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PGAs around the world tell USGA, R&A they oppose golf ball rollback

August 07, 2023

Gary Kellner

In a move that could have significant implications for the USGA and R&A proposal to roll back golf ball distance at the elite level, the World Alliance of PGAs has asked the governing bodies to indefinitely halt its march toward the changes.

In a memo obtained by Golf Channel and signed by PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh, the alliance—which includes nine PGAs from around the world—wrote, “We strongly believe in the need to completely scope out all unintended consequences before the introduction of any significant change. Whilst many aspects have been considered we are worried that the proposed changes will have far reaching implications for our game.”

The USGA and R&A announced in March a proposed Model Local Rule that would limit golf ball distance for elite competition beginning in January 2026. Recreational golfers would not be affected, but the proposal stirred a strong and divided debate about whether having different balls for elite players and everyday golfers was good for the game.

Last month, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a memo to players that the tour would not use the proposed MLR in competition, though he added that he would work with the governing bodies to find an eventual solution.

In their memo, the PGAs, which represent thousands of teaching professionals, say they are “firmly opposed” to bifurcation of the golf ball: “It is something that we feel would lead to division and cause us to lose a very precious characteristic of golf; the fact that we all play on the same course with the same clubs and balls. In our view, this dynamic should be preserved as a fundamental tenet.”

The PGAs cited operational issues, including policing players; retailers and driving ranges having to stock two different kinds of balls; and golfers playing different balls for different events, as reasons it opposes the proposal. The PGAs cited the effect on golf courses and handicap systems and said the governing bodies’ suggestion that elite women players could still play a “recreational” ball could be viewed "very negatively at a time when we are all trying to promote and champion women’s golf and participation.”

The PGAs noted that there was “conflicting data” in regards to the rollback and proposed that the PGA World Alliance work with other industry members to produce a “white paper” that would review all data and possibly include “alternative solutions.”

The notice and comment period for the proposed MLR is set to end next Monday, and the PGAs are asking that the governing bodies push back their implementation of the rollback and keep the status quo as the industry further contemplates “the thorny challenges of bifurcation.”

The PGAs offered to discuss the matter with the USGA and R&A. The USGA responded to the memo, as it did with the PGA Tour, by saying, “We remain in a Notice & Comment period, accepting feedback from voices from across the game. The PGA is an important stakeholder and we appreciate the feedback they have contributed to this conversation.”