Golf’s authorities set to announce universal golf ball rollback next week, say reports

Landmark decision would make nearly every golf ball non-conforming

Golf’s governing bodies the USGA and R&A are expected to announce next week they will change the rules to roll back distance in golf for all players, according to a report in Golf Digest.

The landmark decision would eventually make almost every golf ball in circulation non-conforming.

Golf’s ruling bodies have been reviewing the distance the golf ball travels for three years under several proposals including golf clubs and balls. In March, the proposal was to only change the rules for elite professional golfers, instituting what is known as a Model Local Rule, but it is understood now to include amateur golfers to prevent a long-term “bifurcation”, ie a difference in equipment between amateur and professional golfers.

Manufacturers, as well as the PGA Tour, have voiced their opposition to the proposed change. The plan would see a period of bifurcated rules starting in 2028 when professionals would use a shorter golf ball, before applying to amateur golfers from 2030, according to the report.


The effect on the golf ball would be proportional, expected to be five per cent, meaning 15 or more yards shorter for professionals for what would now be considered a 300-yard drive, while an amateur driving 225 yards may lose 11 yards of distance.

Golf courses around the world have been adapting to the increased driving distances, with Augusta National spending a reported $25 million (€22.8 million) to purchase the land to lengthen the 13th hole by 35 yards last year.

Rory McIlroy had the longest average driving year in the history of the PGA Tour at 326 yards this year, almost 40 yards longer than 30 years ago. This year, the PGA Tour average driving distance was 300 yards.

McIlroy and Pádraig Harrington are among those that have spoken in favour of rolling back the ball, whereas other professionals such as Justin Thomas have been strongly against the proposal.

David Gorman

David Gorman

David Gorman is a sports journalist with The Irish Times