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Golf Ball Rollback: Good or Bad?

This announcement from the USGA and R&A came out a few weeks ago but I wanted to take some time to try and understand exactly what it all meant. To be honest I still do not know as there have been different opinions from not just golfers and tour pros but also from golf media. None of them seem to know exactly how it will affect golf as a whole.

The rule is basically for 0.001% of PGA Tour players. The golfers that hit it the furthest will always have an advantage regardless of what they do to the golf ball. Many golfers use a golf fitness routine or training aids like GolFOREVER to increase swing speed and stay in peak golf condition.

The average driving distance on the PGA Tour is 299 yards. That's total yardage and not carry. The tour's average carry yardage is 275 yards according to Trackman (see full stat here). That means golfers on the PGA Tour average about 24 yards of roll on their drives. When you think about the distances of the courses they play that 24yards can make a big difference. Many times those players are getting a lot more roll than that.

I personally think the rollback is a horrible idea. Not just for professional golf but for golf in general. The top players will just find a way to get more roll out of their drives by playing 6° drivers and de-lofting their irons even more. Back when golf balls spun more Drivers had less loft than they do now. Once the golf ball technology changed a little bit, the lofts started going up on drivers so golfers could get a higher launch with less spin. For example, back in the early 2000's, when I played a Top Flight Strata golf ball I also played an 8° driver. My driving average hasn't gone up much from back then now that I play a Bridgestone Tour BXS with a 10° driver.

The distance has come from driver technology. Golf ball technology actually has not changed that much. I tried to find a test I saw a few years ago but I couldn't. The test was done using a TaylorMade Burner driver swing on a robot, using 3 eras of Titeist ProV1 golf balls. If memory serves correctly it was one ball made from 2000-2005, 2005-2010, and 2010-2015. The difference was only 3-5 yards of carry distance between golf balls. Only a 15-yard difference over 15 years.

Where the real issue comes in with a golf ball rollback is for the recreational golfer. The majority will not be affected at all as many golf balls will remain the same. It will mostly be the premium golf balls. Golfers that are affected will not just be affected by distance but also by the spin. That means more side spin and more errant shots. Also, we do not get those perfect tour conditions so golfers will also get less roll. That means already long golf courses will play longer even from the same tees. Roll is more of a big deal to the recreational golfer who doesn't carry the ball a long way.

The best thing the USGA could have done if they were worried about protecting the game is to put regulations on the loft of clubs. For example, a driver can only be 10° - 12° a 3-wood 15° - 17° and so on. Goes as far as to say a PW can only be 46° - 48° and stop golfers from using a PW with a 40° loft and hitting it 160 yards. For reference, 40° is the loft of my 8-iron and pretty standard in what is considered "player irons".

There has been a lot of blowback, even from Tour players, so there is a chance this announcement could be changed before it is set to take effect in 2028. All we can do is sit back and watch how this unfolds and see if the USGA and R&A make the right decision and throw this stupid rule out the window.

Here are some links to what the rest of the golf world is saying.

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