Golf rule makers unveil universal rollback rule to reduce how long balls can travel

Golf rule makers R&A and United States Golf Association have introduced new regulations to reduce the distances that golf balls can travel starting in January 2028.

The governing bodies say the elite golfers average over 300 yards off the tee. The average driving distance on the PGA Tour is around 300 yards — up from 286.5 yards in the 2004 season.

World Number 2 Rory McIlroy for example is over 320 yards off the tee and the only way to combat the additional distances that are being achieved by these players is to extend golf courses and that is very costly and environmentally dangerous as well.

Longer golf courses require additional resources such as water, the cost of renovating or moving elements like tees and bunkers continues to rise and other long-term impacts have been identified as a result of increased distance.

Starting in 2028, golf balls will be limited to travel 317 yards, with three yards of tolerance, via testing conditions that will increase from the current standard of 120 mph swing speed to 125 mph.

This marks the first time that test speeds have been updated since 2004, when the current standard was set based on the longest hitters at that time.

According to the R&A and USGA, average professional tour and elite male players are expected to see a reduction of 9-11 yards in driving distance while LPGA players can expect a reduction of 5-7 yards.

The governing bodies believe that if the sport is to enjoy a sustainable long-term future then the aforementioned economic and environmental impacts have to be kept under control.

“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,” said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers.

“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.”

What are the pros saying about this rollback?

Keegan Bradley said: “I think that the USGA … everything that they do is reactionary,”

“They don’t think of a solution. They just think we’re going to affect a hundred percent of the population that plays golf. For the amateur world to hit the ball shorter is monstrous. I can’t think of anything more stupid than that.”

“I don’t think it’s very smart at all, especially when golf’s growing in popularity literally coming out of COVID.”

Rory McIlroy, on the other hand, doesn’t think the potential changes will affect everyday players but thinks it will help the game more skillful.

Story By: Princeton Wiredu

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