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Golf ball rollback

USGA/R&A officially announce golf ball rollback for all players, hint at possible driver adjustments next

The USGA and the R&A have formally declared their intention to reduce the distance a golf ball can travel. This decision was announced as part of the governing bodies’ Distance Insights Project. For elite competitions, the new rule will take effect in January 2028. All golfers will be expected to make the change by January 2030. The USGA and R&A arrived at this decision after three years of gathering feedback through a “Notice and Comment” period. During this period, they engaged with stakeholders in the golf community.

Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA, emphasized the difficulty of governance. He acknowledged the varying opinions on the matter. Whan stated, “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. 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.”

New Golf Ball Conformance Rules

The key changes, as reported by Golf Digest, involve adjustments to the Overall Distance Standard test. The swing speed at which a golf ball is tested will be increased from the current standard of 120 mph to 125 mph. Also, these changes will be made without altering the distance limit of 317 yards (plus a three-yard tolerance). According to the USGA and R&A, this modification could result in a distance loss of nine to 11 yards at the PGA Tour or DP World Tour level. A five to seven yard loss for the LPGA/LET and five yards or less for everyday players.

Starting October 2027, all golf balls submitted to the USGA for conformance will be evaluated using the new protocol. Therefore, if everyday golfers wish to use longer golf balls in 2028 and 2029, they will need to rely on older-model balls. The Notice of Decision does not outline a specific method to differentiate between an old and new conforming golf ball. However, John Spitzer, the USGA’s managing director of equipment standards offered some clarification. He mentioned that approximately one-third of those currently on the conforming golf ball list would still meet the criteria under the new protocol. This includes primarily two- and three-piece golf balls with ionomer covers.

Not Just The Pros

The USGA/RA decision to include all golfers in the rollback is a departure from the governing bodies’ previous stance. Initially they considered a speed change limited to elite professional golfers. The shift towards a universal rollback was prompted by feedback received during the Notice and Comment period. The USGA and R&A explained in a communication to industry stakeholders that the move to a universal rollback was the preferred solution. Their reasons reflected the importance of maintaining a single set of playing rules and equipment standards across the game of golf.

This article originally appeared on Golf Digest.

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