Proposed golf ball rule sparks controversy:
The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA) held a press conference on Tuesday to announce their proposals to reduce the distances golf balls can travel in elite tournaments.
In response, several members of golf’s elite let go.
Speaking ahead of the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship, world No. 15 Sam Burns described the plans as “pretty silly”, with Justin Thomas’ self-proclaimed “rant” on the subject lasting over three minutes.
“You’re trying to create a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist…to me, it’s so bad for the game of golf,” Thomas told reporters.
Bryson DeChambeau’s reviews were even more scathing. Renowned for his driving distances, the 2020 US Open champion described the proposals as “a big handicap” for other big players.
“If you could say I’m the opposite of 1,000 times that’s what I would be,” DeChambeau told LIV Golf’s website ahead of the Saudi-backed Tour event in Tucson, South Africa. Arizona, Tuesday.
“I think it’s the most excruciating thing you can do in golf. It’s not about rolling golf balls, it’s about making golf courses harder.
“I think it’s the least imaginative, least inspiring, least interesting thing you can do. Everyone wants to see people hit further.
“That’s part of the reason a lot of people love what I do. That’s part of the reason a lot of people don’t like what I do. I am for equality. I’m not about fairness on that front.
Bryson DeChambeau’s Driving Masterclass
Under rules proposed by the R&A and USGA, tournament organizers would have the ability to require golfers to use balls tested under modified launch conditions to limit the perceived problem of increased stroke lengths.
The gradual increase in hitting distances over the past two decades and the subsequent lengthening of golf courses “threatens the long-term sustainability of golf and undermines the fundamental principles that a broad and balanced set of playing skills should remain the primary determinant of golf success. reads a press release from the two governing bodies.
The proposals – which are expected to come into effect in 2026 if passed – would reduce batting distances by an average of 14 to 15 yards for the longest hitters with the highest clubhead speeds, the statement added.
“Strike distances at the elite level of the game have steadily increased over the past 20, 40 and 60 years. It has been two decades since we last reviewed our testing standards for ball distances,” said USGA CEO Mike Whan.
“Predictable and continuous increases will become a significant issue for the next generation if not resolved quickly. We are taking the next steps in this process, guided above all by doing what is right for the game as a whole.”
The new measures – called “Model Local Rule” (MLR) – will only apply to elite competitions, with recreational golf unaffected.
Whan and his R&A CEO counterpart Martin Slumbers said the MLR would be applied to their corps events, including the US Open and Open Championship majors.
“At the heart of our proposal is the desire to minimize the impact on thriving recreational play,” Slumbers added.
“We believe the proposed Model Local Rule will help us move forward in a way that protects the inherent qualities of the sport and reduces the pressure to lengthen courses.
“This is a significant issue for golf and one that must be addressed if the sport is to retain its unique challenge and appeal.”
The PGA Tour announced Tuesday that it will work with the USGA and the R&A, as well as conduct its own independent analysis, “to evaluate and provide feedback” on the proposals.
“The Tour remains committed to ensuring that any future solutions identified benefit the game as a whole, without negatively impacting the Tour, its players or our fans’ enjoyment of our sport,” the statement added.
The head of Acushnet, the company that produces Titleist golf balls, criticized plans to drive a wedge between professional and recreational play.
“The golf ball bifurcation proposal is in many ways a solution in search of a problem,” Acushnet President and CEO David Maher said in a statement released by the company on Tuesday.
“Playing by a unified set of rules is an essential part of the game’s appeal, contributes to its overall understanding and appeal, and eliminates the inconsistency and instability that would come from multiple sets of equipment standards.”
Thomas, who is a Titleist brand ambassador, echoed Maher’s comments.
“For an everyday amateur golfer, it’s very unique that we can play with the exact same equipment…you can go to the pro shop and buy the same golf ball that I play or that Scottie Scheffler is playing,” he said.
“But the USGA wants to take it to a point where it’s not. They want it to be, ‘Okay, well, the pros play like that and the amateurs play like that’…I don’t don’t understand how it’s better for the game of golf.
“If you can swing 127 miles per hour, the power is yours,” Thomas later added. “I mean, people are running faster, so, what, are they just going to make the length a mile longer so the fastest time doesn’t change, or are they going to put the NBA hoop at 13 feet because people can jump higher now?
“It doesn’t look like. It’s evolution. We’re athletes now. We practice hitting the ball further and faster and if you can do that, good for you. So yeah, as you can see, I am clearly against it.
Burns agreed with his fellow American, wondering if fans would want to watch the players run shorter distances.
“They like to watch guys go out and hit 350 yards, I don’t see what’s wrong with that,” Burns said.
“I think it’s a skill and I don’t really agree with trying to take it away.”
Not all golfers criticized the new proposals.
Pádraig Harrington, who is set to be inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 2024, believes that reducing flight distances will lead to a range of benefits.
“There are so many winners to roll the ball back,” the 51-year-old Irish golfing great told SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio on Tuesday.
“The cost of building a golf course, the cost of maintaining a golf course, the speed of play is going to be incredibly improved by reducing the distance, reducing the size of the golf course and also reducing the waiting time at par -five and par-four.
“Old golf courses are coming back into play, great golf courses are coming back into play. Eco-friendly, footprint reduction – so many reasons.
As the 336th-ranked golfer in men’s play, Brandon Matthews’ name may not have the same prestige as that of three-time major champion Harrington, but the American has been among the biggest hitters on the PGA Tour this season.
The 28-year-old’s 320.4-yard drive length average puts him second behind Rory McIlroy in 2023, as he leads the Tour in clubhead speed, ball speed and time suspension.
Even so, Matthews thinks proposals to reduce flight distances have been “a long time coming”.
“I think it’s going to create a lot more imagination and a lot more creativity than before in the game instead of just hitting it long and straight,” Matthews told Golf Channel on Tuesday.
“I don’t know how far they’re going to go with this, but it’s going to be a really exciting change and I think it’s going to make the game a little bit better,” he added.