R&A golf ball engineer job: 'Just part of our governance role'

February 19, 2013

The discussion of a golf ball rollback got another injection of adrenaline when the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews placed a job advertisement seeking a "golf ball engineer," but the R&A's technical chief stressed that the new position was just a natural growth of the R&A's research and testing staff.

According to the posting, "The successful candidate, who should possess a suitable degree, will be expected to participate in all stages of the evaluation of golf balls and to conduct research projects involving all aspects of aerodynamics, material science and the underlying physics of impact. In addition, the successful candidate will be expected to generate algorithms and computer codes to facilitate the above."

Contacted by email, Dr. Steve Otto, the R&A's director of research and testing, explained that recent staff changes led to a reevaluation of the research and testing group's work, which then led to the position. "The role will cover all aspects of golf balls and it will further enhance our on-going collaboration with the USGA in this and other areas," Otto said. "We see this as just part of our governance role."

When asked if this new position signals a  reorganization of testing responsibilities between the USGA and the R&A or an acceleration of new tests, Otto suggested the testing process for golf's rulemaking bodies would remain as a collaboration.

"We will continue to run research projects as we have done in the past, which is an appropriate mixture of duplication and allocation of particular areas to each group," he said. "This model applies to all aspects of what we do in equipment projects, rather than specifically golf balls. This role is to fit into that structure rather than any more substantial changes to the way we work."

The R&A conducted a public test of a reduced distance golf ball in Sweden last year, but neither the R&A nor the USGA has released any results of a golf ball research project which dates back to 2002. Recently retired USGA Senior Technical Director Dick Rugge said before he stepped down that publishing results of the ball testing research was not necessary.

"The goal of the ball project from day one has always been the same-to be prepared to make a rule change in case that ever becomes necessary-and on that goal we have made enormous progress," Rugge said.