R&A, USGA unveil universal golf-ball rollback rule starting in 2028

R&A, USGA unveil universal golf-ball rollback rule starting in 2028

GOLF’S longest hitters will be reeled in under new rules announced on Wednesday by the R&A and United States Golf Association (USGA) that will limit the distance balls struck by the game’s elite players can travel starting in January 2028.

In a bid to reduce the impact increased hitting distances have on golf’s long-term sustainability, the governing bodies said in a joint statement that the longest hitters can expect to see a reduction of as much as 13-15 yards in drive distance.

“Governance is hard. 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 game long-term,” USGA Chief Executive Mike Whan said. “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.”

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.

The average driving distances on the PGA Tour is around 300 yards — up from 286.5 yards in the 2004 season — but many players are well in excess of that, meaning some courses are in danger of becoming obsolete.

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 rule will also impact recreational golfers — which was not expected to be the case when the R&A and USGA unveiled their proposals in March — beginning in 2030 when driving distance reductions will be five yards or less.

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.

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.” — Reuters