NASSAU, Bahamas – According to multiple reports, the USGA and R&A are poised to announce a rule change that will roll back the golf ball for the entire game, not just the elite professionals, and the news produced a polarizing response from a couple of notable PGA Tour players.
The rule change, which is expected to be announced early next week according to Golf Digest, will make nearly every golf ball played both professionally and recreationally non-conforming, as opposed to the previously proposed plan to dial back the golf ball only for elite players.
Tiger Woods has been an outspoken proponent of a rollback and has long been in favor of bifurcation — different rules for elite and recreational players. According to the Golf Digest report, there would be a period of bifurcation, starting in 2028, and by 2030 all golfers would be competing under the same ball rules.
“We’ve been hammering, the ball needs to slow down, but it has kept speeding up my entire career and here we are,” Woods said following his third round at the Hero World Challenge. “I told you guys, I’ve always been for bifurcation. I’ve always said that. Just like wood bats and metal bats.”
Rickie Fowler, however, was not in favor of any rollback.
“I feel like [the USGA and R&A] missed this 20 years ago,” Fowler said. “When you look at the state of golf, where it is today, I don’t think it’s ever been in a better place, so I’d ask, why [roll back the golf ball]?
“When you look at it across the board, everyone who plays golf, those weekend golfers are going to be super excited to go hit it shorter. I think it’s terrible, I don’t think the golf ball is the one thing to go after and it’s not the USGA or the R&A who are paying for it.”
According to Golf Digest, the change to the rules governing golf balls will essentially decrease distance among professionals 5 percent (or 15 yards on a 300-yard drive). By comparison, a recreational player could lose roughly 11 yards on a 225-yard average drive, although it remains to be seen how the new standard would impact amateurs who have sufficiently slower swing speeds.