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USGA and R&A Golf Ball Rollback: What Is It and Why It's a Bad Idea.

If you haven't heard the news lately the USGA and R&A have proposed a "rollback" on the golf ball to combat distance in the game. This would only be in effect for the game's elite and will not have an impact at a recreational level. That means it would be for elite amateurs that play in USGA-sanctioned events such as the United States Amateur Championship and professional events such as the U.S. Open and Open Championship (aka British Open).

What is not clear at the moment is if the PGA Tour would adopt the rules change shall it be put into place. If the PGA Tour does not adopt the new ball rule then that could cause all sorts of issues. If a PGA Tour player can play and compete one way on tour with one ball then come the U.S. Open they would have to play with a different ball.

This is a stupid idea in the first place. Anything with the name "rollback" is a backward way of thinking. It is basically going backward in technology and the advancements golf has made. However one of the biggest mistakes is this can cause a huge division in golf. Not just between organizations but also a huge divide between the everyday recreational golfer and the professionals. One of the best things about golf is that just about anyone can play the game. That means unlike any other sport golfers can compare themselves against the professionals. They can play the same clubs, use the same ball, and even play some of the same golf courses. Rolling the golf ball back takes that away in one of two ways. Either a golfer gives up advancements in the game that can give them distance to play what the pros play or they play a different ball and have no comparison to what the professionals play. Acushnet put it perfectly in their response/ Check out the slides below or use this link to their Instagram to see it.

Images from: Titleist Instagram Post -Click Here to view

There have also been some great articles that have covered different angles of this discussion as well. One of them explains which professional golfers slam the idea and one of them calls the idea atrocious.

Distance in the game has been talked about a lot however the truth is it has not changed much. What has changed is fitness has gotten better. Yes, there will always be golfers that hit the ball longer than others. However, golfers are using programs like GolfFOREVER to be in top physical shape and have stronger golf muscles. Golf courses have not gotten much longer either. In the past 20 years golf courses on average have only been built 100 yards longer. When you hear about golf courses being made at 7,500 yards or longer most of them are because of elevation or because the par 3's on the golf course are all over 220 yards in length.

If the powers that be really want to combat distance they can do so in a few different ways. One, and if anything is to be "rolled back" should be the average green size on golf courses. Yes, they have been made larger over the years to maintain conditions with more traffic, however, if a golfer misses by 20 yards left or right they could still have a 50 feet putt instead of a pitch or chip out of rough. Which, speaking of rough, is number two. Grow the rough longer and make it more challenging. These shaved areas that have become popular around greens are easier to hit from than 2 inch rough. Golf course design itself has changed with the shaved areas being more prominent on more and more golf courses. Older designs had an approach area that would be about 10 yards wide and everything else around the green was rough, with the exception of any bunkers. The courses designed today are just long, wide, and pretty straight, with virtually no out-of-bounds. I get this is to accommodate crowds but it also makes these golf courses easier for professionals. Take an older golf course with out-of-bounds on almost any hole, 2-4 inch rough along the fairways and around the greens, with greens about half the size of today's average, there would be a premium on accuracy that will challenge the best in the game.

Another way would be to put a stop to the de-lofting of clubs. Make lofts standards by the stamping number of each club. Golfers would still pick which 14 clubs they want to play with but if they decide it is 3 iron thru pitching wedge, then the pitching wedge can not have a loft less than a certain number. Same with the drivers and all woods. This would eliminate a 7-iron having a loft of 30° which is essentially the loft of a 5-iron just 5 years ago. Golfers would no longer be hitting a 7-iron 200+ yards and we wouldn't be talking about how far they hit the ball. Check out the chart I created that I believe could be a better solution than a golf ball rollback.

There is no perfect solution to stop golfers from hitting the ball too far and overpowering golf courses. It may need a few different options combined but to go backward after the game of golf has seen such growth and involvement would be a disaster.

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1 Comment

Tony Twillie
Tony Twillie
Mar 19, 2023

So much agree with this. Glad you mentioned the course setup; that to me is maybe the most major factor of all. Many PGA Tour courses have little heavy rough, not much water, and the bunkers are pristine. I'm good with raking bunkers, but missing the green should be at least a minor penalty. Today they miss them on purpose, even in bunkers, knowing the up and down isn't a major challenge. I'm OK with a miss area, but the entire area around so many PGA Tour greens leave easy up and downs. This thing with the golf ball is a huge mistake, and I hope the USGA and R&A have heard the voices of the masses and let that…

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