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After years of rumors, distance reports, and debates, golf’s governing bodies have officially confirmed plans to roll back the golf ball to reduce hitting distances beginning in January 2026.
The newly proposed Model Local Rule (MLR) agreed upon by the USGA and R&A gives competition organizers the option to require the use of golf balls that have been tested under modified launch conditions to address the impacts of distances.
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Golf equipment manufacturers were sent a note about the proposed change earlier in the week and have until August 14, 2023 to provide any feedback.
The two governing bodies say that increased hitting distances “threaten golf’s long-term sustainability and undermines the core principle that a broad and balanced set of playing skills” that should “remain the primary determinant of success in golf.”
Will A Golf Ball Rollback Affect Recreational Players?
The key to this proposal is that it is not intended for recreational golfers. It is only to be used in “elite competitions”. This means that professional golfers would play with different golf balls than recreational players.
The proposal has pinpointed 317 yards to be the “Overall Distance Standard.”
“Golf balls that conform to the MLR must not exceed the current Overall Distance Standard (ODS) limit of 317 yards (plus 3 yards tolerance) at modified Actual Launch Conditions (ALC) with a clubhead speed of 127 mph and based on a calibration setup of 11 degrees and 37 revolutions per second (2,220 rpm) as part of this proposal,” the USGA statement reads.
One very important thing to note about the proposed rule is that it is a local one. Meaning that certain tournament organizers could choose to implement it while others may not. In theory, this means the USGA and R&A could implement it for the US Open and Open Championship, while Augusta National elects not to for the Masters.
The USGA and R&A are separate entities from the PGA of America, Augusta National, the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour, and LIV Golf as well.
The reaction to the proposed change to roll back the golf ball for professionals will continue to garner a mixed reaction just as it has while the proposal was merely a rumor.
Follow Mark Harris on Twitter @ItIsMarkHarris