Golf’s governing bodies have confirmed that they have proposed a way of bifurcation where elite golfers use different golf balls to recreational golfers.
A new Model Local Rule has been proposed for January 2026 where competition organisers could enforce it to ensure competitors play golf balls that go shorter than the current legal models on the market used by pros and amateurs alike.
The change would come to the clubhead speed of its testing procedure, upping from 120mph to 127mph yet keeping the ‘Overall Distance Standard’, ie the limit of how far the ball can go, at 317 yards plus a three-yard tolerance. This would mean that all current balls would be non-conforming at the ‘elite’ level and new tour/elite balls would not travel as far.
“The modified testing set-up in the proposed MLR is expected to reduce hitting distance by 14-15 yards on average for the longest hitters with the highest clubhead speeds,” the R&A and USGA says.
The R&A and USGA 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.”
The report also found that the overall trend of golf courses becoming longer has “adverse consequences” surrounding increased cost and time to play, limiting the advancement of sustainability efforts and reducing the challenge of courses and risking them becoming obsolete.
Both governing bodies notified equipment manufacturers yesterday, and the industry will be able to provide feedback on the proposal until 14th August 2023.
The governing bodies have stressed that the MLR is intended for use only in elite competitions and, if adopted, will have no impact on recreational golf. The testing procedures for non-tour/elite balls would remain the same. This means that bifurcation would be official and the elite players would play different golf balls to recreational players.
Their new Annual Driving Distance Report found a 4% average year-over-year increase in hitting distance across all seven tours analysed, with all but the Japan Golf Tour and LPGA…
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