules in sports.

Specifically, the governing bodies plan to change the launch conditions to determine if the ball meets the general distance standard, which allows for a combined carry and throw of more than 317 yards, but no more than 320 yards. Current conditions include testing balls at 120 mph clubhead speed, 42 rpm spin and 10 degree launch angle, with acceptable dispersion ranges for each.

Suggested conditions: 127 mph, 37 rpm and 11 degrees.

These changes, according to governing bodies, will reduce the average driving distance of elite players by 14 to 15 yards.

“The kill range at the elite level of the game has steadily increased over the past 20, 40 and 60 years. It has been two decades since we last reviewed our ball distance testing standards,” said USGA CEO Mike Wang. “Predictable, continued growth will be a major problem for the next generation if not addressed soon. The MLR we propose is easy to implement, forward-looking, and has no impact on an entertaining game. We take the next steps in this process, guided primarily by what we are doing right throughout the game.”

The USGA and R&A will adopt the model local rule as soon as it goes into effect, while other organizations, tours, and tournaments such as the PGA of America, the PGA Tour, and Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters Tournament, will be able to use proposed by MLR for their competitions.

If the MLR is codified, there will be two different balls, one for elite professional and recreational players and the other for amateur golfers.

The average turn rate on the PGA Tour this season is 115.1 mph, with the fastest player, Brandon Matthews, averaging 126.06 mph – in 2007, when the Tour first measured the stats, the average was 112. 37 and Bubba Watson at 124.18. And last season, the average driving distance on the Tour was 299.8 yards, up 13.9 yards from 2003.

It is believed, and ball manufacturers have confirmed this, that all modern balls used in the Tour will be considered non-compliant under the proposed testing conditions.

But the potential changes, the governing bodies say, are not intended to limit the much more modest average distances – 216 yards for men and 148 for women – that most of the nearly 67 million golfers around the world drive. In fact, as Wang first pointed out at last year’s US Open, these golfers have a chance to capitalize on this MLR, as it may allow the initial speed test to be removed.

“We think that if we remove this [initial velocity test]Wang said, “there is potential – not a guarantee – it will free up space for manufacturers to innovate to create a ball that is actually better for low club speeds, better for newbies…but really gives manufacturers a little bit of freedom.”

Last March, the USGA and R&A jointly announced two areas of interest – in addition to the model local shaft length rule that was widely adopted early last year – as they narrowed their focus on distance management in elite competition: 1. Possible changes to golf ball testing methods; 2. Model local rules for club performance.

This news has been changed. initial areas of interestpublished about a year earlier, which was aimed at golfers of all skill levels and included many potential changes, from ball size and mass, to club length and club head dimensions, to a reduction in the distance limit within a common distance standard.

What’s different about Tuesday’s update? Now all attention is focused exclusively on the ball; More stringent club rules have been introduced, notably with reduced MOI and a spring effect. The launch conditions are also slightly reminiscent of last spring’s announcement that the balls were to be tested at a club speed of 125 mph.

All of this, of course, is in response to the 2020 Distance Insights Project, which determined that the distance boom of golf is having a detrimental effect on the game, especially when it comes to lengthening golf courses.

Case in point: The Riviera Country Club, one of the tour’s most iconic regular venues, has been lengthened by over 400 yards since 1999.

“This is not an emergency,” former USGA CEO Mike Davis said at the time. “We don’t have a crisis. It didn’t happen overnight. But we are committed to addressing an issue that we believe is in the interest of all golfers.”

The effort has been backed by some of golf’s most influential figures, including Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley.

“We need to do something about the golf ball,” Woods told reporters in 2017. “I just think it’s going too far because we need to build golf courses. be 7400-7800 yards long. And if the game continues to evolve as it has with technology, I think an 8,000-yard golf course isn’t that far off. And it’s pretty scary.”

Added Niklaus last year on Five Clubs Podcast: “For everyone concerned, the return of the golf ball, bringing many things back to normal, is very important for the game of golf.”

And Ridley during the Masters 2020: “Our position will be to support the governing bodies and then if no action is taken for whatever reason, we will need to consider other options… Fortunately, we have the ability to make any number of changes.” to protect the integrity of the field. At the same time, we hope that the day will not come when the Masters or any other golf championship will have to play 8,000 yards to achieve this goal. an important crossroads, so we will continue to encourage the governing bodies and all stakeholders to come up with thoughtful solutions as soon as possible.”

However, it is clear that not everyone looks at the problem of distance through the same lens.

There will be a six-month comment period on the MLR ending August 14, and equipment manufacturers are expected to object, many of whom have been active in the remote discussion.

Tour’s most used ball maker released 19 page response to the published areas of interest last September. It has been argued that ball rollback will reduce the range of golfers for all golfers, not just top players, and future balls will resemble balata balls from the 1990s. As for the bifurcation, the company said, “The game’s growth and global appeal is tied to the unification. The bifurcation of the rules breaks this connection.”

But in a notice sent Monday to equipment companies, the USGA and R&A stressed that they are not considering changes that would shorten the distance at all levels.

“The proposed MLR,” the notice states, “will allow organizers and golf committees to use certain balls for certain elite championships and tournaments, but will not affect the current recreational game in any way.”


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