Welcome back to another edition of #AskMyGolfSpy where readers like you submit your top questions to our experts here at MGS. You can pass along your questions to the team on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or right here in the comments section below!
For the most part, we don’t have any particular theme to these posts. You ask questions about basically anything, and we answer them. This week is a little different. With the USGA and R&A announcing a plan to rollback the golf ball, we’re focusing entirely on your USGA Rollback questions.
Q: Tony, you bring up a good point about the LIV Tour. What rules govern their play? USGA and R&A? They have their own rulebook? – Kilted Golfer
A: I get called an idiot a lot, so you had me at “you bring up a good point.” Like other professional tours, LIV currently plays under the USGA/R&A rulebook but like those other professional tours, they’re under no obligation to do so.
Given the USGA/R&A’s place as a unifying force, it simply made sense for everyone to play by a single set of rules.
With that particular horse ready to bust out of the barn, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that LIV (assuming it’s still around in 2026) might go in another direction, especially if playing by its own rules has the potential to boost ratings.
To throw a bit more gasoline on the fire, it’s far from a given that the PGA TOUR will adopt the model local rule. We could end up with a situation where USGA and R&A events are the only ones mandating a new ball, in which case it’s possible the governing bodies could scrap this whole idea and go back to the drawing board.
Q: What about the LPGA/women’s game? – Multiple readers
A: The USGA and R&A have indicated they have no plans to implement the model local rule at the U.S. Women’s Open or Women’s Open Championship. The thinking is that distance isn’t a problem in the women’s game. With that, the probability is the LPGA Tour would choose not to play under the proposed rule.
Ultimately, that means that, at the professional level, men and women will play by different rules (as it relates to the ball).
Q: Now that the proposed criteria are out, it would be interesting to see how far back you have to go in technology to “find” a historical Tour-level ball that would conform? -Frakk
A: Technically not a question but, as we noted in our story on the rollback announcement, there are balls on the market today that would likely conform to the proposed model local rule. We’re talking Pinnacle Soft, Callaway REVA and Supersoft MAX. I’d expect others of similar spec (Wilson DUO, maybe) would conform as well. Spit-balling a bit, but I think we’re looking sub-50 compression, perhaps a bit lower.
As far as the how far back we’d have to go to find a ball that would conform to the new rule and was actually played on Tour …
Looking over the data in the 2020 Distance Insights Report, it’s reasonable to attribute about 15 yards worth of average distance gained to the time between the full the adoption of the solid core ball and the 2004 implementation of the current ODS (Overall Distance Standard) used for testing.
The emergence of the solid core ball resulted in big gains, but effectively, ball distance has been capped since 2004 and, unlike the whole COR/CT thing for driver faces, there isn’t really any gray area. It’s a hard stop.
For what it’s worth because of things like feel preferences and trajectory and spin needs, it’s not like every ball is at the limit anyway, though many are close.
As for your original question, you might be able to find an early-generation solid-core ball that would conform to the new rules (especially if there’s something out there with notably poor aerodynamics) but it’s certainly possible you’d have to go back to balata.
Anticipating the follow-up … No, we’re not going back to balata. While we’re told there may be a machine or two still around, nobody has produced a wound ball in quite some time.
Q: What’s wrong with just having one ball available for everyone? All manufacturers producing one ball of similar specs—that would lead to players only having a manufacturer to pick from, not a multitude of balls from one manufacturer. – Mark
A: What’s wrong with just having one driver available for everyone? What about one iron specification? How about everybody uses the same wedges (no grind options) and putter? While we’re at it, why not have everyone wear the same model (and size) of shoes?
What I’m driving at is that “similar” isn’t “same” and, at some point, we have to acknowledge that launch and trajectory and spin—even with a golf ball—are fitting variables.
To illustrate the point, I pulled data from our 2021 Ball Test. Looking only at balls with true Tour-level specifications (urethane covers, compression in the mid-80s or higher), there’s 500-rpm difference between the highest- and lowest-spinning balls (that’s pushing twice what we’d expect to see if we changed driver loft by one degree).
Using peak height as our primary trajectory metric, it’s a difference of 20 feet. That may not sound like a lot but Tour pros are notorious for wanting to flight the ball through specific “windows.” In this case, we’re talking about windows two stories apart.
Off irons, the spin delta is roughly 1,100 rpm with 12 feet between our windows.
My point in all of this is that, just like mandating a single driver spec or even a single shoe model, you’re ultimately providing an advantage to the guys the singular piece of mandated gear, by luck, just happens to fit better.
That’s inherently unfair.
Any time a rule change is being discussed, one of the things I look at is whether the governing bodies are trying to mandate what amounts to a fitting variable. Any rule that does should be a non-starter.
Q: I don’t understand why the golf ball manufacturers are up in arms. They’ve been supplying limited-flight practice balls to ranges for decades. Is it not the same principle? – Ian W
A: It’s not exactly the same.
A limited-flight ball doesn’t fly like a Tour ball. Construction is fundamentally different, as are flight and spin properties. It’s not an easy thing to create a ball that feels, flies and spins like a Tour ball off every club in the bag but flies 15 to 20 yards shorter.
Q: Would it not be much simpler to reduce shaft length? – Ben Tidy
A: There’s been plenty of questions around, “Couldn’t they (fill in the blank)?” Everything has been floated from reducing driver CT, shrinking driver heads and limiting tee height to faces that collapse at excessive speed (Peter Kostis) and as Ben brought up, reducing shaft length.
While some of those may be a bit more farfetched than others, any or all of the above would have an impact.
Two things to consider here.
First, from the initial comment period, I think the governing bodies learned pretty quickly that the result of any attempt to restrict the driver would likely be faster/longer fairway woods.
And then what? Then you go after those and very quickly it starts to look like you’re chasing your tail with no particular direction (more so than some would say it already does).
The second thing is that all those proposals are limited to the driver.
The golf ball is the only piece of equipment you use on every shot so while we’ve largely talked about distance in the context of the driver, the proposed rule has the potential to steal distance from every club in the bag.
Q: Is it REALLY going to make ANY difference if the pros drive it 15 yards shorter? Do some extrapolation and they’ll hit a 7-iron, say, six yards shorter? Typical USGA idiot response. Been to any PGA events lately? Gone are the Tim Herrons of the Tour. Most of these guys today are athletes! – Mike
A: See above.
The thinking is the rollback will result in the loss of fifteen or 20 yards (it’s early but the guys at the ball companies I’ve spoken with think 15 yards is underestimating the loss) off the driver. Lose more still off fairway woods and irons (which is possible with a new ball rule) and now you’re in the ballpark of being able to future-proof against distance gains and perhaps play professional golf in a smaller ballpark.
Q: Would it realistically be possible for manufacturers to develop a core that “collapses” when being impacted by a certain amount of force? This would keep performance as-is for slower guys but if you hit the skin off it it’s not gonna go as far. – Steven S
A: They already have. They’re called low-compression or “soft” golf balls.
I’m kidding—but only a little. When a low-compression ball is hit at higher speed than it can support, the core suffers from excessive deformation which results in lower speed and less distance.
Q: Would the USGA Rollback affect handicap calculations? Two different ones?! – Stephane G
A: Good question. I’ll get back to you when the USGA and R&A address the issue and come up with a solid workable solution. I think we’re solidly in the “we’ll figure it out” stage of that particular discussion.
Q: My main issue with the USGA and R&A is that they seem to be mostly interested in setting rules focused on the “elite” golfer. They rarely spend much time and energy setting rules that make golf more enjoyable for the “recreational“ golfer who represent the vast majority of golfers. – Chris C
A: For all the talk of preservation of the game, I’m not convinced it has much to do with golfers at all. I think this is all about preservation of the status quo as it relates to championship venues.
I believe what the governing bodies are ultimately interested in is ensuring that the pro tours will always be able to be able to compete at what are often considered the game’s premier venues such as St Andrews and Augusta and basically anywhere else they view as golf’s hallowed ground.
You know … your basic “temples of the game” nonsense.
While there is a practical limit to distance, I do think a reasonable argument can be made that some courses are at risk of not being able to support a play style the governing bodies deem worthy of their status. That whole “everyone is hitting driver-wedge on every hole” mythology.
Whether or not that’s real, I actually don’t care. This won’t be a universally popular opinion but Augusta has proven that it can manage and, should the day come the governing bodies decide that a venue like St Andrews can’t match the muscle of the modern tour pro, that’s fine.
Again, I don’t care.
None of that diminishes its status as one of the world’s great courses, neither does it mean it will close its doors.
Let the pros play elsewhere. Those courses are still there for the rest of us.
Q: What would happen if the ball manufacturers refused to comply with the USGA Rollback? – Robin C
A: I don’t see that happening. It would take a level of cooperation (or perhaps collusion) that seems unlikely where being the only guy willing to make a Tour ball—the unofficial official ball—would likely prove advantageous.
If all of the leading brands refused to produce a conforming ball, somebody else would step in.
Q: Can you imagine different events having different rules? That would be a shit show. – Mark (The Golf Addict).
A: The (shit) show hasn’t started yet but it sure looks like tickets will be available soon.
As always, if you have any questions for the MGS crew (and they don’t have to be about the golf ball) – drop them below for a chance to be featured in next week’s #AskMyGolfSpy!
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dave d3 days ago
Tennis pros all play the same ball at a given event and that ball changes brands and specs from event to event. While I’m no pro at either, I’m OK at golf (8 hcp) and OK at tennis (USTA 3.5/4.0) and have hit/played both sports with elite and pro players. I’d argue that the range of tennis balls used in tournament play has a WAY outsized effect on ball flight and required stroke adaptations vs. the current range of tour-level golf balls. Meaning despite all yackety yak about needing a range of golf balls for different pro strokes and folks, it would be perfectly fair (per pro tennis example…and every team sport…in football, soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, rugby, etc., everyone uses the same ball) for everyone to play the same ball and also, IMO, would likely have very little effect on performance for any given player and across the field. Recall that Nicklaus played MacGregor balls through his heyday out of allegiance to his equipment sponsor and by many accounts from other pros at the time, the MacGregor balls were notably inferior to other options. Jack still dominated.
Mat4 days ago
If they would just mandate 70-compression, this stuff would be simple.
Powns4 days ago
Don’t know if it’s possible but I think it would be better if they could add higher spin back into the ball. Force it to where if you do want to bomb it you need to hit a draw. I do think the new equipment that eliminated the low riser shots and added in the ability to easily hit a flat fade miles has taken something away from the game. The lack of shape in the ball flight now even if you hit all over the face rewards the lesser ball strikers and removes the advantage that better strikers used to have. Just add spin and the distance will back off as well and will add back in a skill that to me is the biggest shame to have basically been taken out of the game with this high launch low spin equipment now.
vincent schiavo4 days ago
Now that bifurcated rules are likely to be implemented, what chance is there for the USGA/R&A to allow clubs and balls to further evolve so non-elite players can gain more distance?
Mike5 days ago
I love the fact that this article used one of my comments from the original article!
Shane5 days ago
I am all for rolling it back, but make it a percentage of loss for everyone. Not an equaliser. The supreme athletes that have trained all their lives for a competitive advantage still deserve an advantage. I hate the idea that everyone hits some theoretical max distance of the tee, say 280yards, regardless of their power.
The other one I like is making the balls less straight. The major improvements over the years have made it easier to hit the ball straight. Cutting through wind, less spin etc. Go back to balatas and see if they can keep it on the course hitting it that far.
Jim Rebey6 days ago
I for one think the pros should have to use 300 or 330 cc drivers. Then they couldn’t swing all out most of the time, if they miss the center they’ll be way left or right. I think the usga and r&a are doing the right thing. Courses can’t keep getting longer with the cost of land, maintenance, and especially water. Longer courses means slower play also, the main complaint of most golfers. The best athletes or fastest swingers will still be longest. And any amateurs who think they are playing the same game as pros should play them straight up then.
Jim Rebey6 days ago
I for one think the pros should have to use 300 or 330 cc drivers. Then they couldn’t swing all out most of the time, if they miss the center they’ll be way left or right. I think the usga and r&a are doing the right thing. Courses can’t keep getting longer with the cost of land, maintenance, and especially water. Longer courses means slower play also, the main complaint of most golfers. The best athletes or fastest swingers will still be longest.
Jim Bergeson6 days ago
So Liv golf plays under 3 Rules of Golf, the USGA, the R&A, and the Patrick Reed.
Greg6 days ago
This is a good discussion T.C.. and I have a few points to be considered.
1. I will rule out shorter drivers as when you are 6’6″” and have short arms it is a back injury .Been there done that.
2. Women are no different to men the longest hitters will dominate game .
They will soon be on the mens tees. As this will change design fit for purpose for women.
3. The thing is only 1% are doing the elite thing so 99% of us all have to change what a load of baloney.
3. The rules committee should just throw this garbage out as these athletic golfers have reached the limits. It would be best to teach these elite players to find their own balls in 3 minutes as the rest of us 99% have to do that .
This would make them think twice as penalties are expensive .
We dont get spotters so why should they .
4. We play 4 seasons here they play one season of the best weather and environmental conditions. .They need to play more freezing cold windy days .
The environment is a very important part of golf that slows the ball down.
Morse6 days ago
Golf is a great game, but those in charge of the rules place too much emphasis on what the top 1% of players in the world can do on a course. This inhibits the rest of us. If this golf ball rule change trickles down to the average golfer, it’s supremely frustrating. Many of us can work years to gain an extra five to ten yards off of the tee. Could all of that time, money, and energy be erased because the custodians of golf are fretting over the game being too “easy” for professionals?
Tampon Woods5 days ago
How does it inhibit you? You have a Handicap Index, right? And it tells you where you should be playing? MOVE UP A TEE. The white one is forward, over there. So now you don’t have to worry about the guys playing the back tees 100 yards behind you. Don’t be shy.
Play the tee appropriate to your skill level. That’s the greatness of the game.
Mike5 days ago
Hey “tampon”, I already play the appropriate tees right now. If my shots will go 15 yards shorter, the next tee’s at most courses in my area are about 400 yard forward. That doesn’t make sense; I shouldn’t get that much benefit.. Maybe all the course you play at have tee boxes at 200 yard increments. Not so in the real world.
How about things just stay as they are. Why should this ball change effect me, you or any other hack that is not on the PGA tour?
Tampon Woods4 days ago
Nancy, if you’re 400 yards ahead you’re on the green!! You’re a winner! You don’t even have to use your driver you only know how to slice to 200 yards!!! Make the putt!!! How lucky you are!!!
Kevin6 days ago
Maybe PGA tournaments should be played on par 3 courses (like the Bad Little Nine but extended to 18 holes). Tony, I think you’ve played that course.
Brad6 days ago
When hearing JTs take on the subject, it’s a good point- what are the governing body’s trying to fix? A few holes at Augusta and other places in the Venues? Ok so Rory’s length will overrun the way some of these holes were designed to play with no real estate left to lengthen the tee box? No one asked me but I love to watch the long players take the ball over the 17 road hole hotel at the old course and place it way out there. Let the long pros overrun the course. It’s a ball solution searching for a problem.
WiTerp6 days ago
I can the PGA Tour not adopting. The crowds at Top Golf and then at events are not purists. If they want boring par 5’s with everyone laying up, they can go to a baseball game and watch bunting to advance a runner. They want the home run or a chance for an eagle. USGA wants to curb water and maintenance costs? Take out the grass in the rough and put in naturalized areas. Why have fairways so fast for tournaments that pros can get 40 yards or of roll. Add an inch and water every night.
Since the ball hasn’t changed much since 2004, …dial back the athletes? Just kidding, I will continue to play 6000 yards or less. No one I know plays more than 6800 yards. Who are we building 7800 yard courses for? Pros and a few elite amateurs. Let them bomb from 7200 or less. Building more high end courses to compete with Augusta should not be the USGA’s problem. Or 99% of the dues paying members. If 8000 yard courses aren’t viable, not my problem. I can always go to St. Andrew’s and play the yellow tees.
Bill B6 days ago
Looking back 50 years (when I’d only been playing for 10) there wasn’t the huge equipment industry pushing us to buy the latest and greatest (and longest!) every year. The course I played on then still works for me now… but all but a few par 4’s would be reachable by today’s tour players. The governing bodies let this happen by catering to manufacturers who constantly sell the “longest” ball, driver, irons, shoes, tees, gloves….. If tomorrow we all had to buy a ball or clubs that made every shot 5-10% shorter – I personally would still get the same enjoyment out of shot-making! And if that doesn’t work, then let’s have the pros use woods made out of wood again. Doesn’t MLB still use wooden bats?
Ring O' Fire6 days ago
Personally, I’d prefer the USGA – PGA Tour make the courses set up more difficult for their tournaments and not monkey around with the ball. Perhaps cap them where they are today. Or…. the mfg’s make and provide a “rolled-back” selection of balls for the players to use in a tournament. ex – when they arrive at the tournament the players select their preferred brand/model, reach in the bucket, and stock up for the week. These are balls only approved for the week’s event. What other sport allows a player or team to bring their own ball? When my team is at bat do we get to change to a ball we brought to the game? What about tennis? Football? Basketball? As I said…. modify the course setup and things will take care of themselves. Palmer Invitational -9 wins over 4 days!! with difficult course setup. That’s how it should be IMO. For me, if the USGA rolls-back the ball I’ll just move up a tee. Issue solved.
Stephen Martin6 days ago
Since the majority of Tournaments are won by better putting, wouldn’t it make more sense to reduce the hole size ? Seriously, it’s obvious the USGA has too much time on their hands and not much common sense !!
Bill B.6 days ago
But how does making feet puts address the sustainability of golf course length? Increasing scores isn’t the issue here.
Yaaqob3 days ago
Reducing ball distance does increase putting difficulty. The difference in first putt difference from an 8 iron shot into the green and a wedge shot into the green is pretty significant. Even inside 100-125 yards the distance to hole from approach shots varies from 10 feet up to 20 feet on the PGA tour, which of course decreases odds of making that putt with each foot further away you get.
Andy6 days ago
I know it’s been said before but why not focus on the golf course?
Make the fairways narrower have more hazards. Some courses need the rough to be rougher. Altering the course would focus on skill not muscle. The PGA /R&A proposal still mean the most muscle goes the furthest
Cody6 days ago
Agreed. I think the issue is that analytics have shown that missing the fairway is less of a penalty than hitting it short, so now guys are always going to try to overpower a course. Seems easier to me just to make the roughs a real hazard (instead of just looking like the fairway at a local muni), but the courses refuse to do it because the players get mad when it’s actually challenging. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.
Cromley6 days ago
They need to go from 14 clubs to 10 clubs. Pros will still get the distance they want, and the USGA will get the shot making back. The amateur can still play 14 clubs which will keep the Manufacturers happy.
NCAA Baseball uses aluminum bats but when they go to the MLB they use wooden bats and I can’t recall any of them complaining
Greg Basinger6 days ago
This whole issue reeks of legacy insecurity. Jack Nicklaus chirps incessantly on this issue of technology going too far to advance the game, as he conveniently forgets that he used technological advancement at the expense of all the other tour players to win the 1986 Masters with that polo mallet of a putter he used. The next year that putter was all over the tour, but at the Masters in 1986 he was the only one getting to use the advanced club design. Who cares if the players can drive it closer to the green on par 4s, and make birdies more obtainable, the entire field is playing in the same conditions so it’s still may the best man win scenario just as it was 50 years ago. Are the gold metal 100 meter Olympic winners from 30 years ago going to come out and insist current sprinters wear weighted vests because they’re making it too easy to match their old sprint times? It doesn’t matter if the tournament is won with a 4 under score, or 24 under score, the second place player was still only 1 back of the leader, and had a chance for a tie on the last hole (or even better with the longer driver take a risky chance for an eagle for the win), but didn’t. The best man still came out on top. The great wooden shaft golfers of old should have come out and protested Nicklaus getting to use steel shafts, and 60s/70s tour balls, I guess, with the logic some are applying to this issue. I’m an old fart born in the 50s so don’t assume I’m a young golfer that just doesn’t respect the vintage golf days. You other old farts need to get over it, your scores are going to be beaten, that’s the way sports works.
Tampon Woods5 days ago
They have similar type of problems in every sport.
Swimming, for instance, had the controversy of the full swim suit with the gills.
Baseball has the ball problem itself, they talk about it incessantly about how fast it flies and how easy it is to hit homers.
F1 has the problem with VRS.
Miichael6 days ago
If you’re a senior golfer, what is the difference between buying golf clubs off the rack or having them by custom-made?
WYBob6 days ago
It seems to me that there are 4 ways to effect the performance of the golf ball: 1) the aerodynamics package, 2) Core makeup/compression, 3) ball weight, and 4) ball size. Or, some combination of all 4. In the ’60’s and early ’70’s the R&A specified a smaller ball for the Open Championship, and American professional players adapted. Currently ball manufactures produce professional specific ball models (i.e. Pro V1 Left Dot) that are not generally available to the public. So is all this anxiety around the new specification really caused by the financial interest of the ball manufactures? There is a form of bifurcation already in golf between professionals and amateurs- use of handicaps, different length tee boxes, use of carts, etc. so is using a different spec ball really all that different? I for one want to see major championships still contested of historic courses like Augusta National, St. Andrews, Wing Foot, Merion, and the like. And because of that I am not going to allow my knickers to get twisted because the USGA/R&A are trying to find ways to preserve playing championship golf on these great historic courses.
Ed Nelson6 days ago
The affected (big boys) ball manufacturers should simply tell the blue blazer boys “No. We are not willing to incur the expense of designing, developing, and retooling to supply a niche ball for a limited number of tournaments per year.”
The issue with bringing older courses back as tournament venues seems a red herring. How many older courses have the space and infrastructure to host a modern tournament, regardless of how far the ball goes? (Tipof the cap to Michael Breed 3/16/23)
Mike5 days ago
Interesting post. And yes, some old courses will fall by the wayside. Mary and is one. I went to the 2013 US Open there and it was a terrible venue to see an event. You couldn’t walk from home to hold in numerous places and the VIP dining area, which we were fortunate enough to have tickets for, was on the other side of the road, a long, long walk away from the course (I know that area well as I used to live near there).. And the driving range was far enough away that you had to take a shuttle bus there!
Ed Nelson4 days ago
Thanks for the affirmation. Merion was the course that came to mind when Breed brought up that point.
Webster6 days ago
I’m betting some golf ball engineers (not the corporate heads or bean counters) are actually somewhat excited about this. I’m sure they have had to compromise feel, spin, etc in order to make sure their tour ball(s) were as long as possible. Dialing back distance opens up a lot of possibilities.
Pender W.6 days ago
I’ve got to say, I think that the golf ball issue is being overblown…….Just keep the balls at their current level, no more development of a “longer ball” and maintain the status quo. Everyone plays the same equipment and courses won’t need to keep lengthening their courses, which drives up the cost for the average golfer, and we can move on with the game.
I mean, if they really did roll back the distance of balls, it wouldn’t truly affect the standard golfer and the pros are so good that I believe there wouldn’t be a dramatic difference in the overall outcome of tournaments. It is the manufacturers that would be impacted the most since they couldn’t promote the latest & greatest ball that adds more yards.
Mark M.6 days ago
If the “new” balls only show up at certain tournaments, what are the chances tour player boycott those?
Too much money at stake for that move?