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Ball Rollback

Golf industry survey results reveal serious golfers oppose ball rollback effort


Eóin Noonan

As golfers familiarize themselves with the details of the USGA and R&A’s proposed Model Local Rule (MLR) that would allow “elite” competitions to compel players to use a ball that goes shorter, there is no shortage of opinions on the matter (as anyone who follows Golf Twitter knows). Compiling those opinions and making sense of them is best left to experts. Golf Datatech a research firm based in Kissimmee, Fla., fits that description and has released the results of its first survey related to the proposed ball rollback.

“This golf ball rollback is a hot button topic across the professional tours and among the amateur golf community, especially among better players who rely on distance as key part of their game,” said John Krzynowek, a founding partner of Golf Datatech. “For this reason, we expedited this Serious Golfer Survey to put a stake in the ground so we can assess how perceptions and opinions shift on this issue over time.”

The survey was conducted of 1,250 “serious golfers” (an opt-in group identified by company). The group was asked a series of multiple choice and open-ended questions regarding the MLR. While the opinions are predictably varied, those opposed outnumber those in favor by more than two to one.

The results are below:

Opinions on the Proposed Rule:

  • 52 percent don’t like the proposed rule.
  • 23 percent are in favor of the proposed rule.
  • 13 percent don’t know enough yet to have an opinion.
  • 12 percent don’t care.

Among those who DO NOT SUPPORT the Model Local Rule:

  • 72 percent indicate they “like knowing that everyone plays by the same rules.”
  • 55 percent don’t think it is necessary.
  • 43 percent believe it “complicates” the rules.
  • 7 percent indicate they play “high level competition” and the proposed rule complicates things for them.

Open End Feedback among those who DO NOT SUPPORT the Model Local Rule includes:

  • It penalizes elite players for being elite.
  • Many like to play the same equipment as the elite players to see how they are the same/different.
  • Some feel the ball is being held accountable, when the focus should be on clubs.
  • There is an undercurrent of golfers who are concerned that the expense of designing and making two different balls will ultimately have to be borne by the consumer, and golf ball prices will rise as a result.

Among those who SUPPORT the Model Local Rule:

  • 85 percent don’t want to see the classic courses made obsolete.
  • 45 percent believe technological improvements are ruining the game.
  • 39 percent feel tour pros hit the ball “too far.”
  • 26 percent don’t hit it like a tour pro, so they don’t really care what the elite players use.

Open End Feedback among those who SUPPORT the Model Local Rule:

  • A shorter ball will bring more skill back to the game for elite players.
  • Concern that bigger/longer golf courses require more resources to maintain (capital, water, fertilizer, etc.), and ultimately will create a sustainability case against the sport.

Respondents were also asked what impact the proposed new rule will have on their personal enjoyment of the game, and results were as follows:

  • 79 percent indicated it will not have any effect on their own enjoyment.
  • 17 percent said it might make the game less enjoyable.
  • 4 percent believe it might make the game more enjoyable.
  • 1 percent indicated they will no longer enjoy the game.

The survey did not include questions regarding interest in the professional game, however Krzynowek noted this is merely the beginning of their data collection. “What is certain is that this topic is not going away, and we will continue to analyze the issue in the weeks ahead,” he said.