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TaylorMade, Callaway, Bridgestone respond to USGA rollback announcement — plus what Titleist has said

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Update: 12/6, 7:00 p.m.: Acushnet CEO David Maher has released a statement indicating the company is “concerned that the golf ball rollback overly impacts golfers and does not fully reflect the input of those closest to the game.”

A portion of the statement is below, with the full text available here.

“As we consider today’s R&A and USGA announcement against recent feedback provided by the World Alliance of PGA’s and the PGA TOUR, we are also concerned that the golf ball rollback overly impacts golfers and does not fully reflect the input of those closest to the game. There have been requests to align on what data is used and how it is used to draw conclusions prior to any equipment changes being made. Many important stakeholders do not see distance as a problem the way the governing bodies do, and therefore come to differing conclusions about how to proceed to ensure the best possible outcome for the sport.”

“We support the position of the PGA TOUR and others that there are many areas of focus at the elite level, including initiatives related to golf course setup and conditioning, and other competitive variables which, if desired, can limit the effects of distance while also providing the opportunity for a diverse skill set to succeed at the highest level.”

“It is also Acushnet’s position that existing golf ball regulations are effective and stand the test of time. Golf balls are already tightly controlled for initial velocity, overall distance, size, weight, and uniformity. As a result of existing initial velocity and overall distance regulation, ball speeds have been moderated as was the intent of the rule.”

“We note that the mean of the fastest 1% of measured clubhead speeds on the PGA TOUR was flat from 2019-2021 and declined in 2022 and 2023. The mean of the fastest 5%, 10%, 20% and 50% of measured clubhead speeds has been flat since 2017. We consider that the average course playing length on the 2023 PGA TOUR is less than 7,200 yards, just as it has been every year since 2004. We also note that U.S. golf courses built during the period 2010-2020 averaged 6,652 yards – 274 yards shorter than those built between 1990-2010, which is at odds with the notion that equipment has forced courses to expand.”


Following the USGA’s announcement that there will be a universal rollback of the golf ball — officially referred to as an “update [of] the testing conditions used for golf ball conformance under the Overall Distance Standard (ODS) — TaylorMade Golf issued a statement calling the decision “disappointing.” Also issuing a statement, Callaway expressed its preference for no change being made and for bifurcation rather than universal rollback. Bridgestone issued similar sentiments in a statement.

In the statement, TaylorMade expressed concern that the rollback is “simply disconnected from what golfers believe is best for the game” while expressing gratitude to the USGA for allowing the company to express its point of view during discussions. In addition, despite the rollback, TaylorMade insisted that its “commitment to innovation remains unwavering. ”

Read the full statement from David Abeles, CEO, TaylorMade Golf, below.

“As a brand that prioritizes improving product performance for golfers of all skill levels, the decision to proceed with the golf ball rollback is disappointing. While appreciative of the opportunity to have a seat at the table and a voice in the debate, we feel like the rollback is simply disconnected from what golfers believe is best for the game.

“Throughout the decision-making process, the USGA provided a platform to express our views, provide new data sources, and engage in candid discussions. In the spirit of collaboration, we acknowledge and respect the rules that form an integral part of our game’s fabric, even when we disagree with them. Looking ahead, as the new golf ball standards come into effect in 2028 for professional golfers and 2030 for amateurs, we assure everyone, at every level of our game, that we will be well-prepared to navigate these changes.

“Our commitment to innovation remains unwavering. As with every product we make, we will work tirelessly to find alternative pathways to make them better and we will continually push the performance boundaries within the parameters set by the rules.”

The full text of the statement from Topgolf Callaway Brands President & CEO, Chip Brewer is below.

“Topgolf Callaway Brands respects the perspectives of the governing bodies and knows they are acting in what they believe is in the best interest of the game. However, when viewing the same data, we have consistently communicated that we would not have chosen to roll the ball back and we would have preferred bifurcation over a change across the board.

“Having said that, we would like to thank and compliment the USGA and R&A for their approach and process in making this decision. Throughout this process, we believe they have been open and thorough in their analysis. They took the time to actively seek input from multiple stakeholders, including us, on multiple occasions and levels. They clearly listened and were thoughtful in their responses; and, when they deemed it appropriate, they modified their approach in ways that benefitted both the game and the industry that supports it. Along these lines, we appreciate the lead time the ruling bodies have provided to conform to the new rule. This will give us time to redesign and implement new products successfully. They also modified the testing protocols to avoid unnecessary testing ambiguity. Perhaps most importantly, they sought to minimize the impact on the end consumer by providing an adequate grace period for the transition in recreational golf. Certainly, all leading ball manufacturers, including Callaway Golf, will bear some added expense associated with redesign and tooling; however, there also likely will be new opportunities to differentiate which we look forward to.

“Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of further conversation around this subject; particularly regarding whether this decision is good for the game and if all parties associated with the game will adopt the new regulations. In the end, we believe the game will be best served by us all aligning behind a common set of rules and standards. Therefore, while we will always participate actively in the debate; when a final decision is made, we will align behind it. The game at large has never been stronger, and we look forward to being a major part of growing both on and off course golf moving forward.”

While Acushnet, parent company of Titleist, has not yet issued a statement in response to today’s announcement, GolfWRX was pointed toward David Maher, Acushnet President and CEO’s, letter to the USGA of August 14, 2023.

In the letter, Maher lays out the company position that the game of golf is well situated, that it is important for pros and amateurs to play the same equipment, and that there is no need for curtailing driving distance.

A portion of Maher’s letter, below, with the full text available here.

“Acushnet firmly believes that the sport of golf is healthy and well-positioned for the future, the many skills required for success at the elite level are in balance and there is no evidence that driving distance has harmed or is likely to harm the game.

“We also believe that unification of the Rules of Golf, including equipment standards, is a critical contributor to golf’s aspirational appeal and enduring, generational success, and that, if implemented, the proposed MLR would cause unnecessary disruption and confusion that would be detrimental to the sport.

The statement of Dan Murphy, President and CEO, Bridgestone Golf is below.

“We are aware of and understand the passionate responses on both sides regarding the USGA announcement on the distance roll back of golf balls. While we would prefer that any new rules did not impact recreational players, we believe further commentary is no longer productive. At this point, we need to concentrate on creating conforming products that allow both professionals and amateurs to play their best golf.”

“Bridgestone Golf has total confidence in our ability to design and manufacture the world’s best golf balls, regardless of the parameters, and our team of over 700 polymer engineers will develop models that provide optimal performance under the new rules for the full range of players. Bridgestone has always been dedicated to innovation, and we are constantly working to develop new technologies that benefit consumers. Leveraging the wealth of ball fitting data we have accumulated over the years gives us a significant advantage over competitors, and we will rely on our extensive collection of patents as well as our top-notch R&D team – including input from Tiger Woods – to ensure we continue to produce the best golf balls in the world.”

The rollback will take effect in 2028 for professionals and 2030 for amateur golfers.

As more OEMs issue their responses to the news, we’ll continue to update this article on what is a groundbreaking day in the world of golf.

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Gianni is the Managing Editor at GolfWRX. He can be contacted at [email protected].

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Jack Russell

    Dec 7, 2023 at 12:49 am

    Stupidest idea ever. Many golf amatures like myself will quit the game in 2030 when it takes effect.

  2. Jason

    Dec 6, 2023 at 11:34 pm

    Why don’t all the big name manufacturers just tell the usga to go F themselves and refuse to dial back the ball. The usga isn’t going to go out and build a ball plant to make their own ball. Please drop any memberships you have to ithbb no the usga and R&A.

  3. Charlie

    Dec 6, 2023 at 6:16 pm

    This rollback is BS. All they would need to do is stop coddling these tour pros and fans who feel every tournament should be won by some guy shooting 20 under.

    Bomb and gouge can be undone with narrow fairways, long rough along fairways and greensides and stimpier greens.

  4. Claude Worsham

    Dec 6, 2023 at 4:57 pm

    Dumb decision

  5. Bucky lasek

    Dec 6, 2023 at 1:51 pm

    The oem’s comments show they don’t care an ounce about the game. If they attempted to rebut any of the insights from the distance report, I’d listen. But all they can say is “we don’t think distance is an issue”, totally disregarding the comprehensive report, supported by data, that says otherwise, means their opinion is rooted in nothing but self interest. I don’t want to hit the ball shorter, but I have to weigh that against the data and evidence that says the game WILL be different for my kids if we do nothing. That is the antithesis of what’s best for the game, so the oem’s aren’t even acknowledging the issue when making these statements. But fortunately for the future of the game, they are being told to go pound sand.

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Equipment

Rory McIlroy spotted testing a new TaylorMade “PROTO” 4-iron at the 2024 Valero Texas Open

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Update, 5:30 p.m.: Regarding his prototype iron, McIlroy offered this in his pre-tournament press conference:

“Yeah, I went out, spent a couple of days with the TaylorMade guys at the Kingdom. Yeah, they just produced these couple of proto, I guess like are they the MC replacements maybe…

“They performed really well. It’s just as fast as the 760 that I was using. Launch is a little higher actually, which was surprising, and it’s just sometimes I felt like when I hit my 5-iron in the blade and then the 4-iron in the 760 it was such a different feel. To go from a 5-iron now to that 4-iron, it feels a little closer to what I feel in the 5-iron. So just a little bit more responsive, but didn’t lose any performance from it, which is great. Yeah, it will be in the bag this week.”
————————————————————————-
Now just what do we have here?

On Wednesday at the 2024 Valero Texas Open, GolfWRX.com spotted Rory McIlroy testing a new, mysterious TaylorMade “PROTO” 4-iron.

Clearly, the 4-iron is a prototype, but since it doesn’t say “Rors Proto” or “RM” on it, then maybe it’s a prototype for an upcoming iron release from TaylorMade. Or, maybe it’s an upgrade for a previous or existing iron model from the company.

For reference, the photo below shows what McIlroy’s previous P760 4-iron looks like…

If the new prototype was an upgrade on the former P760 design, that would certainly be a large design departure, aesthetically speaking. It’s not impossible, but the new proto definitely looks significantly different.

McIlroy’s new proto – aesthetically, at least – looks more similar to TaylorMade’s P7MC irons, a model that Collin Morikawa uses for his 5 and 6-irons, as pictured below.

The new proto is also reminiscent of TaylorMade’s old P750 and P770 irons:

So what could McIlroy’s new TaylorMade “Proto” be? Is it a one-off prototype for McIlroy? Is it a re-design of an older model? Is it a harbinger of a bigger release in the future?

What is it?!

Unfortunately, TaylorMade hasn’t yet commented publicly on the prototype iron, so for now, we wait. And enjoy the photos of McIlroy testing it on Wednesday in San Antonio.

Here’s what it looks like from address…

And here’s what McIlroy’s numbers looked like while testing it on the range…

Uhh, yeah. Those are pretty good 4-iron numbers.

Will McIlroy make the switch into the new prototype 4-iron this week? That remains to be seen, but it should be noted that it was the only 4-iron in his bag on Wednesday.

*We’ll update this post as further information becomes available

See what GolfWRX members are saying about the TaylorMade “Proto” 4-iron here, plus more photos!

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Whats in the Bag

Raul Pereda WITB 2024 (April)

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Driver: Titleist TSR2 (10 degrees, B2 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD VF 5 X

3-wood: Titleist TSR3 (15 degrees, B1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD IZ 7 X

7-wood: Ping G430 Max (21 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD IZ 8 X

Irons: Titleist T150 (4), Titleist T100 (5-9)
Shafts: True Temper AMT Tour White X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM10 (46-10F, 50-08F, 54-08M, 60-08M)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Odyssey 2-Ball Ten Tour Lined
Grip: SuperStroke Zenergy

Grips: Golf Pride ZGrip Cord

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x+

Check out more in-hand photos of Raul Pereda’s clubs here.

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Whats in the Bag

Rickie Fowler WITB 2024 (April)

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Driver: Cobra Darkspeed X (9 degrees @7)
Shaft: Project X Denali Black 70 TX

3-wood: Cobra Aerojet LS (14.5 degrees @13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Tour Green 75 TX

5-wood: Cobra LTDx LS (17.5 degrees @18.5)
Shaft: UST Mamiya LIN-Q White M40X 8F5

Irons: Cobra King Tour (4-PW)
Shafts: KBS Tour C-Taper 125 S+

Wedges: Cobra Snakebite (54, 56, 58 degrees)
Shafts: KBS Tour 610

Putter: Odyssey Versa Jailbird
Grip: SuperStroke Tour 3.0 17-inch

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Tack

Ball: TaylorMade TP5

Check out more in-hand photos of Rickie Fowler’s clubs here.

 

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