golf ball roll back

USGA chief on golf ball roll back: ‘Is the right long-term solution doing nothing? Highly unlikely’

They know it’s unpopular with many, but it seems the USGA are determined to press ahead with plans to limit hitting distances in golf

Could the controversial golf ball roll back be abandoned if players and equipment manufacturers united against it?

It’s “highly unlikely” the long-term solution is doing nothing, if the latest comments from the USGA are any guide.

Chief executive Mike Whan and president Fred Perpall were standing firm on an issue that’s dividing the sport after they were quizzed on its progress at the US Open.

The pair were holding the governing body’s annual pre-tournament press conference ahead of the third major of the year at Los Angeles Country Club, and Perpall conceded a lot of his friends would say “no one really wants this”.

But questioned on proposals – first announced in March – that could chop 15 yards off the distances hit by the game’s leading male players, he insisted the USGA’s intentions were “pure”.

The R&A and USGA have proposed a Model Local Rule that would give competition organisers an option to require “use of golf balls that are tested under modified launch conditions to address the impacts of hitting distance in golf.”

Intended for use only in elite competition, and not in the women’s game, it would all but bifurcate the sport by creating a tournament ball and meaning that professionals and, possibly elite amateurs, would use different equipment to club players.

proposal notice is now with golf equipment manufacturers and they, along with industry stakeholders, can provide feedback until August 14. If it was adopted, the proposal would come into effect no earlier than January 2026.

Asked if there was a scenario where the comments coming back from the proposal could be so negative that the governing bodies would abandon the plan, Whan said: “I thought this was going to be hard, and it’s going to be hard. I think I can speak on behalf of the R&A when I say both the R&A and the USGA believe doing nothing is a bad idea for the long-term future and health of the game.

“But part of doing something means you’ve really got to be out there and really asking for and taking direct comments, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

golf ball roll back

He added: “I would say that over my first two years doing this I feel like we’ve gotten real quality comments, and I feel like we’ll dial into the right long-term solution.

“But I think if your question is do you think the right long-term solution is nothing, highly unlikely.”

Perpall, meanwhile, added that the USGA team were having to “stand in the face of the fan and take all of this fire” but wished he could “just say we’re really doing what we think is right for the game 100 years from now, and really that is our job”.

He explained: “We’re at a time in our history where governance and government has been at an all-time low. No one loves to be governed.

“We all love to be popular, but sometimes I think you have to really think about what’s right. Equipment manufacturers, they’ve done their jobs. The elite players, they’ve done their jobs, too. They’re getting better, stronger, faster.

“But with the USGA and the R&A as governance organisations – we’re the folks that have to wake up and think about the long-term health of the game. This is directly connected to all the things we just talked about in terms of inclusivity and accessibility, the expense we’re embedding in the game, et cetera.

“A lot of my friends that I would play golf with would say no one really wants this. Sometimes you have to have the courage to really do what’s right.

“I wish I could say to the public, our intent is pure. It’s not malicious. We’re not trying to do something to damage anyone.

“We’re thinking about all the good that this good game has given us, and we’re thinking about what is our responsibility to make sure that this game is still strong and healthy 50 years from now for our children’s children.”

What do you think of the golf ball roll back issue? Should this Model Local Rule get off the ground? Let me know with a tweet.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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