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‘It’s so bad for the game of golf’: PGA Tour stars react to roll back proposals

Some PGA Tour stars have given a frosty reaction to the new golf ball roll back plans that significantly impact how far the ball will travel at the elite level of the game

First came the introduction of new no-cut designated events, now the potential bifurcation of the golf ball which could take off 15 yards off elite players.

As with all changes of this nature, it’s impossible to please everyone, and the latest debate on a proposed Model Local Rule has again divided opinion.

The R&A and USGA want stakeholders, course owners, and players to show equal commitment to the future of the game as they show to the current climate.

The organisations want to alleviate the perceived pressure on golf courses and one strategy that could take shape in 2026 is the way in which golf balls are tested to reduce the distance they travel.

RELATED: ‘It’s the most atrocious thing you could possibly do to golf’

Acushnet, a company that owns multiple brands including Titleist, heavily criticised the plans, questioning if the unification between professional and recreational games will be compromised, while LIV Golf player Bryson DeChambeau described the idea as “the most atrocious thing you could do to golf”.

And, as expected, the PGA Tour’s stars and LIV Golfers are being asked about the proposed golf ball roll back, so we’ve rounded up their replies…

Golf ball roll back: What the stars say

pga tour

Justin Thomas

“My reaction was disappointed and also not surprised, to be honest. I think the USGA over the years in my eyes – it’s harsh, but made some pretty selfish decisions.

“They definitely have done a lot of things that aren’t for the betterment of the game, although they claim it.

“I had conversations with some USGA members – I don’t understand how it’s growing the game. For them to say in the same sentence that ‘golf is in the best place it’s ever been, everything is great, but…’

“There shouldn’t be a but. You’re trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s so bad for the game of golf – some of the great things to me is the fact that you can play the exact same golf ball that I play.

“For an everyday amateur golfer, it’s very unique that we are able to play with the exact same equipment – you can go to the pro shop and buy the same golf ball that I play or Scottie Scheffler plays.

“But the USGA wants to bring it to a point where that’s not the case. They want it to be – the pros play this way and the amateurs play this way – I don’t understand how that’s better for the game of golf.

“The amount of time, and money that these manufacturers have spent trying to create the best product possible, and now you’re going to tell them and us that we have to start over for potentially if the PGA Tour, PGA of America, don’t adopt this local rule.

“So for two of the four biggest events of the year, we’re going to have to use a different ball? Like, try to explain to me how that’s better for the game of golf.”

Jon Rahm

“They’re hyper-focused on making professional golf a little bit more difficult than it already is. I don’t know why. Do I think it’s the right choice? As it comes to me, I don’t think it’s going to matter that much.

“I think if you were to roll the ball back – it’s going to be more damaging to the shorter hitters on Tour than it is for people that have distance, because if you’re giving me a 7-iron as opposed to a 9 or an 8-iron, that means you’re giving somebody a 4 or 5 as opposed to a 7 or a 6.

“I’m still going to be able to stop it in most places with a 7-iron when some people might not. Especially we’re talking about missing fairways right now. You’re putting those players in a tougher situation.

“With that said, all these 520-yard par-4 tee boxes they love to do nowadays are not going to be able to be used. So at the end of the day, they’re still going to be playing the same game.

“My biggest question for them to be we’re in a golden era of golf where it’s exploded since Covid, a lot of people are watching, you have a completely different tour, all these things are happening for the game and it’s growing. Why change what’s working?

“Try to make it better by making it better – there’s plenty of things you can do to make it more difficult for us, golf course design, course setup, all these great things. Courses like last week at Innisbrook, it’s not long, and the score still held up.

“Colonial for the most part, unless it’s a very benign week with the wind, scores are always higher than the average. Hilton Head, same thing. Valderrama, same thing. You can neglect a lot of nowadays’ distance with different golf course designs.

“But we’ll see, I guess, in three years what happens. I don’t think we’re going to get to a point where we only play both Opens with a different golf ball. That would be a little bit silly. It’s going to be an all-out change or no change at all.”

Sam Burns

“I think it’s pretty silly. I would say if you look at the last few years of golf, I think the game has grown tremendously.

“At the end of the day no matter what it is, we’re an entertainment sport and I don’t think people necessarily want to come out here and watch guys hit it shorter.

“They enjoy watching guys go out there and hit it 350 yards. I don’t see what the problem is with that. I think that’s a skill and I don’t really agree with trying to take that away.”

Brandel Chamblee

“It seems to me that this proposal by the USGA and R&A derives from what a very small number of people, namely the executive committees of the USGA and R&A, think about how a very small number of players, namely the longest hitters on the men’s tour, play a very few number of holes, namely a few at The Old Course and Augusta National and perhaps the 10th at Riviera.

“And they are willing to disrupt the entire golf world for their interpretation of how the game is broken and how it should be fixed, with no convincing evidence for their position.

“The proposed new testing parameters for the ball will likely lead to a reduction in distance, not of 14-15, but likely 20-25 yards when one considers that no player on Tour in ‘22 averaged 127mph clubhead speed and no player on Tour averaged as little as 2200 rpm’s of spin and the proposed launch angle of 11 degrees is higher than the 2022 Tour average.

“As for the proposed bifurcation, it is essentially the USGA and R&A executive committees proclaiming that they don’t like how the professional game is being played.

“It is no small number of people who would argue that it is the PGA Tour’s call, and not the governing bodies, as to how the professional game is played.

“I don’t imagine Roger Goodell would allow an outside agency to dictate how he runs his business. And by playing the same equipment, are spectators not better able to judge the athleticism of great players more accurately and be appropriately awed by the difference?

“Isn’t that an accurate depiction of the disparity between what they can do and the pros can do, part of the appeal of watching the best play?

“Furthermore, every player knows that bifurcation of the ball means bifurcation of the equipment because these new balls will have unique characteristics that will require new golf clubs to accommodate and maximise the totally new launch conditions.

“And since professional golfers don’t pay for clubs and nor do a large number of elite players, the cost of the R&D to create and retooling to build these new golf balls and clubs, not to mention the actual production costs will be passed on to the consumer, making an already expensive game, even more so.

“One also needs to consider how far down into the elite and amateur ranks this bifurcation will go. Given that it will be for all WAGR point events, that means state Amateur events and qualifyings.

“Will the LPGA adopt the MLR or will the men’s and women’s game become bifurcated? How about women’s amateur events?”

Bubba Watson

“Justin Thomas. I do not like it. That’s pretty much what he said.

“There’s many reasons, but first off, the commercialism is the one that’s paying all these bills for USGA and all these other organisations, and now you’re asking them to spend millions to change a ball or design a new ball and do all those things. Why?

“Professional golfers are small, minute in the game of golf as a whole, who all plays it, so why not make a driver that lets some guy hit it straighter, further? Make a ball that lets a guy or a woman, kid, hit it further. Just because you hit it further doesn’t mean it’s going to go straighter.

“I’m not trying to throw Bryson under the bus, but Bryson tried to do something, he did do it, but he dialed it back a little.

“He still hits it further than everybody but he dialed it back a little because he realised your misses are further because I’ve been dealing with that for a while, my misses are further off.

“Going back to the ball, I just don’t see the reason why. We’re the one sport that’s changing what we do, and we get mad when a guy shoots 10-under for three straight days, but we celebrate when a guy scores 50 points or scores three home runs or four home runs, a guy throws seven touchdowns.

“We celebrate that. We don’t make him, hey, you can’t throw that many passes the next game, so why are we messing with that. The sport is at an all-time high, so let’s don’t mess with it, let’s just keep it growing.”

Harold Varner III

“I’m going to play whatever they tell me to play.

“That’s the only thing that gets me about the whole ball thing. Everyone is complaining about the millions of dollars, there’s a lot of money, but if they change the golf ball and they give you a golf ball, we’re going to play the golf ball.

“I just don’t think – everyone is mad about what’s happening, but if they tell us to play a ball, we’re going to play that ball. It’s pretty simple.”

We’ll continue to add to this piece as more players speak, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, tweet us your thoughts on the golf ball roll back…

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spent time with some of the biggest names in the sport.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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