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‘We do not support this announcement’: Golf world responds to reduced distance decision

The PGA Tour and the manufacturers have made their feelings known following the announcement of golf ball roll back which will affect everyone…

 

The R&A and the USGA have announced plans to reduce hitting distances in the game for everyone.

13-15 yards will be shaved from the longest elite hitters, while a five to seven-yard reduction is projected for LPGA and LET players in changes planned for 2028.

The decision aims to minimise the impact on the recreational game while protecting the sport’s long-term sustainability.

More on how these changes will be implemented and details on how golf balls will be tested have been covered by NCG’s Steve Carroll here.

In March, the governing bodies were met with strong opposition when initially announcing the intention to introduce a new Model Local Rule whereby top players would essentially use a tournament ball.

Some manufacturers and some players were vocally against it, but what are their thoughts now the golf ball roll back announcement has been made?

The R&A and the USGA

“We are convinced that this decision is one of the key ways of achieving a sustainable future for golf, protecting the integrity of the game and meeting our environmental responsibilities,” R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers said.

“The measure we are taking has been carefully considered and calibrated while maintaining the ‘one game’ ethos deemed to be so important to the golf industry.

“Importantly, it also keeps the impact on recreational golfers to an absolute minimum. We are acting now because we want to ensure that future generations can enjoy the unique challenge of golf as much as we do.”

“Governance is hard,” USGA Chief executive Mike Whan said. “And while thousands will claim that we did too much, there will be just as many who said we didn’t do enough to protect the fame long-term.

“But from the very beginning, we’ve been driven to do what is right for the game, without bias. As we’ve said, doing nothing is not an option – and we would be failing in our responsibility to protect the game’s future if we didn’t take appropriate action now.”

golf ball roll back announcement

Manufacturers

“As a brand that prioritises improving product performance for golfers of all skill levels, the decision to proceed with the golf ball roll back is disappointing,” TaylorMade Chief Executive David Abeles said in a formal statement.

“While appreciative of the opportunity to have a seat at the table and a voice in the debate, we feel like the roll back is simply disconnected from what golfers believe is best for the game.

“Throughout the decision-making process, the USGA provided a platform to express our views, provide new data sources, and engage in candid discussions. In the spirit of collaboration, we acknowledge and respect the rules that form an integral part of our game’s fabric, even when we disagree with them.

“Looking ahead, as the new golf ball standards come into effect in 2028 for professional golfers and 2030 for amateurs, we assure everyone, at every level of our game, that we will be well-prepared to navigate these changes.

“Our commitment to innovation remains unwavering. As with every product we make, we will work tirelessly to find alternative pathways to make them better and we will continually push the performance boundaries within the parameters set by the rules.”

“We do not believe this is in the best interests of the game. We don’t agree that there is a distance problem in the game,” a Titleist spokesperson said in a holding statement.

“As we consider today’s R&A and USGA announcement against recent feedback provided by the World Alliance of PGA’s and the PGA Tour, we are also concerned that the golf ball rollback overly impacts golfers and does not fully reflect the input of those closest to the game,” Acushnet Chief Executive David Maher said.

“There have been requests to align on what data is used and how it is used to draw conclusions prior to any equipment changes being made. 

“Many important stakeholders do not see distance as a problem the way the governing bodies do, and therefore come to differing conclusions about how to proceed to ensure the best possible outcome for the sport.”

“We do believe the game is thriving and hope to support the continued energy and enthusiasm around golf.” ( Full statement here)

“We are aware of and understand the passionate responses on both sides regarding the USGA announcement on the distance roll back of golf balls. While we would prefer that any new rules did not impact recreational golfers, we believe further commentary is no longer productive,” President and Chief Executive of Bridgestone Golf Dan Murphy said.

“At this point, we need to concentrate on creating conforming products that allow both professionals and amateurs to play their best golf.”

“Topgolf Callaway Brands respects the perspectives of the governing bodies and knows they are acting in what they believe is the best interest of the game,” Topgolf Callaway Brands President and Chief Executive Chip Brewer wrote in a statement.

“However, when viewing the same data, we have consistently communicated that we would not have chosen to roll the ball back and we would have preferred bifurcation over a change across the board.”

The Tours

“Today’s announcement takes into account previous feedback from the PGA Tour that we believe a Model Local rule related to golf ball conformance is not in the best interests of the gamer as a whole, and also feedback the PGA Tour received from the manufacturing community that a longer timeframe prior to implementation would be needed for such a change,” commissioner Jay Monahan wrote to the PGA Tour members.

“Furthermore, the suggested concept of adding an additional testing protocol to address the issue of “creep” on the spring-like effect of driver faces is something the PGA Tour continues to support.

“However, we continue to provide feedback to the USGA and the R&A that we believe the proposed increase in test clubhead speed to 125 mph is disproportional to the rate of increase we see when analysing PGA Tour radar data on launch conditions, using best practices for analysing data.

“Therefore, we do not support today’s announcement regarding the increase to 125 mph, believing a more moderate adjustment is appropriate.”

“We appreciate the amount of time and effort the game’s governing bodies, The R&A and the USGA have expended in research in this area,” a DP World Tour spokesperson said, via the Independent.

“They are golf’s rule makers, and we therefore respect the decision they have arrived at.”

“The LPGA is appreciative of the leadership and stewardship of the USGA and The R&A on a variety of topics within the game, including today’s announcement regarding the anticipated changes to the rules governing distance,” the LPGA statement read.

“While we do not feel there is a distance issue in the women’s game, we recognize the need for the USGA and the R&A to address complex challenges and ensure the game’s continued long-term growth, success and sustainability.

“We support the USGA and R&A’s decision to eliminate their previous proposal for implementation of a Model Local Rule related to the golf ball as we believe a unified approach to the game is important for the continued growth of women’s golf.

“Consistency across the game provides the best opportunity for the LPGA to showcase the enormous talent of our athletes and helps ensure the LPGA will continue to be a leader in elevating, inspiring, and advancing girls and women as we have been for more than 73 years.”

Players

“So the last couple of decades, we’ve been talking about what to do, especially as golf courses are getting longer,” Rory McIlroy said to Sky Sports. “They’re needing more and more acreage to build golf courses. Is that sustainable? Because they’re building more acreage, they need more water to maintain them.

“There’s all these environmental factors that come into it. I think that’s the biggest reason we should do this, but also, from a professional that plays the game, I said in that Twitter post a few days ago, I think it’ll just bring back some skills into the pro game that have maybe been lost.

“I actually think it will make the pro game more entertaining to watch. I think you’re going to see a different variety of games succeed, it’s not just going to be this bomb and gouge that we see predominantly now when you watch the top level of golf.

“It’ll bring some of the great classic courses back into consideration when we go to major championships. That’s the reason I’m a big proponent of just making the ball go a little shorter and maybe becasue of that, it might spin a little more and shot-shaping comes back into it, and long irons get played a little bit more.

“I just think the game at the top level will become a little more skilful again.”

“The thing is we’ve all known that this could potentially be coming over the last few years,” Tony Finau said. “It’s been talked about for a very long time, whether it’s the driver that was going to change or the golf ball, so we’ve been talking about a rollback for a couple years.

“I can’t say it’s like surprising, but now that it’s here, there’s a date, it’s official, and no matter where you stand, we’re going to have to deal with it starting in ’28.”

“You’re just going to have to adapt. It’s all just about adapting,” Nelly Korda said. “Technology constantly changes, and the best players are still going to be the best players. It’s just about who’s going to adapt the quickest and the easiest.”

“I’m a fan of the R&A, I’m a fan of the USGA and we have to look after the game and obviously, the future and what’s good for the game,” Annika Sorenstam told SiriusXM radio.

“I’m sorry but the game is not the same for amateurs and professionals, it really isn’t. So if we’re talking about sustainability that we’re running out of land, I haven’t heard an amateur ever say ‘This course was really short’.

“So if we’re only targeting the PGA Tour, that’s one thing but to roll it back for everybody? I really think this is more of a PGA Tour issue than anything. On the LPGA Tour, we haven’t run out of courses.

“I’m happy to play courses that the men can’t play, courses that we think of, bucket list courses that are too short for the men. So let’s just think about that and I think there are things you can do to make these courses a little more difficult.

“If you look at the schedule, where they play today, there are some courses where they really don’t score that low and what’s the difference there?

“It’s not just the distance, it’s the greens and the rough and maybe more narrow fairways where you have to have a little more strategy than just bombing off the tee. But we shouldn’t forget that bombing off the tee is a skill.”

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