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A PGA Tour player’s response to the USGA’s new golf ball proposal

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On Tuesday, March 14, the USGA and R&A officially announced a proposal to introduce a Model Local Rule (MLR) option for “elite competitions.” The proposal was sent to equipment manufacturers yesterday (on Monday), and they have until August 14, 2023 to provide comment.

You can read the full proposal that was sent to manufacturers here.

Most notably, within the proposal, the USGA and R&A state as follows:

“Specifically, for this proposed MLR, golf balls will be tested for conformance to the Overall Distance Standard (ODS) limit of 317 yards (plus 3 yards tolerance) at modified Actual Launch Conditions (ALC), namely a clubhead speed of 127 mph and ALC values of 11 degrees and 37 revolutions per second (2220 rpm). Within the current Equipment Rules, all other golf balls will continue to be evaluated using the existing ALC values: 120 mph clubhead speed, 10 degrees and 42 revolutions per second (2520 rpm). The current ODS limit of 317 yards (plus 3 yards tolerance) will remain unchanged.”

The USGA and R&A also said in a press release:

“The MLR is intended for use only in elite competitions and, if adopted, will have no impact on recreational golf…The Overall Distance Standard was established in 1976 as a ball test intended to reflect maximum potential hitting distance by the longest hitters currently playing the game. There is a direct correlation between clubhead speed and hitting distance (further research having been published in the Distance Insights reports). Over the last 20 years hitting distance has increased on average by around one yard per year. 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 proposal also states that the new local golf ball rule would be “available for implementation on 1 January 2026 (at the earliest).”

Addressing growing concerns with driver conformity, especially as it relates to distance and used drivers, the USGA and R&A said this: “While not pursuing a reduction in the CT limit, the USGA and The R&A are concerned that many of today’s drivers exhibit levels of CT creep – meaning their CT values are appropriate at the point of manufacturing/initial use, but can become non-conforming after repeated use, especially at the highest level of competition. This is contrary to the purpose and intent of the Equipment Rules. As such the USGA and The R&A are undertaking a comprehensive investigation of this phenomenon. Further details on this topic will be forthcoming in due course.”

Effectively, the USGA and R&A are proposing bifurcation in relation to the golf ball. Professionals (and elite amateur competitions) would play with a golf ball that flies shorter under the new testing requirements, whereas amateurs would use a golf ball with less restraints.

In the coming days, weeks, and months, golfers from every realm of the sport will ask questions and weigh-in with their opinions, and equipment companies will provide their feedback to the governing bodies. At this point, nothing is certain and the rules have not changed. We likely won’t know for sure until after August 14, at the earliest, what decision has been made.

To see where a PGA Tour player currently stands on the debate, GolfWRX asked tour player Doug Ghim for his thoughts. Here’s what he had to say on the new proposal:

“I’m a little indifferent about it. I do think it makes sense that they’re trying to do it. I think when it comes to the argument that the distance between the longest guy and the shortest guy will still be the same is not quite correct, because it’s exponential. I think guys that hit it the furthest will be affected the most, and the guys who don’t hit it as far, because they don’t spin it as much, won’t be affected as much. Because, I’m assuming if they roll the ball back that it will be spinning more, but at the end of the day, everyone is really good. They changed the groove rule on the irons and guys seems to be hitting it closer from the rough than ever.

“At the end of the day, if you’re a really good player you’re going to figure it out, so I don’t foresee it being a really big deal. I’m sure club manufacturers are not going to be happy, and ball manufacturers are not going to be happy, but, I feel like it’s not going to be as big of a deal as people think. The same guys are still going to be playing well. It’s in order to protect the golf courses that we already have. Obviously land is getting scarcer and scarcer these days, and water is also becoming scarcer. I think there’s no more room to expand courses so they have to roll the ball back.”

But what about tightening the fairways, growing the rough, pinching the fairways at 300+ yards, and increasing green speeds? Doesn’t that effectively limit the need to lengthen courses and give tour players all the challenge they need?

Ghim continued: “I understand that argument, and I feel the same way, but when it comes down to it, when a player decides not to use driver and he uses a 3 wood instead, it’s like playing in the NBA without being able to dunk the ball. At the end of the day, it is a product that we’re trying to sell to people. And the same thing with the designated events.

“It’s all about the product and what fans want to see. And fans don’t want to see Rory hit a 4 iron off the last tee and still be able to hit a 7 iron into the green and win a tournament. They want to force guys to hit driver. When it comes down to that, it makes the product more compelling, it makes it easier for club manufacturers to market their drivers. When I think of certain tournaments, like DJ winning at Oakmont, he striped a drive at the last to win the tournament and I’m sure that sold a lot of TaylorMade drivers. At the end of the day, I see…I asked Jim Furyk the same question when we played in a practice round at Shinnecock in 2018, and he said no one wants to watch someone hit 5 iron off the tee each time, because it’s just not an appealing product.”

Everyday amateur golfers, I pose this question to you: In 2026, when you tee the ball up with your buddies for the first time after the new rules could take effect, would you use the shorter golf balls that the pros play with, or would you use the longer golf balls made just for amateurs? Let us know in the comments.

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Ed Hart

    Aug 8, 2023 at 2:03 am

    Some of us amateur golfers use the line on the ball of overcome peripheral vision issues. My game will have no impact on the pros, so leave me alone!

  2. Mat

    Mar 19, 2023 at 4:14 am

    We won’t have a choice; every ball now is non-conforming.

    They will make balls that conform, and this hurts everyone — there won’t be a choice.

  3. Rich D

    Mar 17, 2023 at 4:05 pm

    The ball is already bifurcated. Harvey Hacker might think he’s better off hitting a ProV1, but he isn’t. He can’t access its features; he’s spending twice as much as he should. He’d be better off with a 2-piece low-compression ball like the Callaway Supersoft. It curves less, launches higher, and it doesn’t spin as much around the greens. (That last one sounds like a bad thing, but Harvey can’t control spin around the greens anyway, so no.)

    If you dial back the tour balls, 90% or more of amateurs simply will not be affected. They’re either playing balls at lower tiers or would not be noticeably affected by the change in tour balls. (Again, because they can’t max them out.)

    The players are objecting to the dial back because they hate change. It’s a little bit difficult to predict the impact of the change, so they resist. But guys like Palmer and Nicklaus–two big hitters back in the say–were great even though they were 50-or-more yards shorter than today’s players. And they balls they used were mushy and spun like crazy. These guys today will be fine; they’ll adjust.

  4. Hughes Paul

    Mar 16, 2023 at 2:06 pm

    The USGA is not doing anything but give the Tour the option of using a special ball…if it wants to.

    The people complaining seem to think it a slur on their manhood to suggest the pros are so much better than them they (the pros) might need to use a special limited ball.

  5. Jacob

    Mar 16, 2023 at 5:07 am

    Why not increase size of the golfball? It will be easier to hit for the amateur, and fly shorter for the hardhitter.

    • Jbone

      Mar 17, 2023 at 4:22 pm

      Agreed but they might need to make the hole bigger if they do that right?

  6. Jacob

    Mar 16, 2023 at 5:01 am

    Why not increase the size of the Ball. It will be easier for the amateurs to hit, an fly shorter for the hard hitters.

  7. Mont

    Mar 16, 2023 at 2:34 am

    Is this really necessary??
    I don’t see Bryson winning every week? Sure, you have to be able to hit it long to compete but it is not like the really longest hitters easily win on tour every week.
    Look at the Masters 2020, Bryson ended up after Langer, Na and Poulter!!

  8. Montgomery

    Mar 16, 2023 at 2:32 am

    Is this really necessary? I don’t see Bryson winning every week? Sure, you have to be able to hit it long to compete but it is not like the really longest hitters easily win on tour every week. Look at the Masters 2020, Bryson ended up after Langer, Na and Poulter!

  9. Verners Tess

    Mar 15, 2023 at 6:31 pm

    3 simple changes

    1. 10 clubs
    2. 56 degree max loft
    3. Max 2 par five holes

  10. MhtLion

    Mar 15, 2023 at 2:49 pm

    The golf ball is the biggest money in the industry. After this rule change, why would anyone buy $50 box of balls? It’s not, definitely not the same ball, that your favorite pro uses. PLEASE THINK carefully. Such a rule will hurt the industry more than anything.

    • Kevin

      Mar 15, 2023 at 9:15 pm

      I’m playing what the pros play…

    • DeezNutz6943

      Mar 16, 2023 at 9:18 am

      What are you talking about? I buy the golf balls I buy because Iike playing them. Not cause some PGA tour player with 123 mph clubhead speed plays them. What are you? A teenage girl who does everything their favorite actress does?

  11. Nathan Schrock

    Mar 15, 2023 at 1:47 pm

    I hate everything about this bifurcation idea, but I would choose to play the professional version of the golf ball. I am not a professional golfer, but I am a very good golfer. I’ve fluctuated between a scratch, and a 2 handicap player since high school. I’m now 30, and my favorite part of golf is OCCASIONALLY being able to hit the same shot as my favorite pros on tour. If you bifurcate the balls used by pros and amateurs, you’ve forced me to choose a lesser performing golf ball in order to achieve that same feeling of hitting a shot on the level of my favorite pros. My average capability is lessened, to preserve the integrity of my game in comparison to pros. That comparison, on a level playing field as the pros, is part of the magic this game offers to its players. Other sports don’t have the same ability as golf to offer one to one comparisons of amateurs to pros. A 320 yard drive, is a 320 yard drive. But as an amateur, you’ll never take on Lebron 1v1, and you’ll never step up in the pocket and throw a touchdown to Odell Beckham Jr.

  12. JOEL K GOODMAN

    Mar 15, 2023 at 1:46 pm

    STUPID IS THE ONLY WORD THAT COMESTO MIND THAT CAN BE PRINTED.

    IF THE USGA WANTS TO RAISE THE SCORES TRY SOMETHING REALLY MEANINGFUL.. CUT THE FAIRWAYS TO 30 YARDS IN WIDTH MAXIMMUM AND LET THE FIRST CUT GO TO 3 INCHES AND THE ROUGH TO 6/8 INCHES. WATCH THE SCORES GOT UP.

  13. Jerry

    Mar 15, 2023 at 12:42 pm

    Any change won’t amount to a hill of beans for me. I haven’t bought new balls for years now as I play whatever I can find in the woods or pull out of water holes. For my game, they all play the same. One ball I won’t play is ProV1’s. I don’t have the swing speed to compress them and they feel like rocks.

  14. Larry

    Mar 15, 2023 at 11:52 am

    Its really a silly idea.make all the balls the same for everybody. Im not going to decide on two different balls when i buy.

  15. Mike J

    Mar 15, 2023 at 9:33 am

    Trifurication = red, white, and blue tees? All the hand wringing from the peanut gallery here….ugh.

    I think it’s a bad idea because I had to read a story mentioning meathead Bryson.

    At least Patrick Reed will have an opportunity to cheat by using an amateur ball.

  16. PJ

    Mar 15, 2023 at 9:09 am

    Why does golf allow the USGA to define the rules? Hopefully the golf ball mfrs tell the USGA to EAD. Can you imagine the NFL telling QBs they cannot throw the ball more than X yards? How about we tell Olympic sprinters you cannot run too fast because not everyone can run as fast as you and it isn’t fair. If this actually happens I’m done watching golf.

    • Scott B

      Mar 15, 2023 at 11:49 am

      Hey PJ, While I agree that bifurcation is not the answer, especially since amateurs are allowed to compete in pro tournaments, I wanted to let you know the NFL argument you make doesn’t work. NFL footballs are larger than college ones, and don’t have the white stripes, so not only are they harder to throw, but also harder to catch.
      We actually bifurcate a lot with amateur to pro levels, for example 3 point line distance in basketball, metal vs wood bats in baseball, and the above point about football.
      Bifurcation is not an inherently wrong idea. I think it just gets messy when amateurs and pros are playing on the same field, at the same time, for potentially the same stakes, and one is expected to play by a different set of rules.

  17. Anthony

    Mar 15, 2023 at 6:10 am

    I will not play the shorter ball. I’m 56 yrs. old and not the longest hitter. If I stripe a drive it’s going 240-250 with roll out with an average drive at 225-230. I play often and find that most amateurs are in that range and shorter. I already find it very difficult to hit a green in regulation on a 400 yard par 4 as do the vast majority of golfers out there. I hit my 8i 140 yards. Pros hit theirs 180-200. I think using course design is the way to go. Don’t penalize the player that can stripe one 330 yards. Penalize them if they are not accurate with OB, impossible rough, trees, etc. These options don’t really hurt the typical golfer at these courses. Rough can be cut for typical play. Greens can be rolled back from a 14 to a 9, etc.

  18. Two-tone ball

    Mar 15, 2023 at 5:50 am

    100% will conform. Why? Every ball manufactured by then will conform.

    What needs to be said is that the ball companies are going to have to make conforming balls because they don’t want to be caught out with bad PR. Will it affect amateurs? Probably not.

    Of course they’re missing the real win here – had they just required a 65-compression ball for everyone, they’d be fine. Instead, it’s manufacturers meeting tolerances, just like the driver head they are complaining about at the same time. ¯\_(?)_/¯

  19. Mike

    Mar 14, 2023 at 9:37 pm

    Of course I’ll still use my regular golf balls, I’m a regular golfer, not a pro. Not a big fan of this idea. There’s plenty of other options they could have come up with. Pinching the fairways. Growing the rough. Stop mowing the fairways down to a 10 on the stimp meter. And I can’t wait for the ball manufacturers to scream about this. “Hey, play a pro v1 one, but not the one the pros play”.

  20. Poo

    Mar 14, 2023 at 8:51 pm

    This will wreck golf for all.
    It would be so much easier to just leave it where it is, and cap it now.
    If they want to change anything they should roll back the COR and lower it to 0.800 and call it a day.

  21. Chris C.

    Mar 14, 2023 at 7:45 pm

    I will be 72 in 2026. I will play the “official” ball and give up any idea of hitting irons into par 4s. I hope that the professional tours opt to ignore the USGA and refuse to use the USGA’s 21st century feathery. If they do so, everyone should feel comfortable declaring that the “USGA is dead to me.”

  22. gdb99

    Mar 14, 2023 at 7:40 pm

    I’m playing the balls that I can play as an amateur. But I don’t like this change.

  23. Bill Prickelson

    Mar 14, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    Why not just go with non-conforming drivers and illegal distance balls, if all fans care about is the long ball?

    It’s becoming like baseball where it’s just home run derby.

  24. Shank Machine

    Mar 14, 2023 at 4:56 pm

    Not really a fan of creating a two tier system. If they’re wanting to implement rules like this, apply it to everyone.

  25. Chuck

    Mar 14, 2023 at 4:25 pm

    Bifurcation is bad because it ends the era of all golfers playing by the same rules. Bifurcation is bad, full stop.

    Trying to “protect” courses with hyper fast green speeds is bad because it eliminates a number of interesting hole locations, and might even cause delays when winds are high.

    Trying to control scoring by narrowing fairways and growing rough is bad because it distorts golf course architecture and limits strategic choices of lines of play.

    Trying to limit distance by water-soaking courses is bad because dry, firm and fast courses emphasize the ground game, demanding more and better course knowledge. Firm and fast golf is vastly more interesting than wet target golf.

    The one single obvious intelligent balanced proper solution to golf’s distance problem is a single unified rollback of solid core multilayer urethane balls. The only balls that elite players use.

    • James Kendzior

      Mar 15, 2023 at 2:39 pm

      So do you believe that there should only be one set of tees for all golfers? Do you play from the championship tees like the pros? Do you use a handicap if you play in a league or tournament? Of course there are different rules for different levels of players. Why should it be any different with the golf ball?

  26. Thomas Hertwig

    Mar 14, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    News Flash the NBA is limiting the height of players to 6ft 6in and let’s not forget Boeing just signed a huge deal with the Saudi’s so I guess you could say the PGA tour is condoning sponsors doing business with blood money countries.

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Driver: Cobra King LTDx LS (10.5 degrees @ 9.5)
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