What We Do (and Don’t) Know About the USGA/R&A Golf Ball Rollback
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What We Do (and Don’t) Know About the USGA/R&A Golf Ball Rollback

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What We Do (and Don’t) Know About the USGA/R&A Golf Ball Rollback

After years of deliberation, it seems that the USGA/R&A plan to roll back the golf ball is coming to fruition.

And while we don’t yet have every detail, there are a few things you need to know about the potential implications on the professional and, more importantly, the amateur game.

What We Know:

The rollback is being handed down to professionals and amateurs by the USGA and R&A

The USGA (the governing body for golf in the United States) and the R&A (which governs the rest of the world except Canada) are, essentially, the gatekeepers of golf. Both have control over golf equipment (i.e., what conforms and is legal for tournament use), as well as the general rules of the sport.

All golfers will lose distance

The original plan laid out in March called for adopting a “modified local rule” that would limit the rollback of the golf ball in professional and elite amateur events. At the time, the governing bodies stated that data did not support rolling back the ball for amateurs.

Somewhere along the way, things changed. Deciding that bifurcation (different equipment rules for pros and amateurs) was worse than taking distance from everyone, the governing bodies plan to roll back the ball for everyone.

While we don’t know exactly how much, you will undoubtedly see a loss in distance in conjunction with the rollback. Often overlooked in the discussion is that the loss of distance won’t be isolated to your driver. You will almost certainly lose distance with the majority of clubs.

The USGA and R&A plan to send a notice to ball manufacturers on Tuesday

The ball manufacturers we’ve spoken to expect to receive the official notice of the rule change on Tuesday. Once the formal notice has been issued and the manufacturers have a chance to run the calculations, we’ll have a much better sense of the real-world implications.

What We Don’t Know:

How long do we have until the golf ball rollback takes full effect?

According to a report from Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura, the rollback will go into effect in 2028 for professionals and 2030 for amateurs. We have every expectation that will hold true in the official notice.

Whether manufacturers will acquiesce

While it wouldn’t surprise us to hear of many golf ball manufacturers opposing the rollback, it’s unclear at this time whether they will pursue legal action against the USGA and R&A.

There is precedent (PING and groove rule controversy) and it’s certainly not out of the question here.

Barring a change of course from the governing bodies, the options on the table are to either file lawsuits or acquiesce to the new guidelines.

What constitutes a conforming golf ball?

The entire premise surrounding the ball rollback is the criterion that a golf ball must meet in order to be considered conforming. The likelihood is that the test speed will increase by at least five mph while leaving the distance limit unchanged at 317 yards.

This means that, inevitably, golf balls will have to become slower and shorter to comply with the new limit. Other test parameters (launch and spin) will also influence the real-world distance implications.

What Does the Golf Ball Rollback Mean For You?

In short, the rollback will affect most of your clubs.

You will see noticeable distance loss. Said one equipment manufacturer’s representative about their player test of a distance-limited prototype ball, “Every golfer noticed and nobody liked it.”

As for the professional ranks, the thinking is that the rollback may be easily overcome through increased speed training. That would be pretty much on par for the USGA/R&A and their most recent rule changes (groove rule, anchoring). Those changes have had negligible impact at the professional level but have worked to the detriment of average golfers.

Read more about the true impacts of the golf ball rollback here.

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Connor Lindeman

Connor Lindeman

Connor Lindeman

Connor is MyGolfSpy's resident sneakerhead who believes that golf is more enjoyable with a fresh pair of kicks. When he isn't scrolling Twitter to find his next golf shoe purchase, you can find him at the piano or trying a new dessert place with his wife. #Lefty

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      Kryptowave

      3 months ago

      Every aspect of life is about improvement…except the USGA. Let’s punish the average golfer which the majority do not even have a registered handicap because they only play on weekends or even less sparingly. What this is saying is that average golfers are not important and they don’t want you in the game.
      Let’s eliminate R&D because the ball manufacturers only need to return to manufacturing balls from 15 years ago.
      My USGA membership will not be renewed as I don’t play tournaments. My closet will be filled with dozens of golf balls made prior to 2028. I’ll focus on scrambles and tournaments with friends. Wait…I’ll actually enjoy the game more.
      Let’s hope the PGA sues or just says no.

      Reply

      Brandon

      3 months ago

      Seeing as I don’t play competitively, I won’t be following this edict. Going to grab a few thousand balls soon to last the rest of my life.

      Reply

      Odie

      3 months ago

      As this is a PGA Tour/Professional issue, have swing speed monitors on every tee box other than par 3s. If a player swings over 110 MPH they get penalized one shot. Problem solved and you don’t have to change equipment. There will be inconsistencies and mis-reads, and some players get screwed, but hey the USGA gets what they want. I’m 54 years old, a very good player, and if I bust one on a dry fairway I can it maybe 285. I don’t want to give up 20 yards just because the USGA wants to sleep better at night. Screw them. Going to be near impossible to police this unless it’s at major pro and amateur events where officials with measuring equipment are on hand, which is why it should only be a rule only for elite competition.

      Reply

      Mike

      3 months ago

      I get your points but why screw with the amateur game? One of the reasons people are, for example, hitting a 7i into a green that they hit a 5i into 25 years ago is because today’s 7i, loft/length-wise, is very close to the 5i of 25 years ago. Most courses are not going to adjust tee boxes & definitely won’t build new ones. So we’ll just have to be content the shooting higher scores. Wow, sounds like fun!

      Reply

      WYBob

      3 months ago

      I have already experienced a distance roll-back. It’s called age. With each passing year, it has become more pronounced. That said, the resolution will be to play a more appropriate set of tees for my/our new distances (Ie. Play it Forward). Every course/club will have to have their ratings and slopes adjusted for the new ball, thus affecting everyone’s GHIN thus leveling everything out. This will not hit for six years, so let’s enjoy the current ball while we can. Ultimately we and golf will adjust just like we did with the groove ruling and the COR criteria for drivers. If you still have your knickers in a knot over this, cancel your USGA Membership. In the end, money talks, and the USGA is always looking for more of it. Just my humble opinion.

      Reply

      CryptoDog

      3 months ago

      I don’t get why courses need to be adjusted just for making people play 1 club longer than they have been?
      It just means for everyone, for example, if they were hitting a 9 iron into a green from their usual position, they would be hitting an 8 iron. So on and so forth. I might have to hit a 7 iron, which is still not bad. Just an example. That would mean that I am playing from the positions I used to play about 25 years ago before the ball really started flying. And my scores have not changed by much since then. It’s may be improved my average index by about 2 strokes at most. And I know, I know , that’s for somebody like me who’s a decent scratch level player, so the spread will get steadily longer and strokes increase as the handicaps and skill get worse, but it just means we’ll be back to playing how we used to play right before the Pro-V1, Nike Tour Accuracy, and the Precept MC Lady came along, and we were all doing just fine, hitting drivers that were not yet 460 cc.
      There will be no adjusting of the courses, other than the actual golf course managers and owners moving your tees forward by 5 to 6 yards on every hole to help with some players set ups. The course near me where I’ve been playing for the past almost 40 years DID ADD a couple of tees that are farther back on a couple holes, but that’s it. They did not really adjust the index, because those tees are for the bombers like me, and all that happened is the middle tees stayed the same, and they were in fact playing easier for the slow swingers because the ball was flying farther, but the scorecard index was never adjusted, as “average” scores around the entire nation had not actually improved over this time.
      I also know that the couple of long Par 3s where I would hit my 3 iron, I may have to get a hybrid or fairway wood to hit them possibly. Really not a big deal, as I was doing that anyway back around the year 2000.
      I don’t get what the big deal is. The 460cc driver has not been taken away, we can all hit the gym, practice more, swing faster, use the tech to get a better AoA, launch angle, peak height and spin to adjust and be almost at the same spot we are now. 5% reduction isn’t going to affect the majority of players

      Reply

      Mike

      3 months ago

      I get your points but why screw with the amateur game? One of the reasons people are, for example, hitting a 7i into a green that they hit a 5i into 25 years ago is because today’s 7i, loft/length-wise, is very close to the 5i of 25 years ago. Most courses are not going to adjust tee boxes & definitely won’t build new ones. So we’ll just have to be content the shooting higher scores. Wow, sounds like fun!

      Darren Cannon

      3 months ago

      Just wondering, does this mean that when the rollback date arrives, will we have to throw out all of our old balls and change to conforming ones? I know people will not be happy with this. What happens to the possibly billions of golf balls in circulation? Also, who is going to be responsible for checking that all players are using a conforming ball if playing in a competition?

      Reply

      Mark Blake

      3 months ago

      the manufacturers will stop making the old ball well in advance of the change, so you dont have to worry, attrition will get rid of most of them. As for who is responsible for checking your ball, there is no change to that responsibiliy. The same person that has always checked that you have conforming golf ball, clubs, only 14 clubs, and making sure all your shots are counted will also take on that responsibility. That person is you, and always has been you. That is what ‘on your honour” means in golf. You are your own referee.

      Reply

      Darren Cannon

      3 months ago

      But all the old balls don’t just disappear. At some point there will be conforming and nonconforming balls around. As for responsibility of checking a ball is conforming, it is not myself I am worried about.

      Mike

      3 months ago

      I’ll play the new balls once I run out of the 500 or so old ones that I have. Or better yet, let me bring them up to the USGA & have them buy them back from me.

      JasonA

      3 months ago

      There are already non-conforming golf balls for sale that those who want to cheat can use.

      This change just makes all old ball’s “cheating”. All I hope is that there is one clear standard and regulated “new conforming” ball stamp / logo that is mandatory and consistent across all balls. Be a complete mess to try remember which model is which.

      Reply

      CryptoDog

      3 months ago

      It would be as simple as stamping it with a backward arrow lmao

      CryptoDog

      3 months ago

      It’s not happening until 2030.
      We have plenty of time to phase them out, so my 2028, they will quit selling current balls and we will only be able to buy the new ones, in order to have the world be ready for the full switch back in 2030.

      Reply

      CryptoDog

      3 months ago

      Sounds like there will no longer be hard balls.

      Reply

      Dave

      3 months ago

      Both the powers to be at the USGA and PGA seem to be working to destroy golf as we know it. The PGA tour will become an unwatchable minor league due to Jay Monahan. Now, the USGA by imposing an ill advised rule is going to result in many clubs and golfers adopting “local rules” to play unapproved balls. Once clubs are ignoring USGA rules re balls then it becomes a slippery slope with everyone playing by their own rules. Basically, let’s destroy golf so we can reminisce about Hogan’s one iron at Merion and let’s play the US Open at Myopia again. While we’re at it, let’s have Wimbledon play pickleball instead of tennis.

      Reply

      Bill

      3 months ago

      We could leave the ball alone and go back to persimmon, lol. I like that idea better. Follows wood bat vs metal vs composite bat idea.

      Reply

      Barry

      3 months ago

      And all that’s going on in the world and we can’t just hit a freaking golf ball without these idiots trying to ruin it !

      Reply

      Harry

      3 months ago

      We know from MGS tests that soft is slow. Don’t the ball companies already have a ball that would be slow enough for the USGA & R&A?

      Reply

      Jay

      3 months ago

      Will the PGA Tour and the PGA say no to the roll back? If they do it’s my opinion that the USA & R&A will become obsolete ( which I feel they are already on that path). Is this to protect the old course? This is a very popular opinion.

      Reply

      Mike

      3 months ago

      Obsolete? That’s being kind to the USGA. To me they’re irrelevant, a bunch of blue-blooded imbeciles.

      I’ll immediately start using the new balls as soon as I lose or wear out the couple hundred I have and/or plan to buy.

      And someone, please tell that idiot Rory to stop saying it won’t affect the average golfer. BTW, what the hell does he know about an average golfer anyway?

      Reply

      Greg

      3 months ago

      I don’t mind the rollback for a but how will this impact slope and par ratings for the various courses? I’m assuming that course par and slope ratings will not change at the start of 2030, but will evolve over time. For example, as a senior golfer, a 380 yard par 4 is hard for me to reach the green in 2 shots. So assuming the new ball results in me losing at least 10 yards per club, I simply cannot reach the 380 yard par four green in two shots. My handicap will simply go up unless the USGA changes their guidelines for determining slope and par ratings to try and keep my 15 handicap stay at 15. My guess is that the USGA will not change their ratings and everyones’ handicap will go up with the rollback ball.

      Reply

      Golf2Much

      3 months ago

      Since the current course rating system is based on how far men and women scratch and bogey golfers hit their shots, there will likely be a modification to course ratings. The shorter overall distances may (or may not) bring in bunkers, penalty areas, or other elements into play and will likely influence other landing areas required for layups. Since golf courses are required to be rated every 10 years, it may take some time for all the courses to be re-rated to fully capture the impact of the rolled back golf ball reduced distance.

      Reply

      Will

      3 months ago

      I’m pretty new to golf, and struggling to understand why the pros hitting the ball “too far” is a problem that should impact me, who has the exact opposite problem. And also why anyone would ever comply with the demand.

      Reply

      Kyle

      3 months ago

      Why can’t they make these “rollback” balls just for the Pros? They already use different balls than ones you can get from manufacturers

      Reply

      Mike

      3 months ago

      Dude, you must be new to golf. For the USGA to do that, that would actually make sense.

      Reply

      JasonA

      3 months ago

      Governing bodies did try that approach first but the Manufacturers and the PGA said “NO to bifurcation” i.e. no to splitting rules between pros & amateurs. Thus they are to blame for the golf ball rollback rule becoming a blanket rule for all.

      Reply

      Will

      3 months ago

      The manufacturers and PGA should say no to this one too. Nobody should be able to retroactively change the rules on a whim.

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