USGA ball rollback proposal draws diverse golf world reactions

March 14, 2023

Ben Jared

The USGA and R&A's announcement of a proposal to roll back the ball for elite competitions beginning in 2026 drew an array of repsonses, ranging from the interested to the aggravated, including manufacturers, tours and other golf organizations. Here's a sampling of the current mood among industry stakeholders:

PGA Tour: "We will continue our own extensive independent analysis of the topic and will collaborate with the USGA and The R&A, along with our membership and industry partners, to evaluate and provide feedback on this proposal. The Tour remains committed to ensuring any future solutions identified benefit the game as a whole, without negatively impacting the Tour, its players or our fans’ enjoyment of our sport."

David Maher, President and CEO of Acushnet Company (parent company of Titleist): "Golf is an aspirational sport, and we believe at its very best when equipment and playing regulations are unified. Golf’s health and vibrancy are at historically high levels. As we see it, existing golf ball regulations for Overall Distance and Initial Velocity are highly effective. ... The proposal of golf ball bifurcation is in many respects a solution in search of a problem. ... Playing by a unified set of rules is an essential part of the game’s allure, contributes to its global understanding and appeal, and eliminates the inconsistency and instability that would come from multiple sets of equipment standards. Unification is a powerfully positive force in the game, and we believe that equipment bifurcation would be detrimental to golf’s long-term well-being. As a result, we will actively participate in this conversation with the governing bodies, worldwide professional tours, PGA Professional organizations, amateur associations and federations, and golfers, in an effort to contribute to the continued enjoyment and growth of the game.”

PGA of America: "As we have previously stated to the USGA and the R&A, we are strongly opposed to any rules changes that will make the game less fun for recreational golfers. Regarding this specific area of interest, we are pleased that there is no longer a focus on changing or modifying the ball or clubs that recreational players may use. We are not in favor of Bifurcation and do not anticipate individual Club’s implementing such a Model Local Rule as it is meant for Elite players. In regards to the PGA Championship, 2026 is still a long way off and until we know the specifics of the proposed Model Local Rule we are not in a position to make that determination."

LPGA Tour: "The LPGA is appreciative of the leadership and stewardship of the USGA and The R&A on a variety of topics, including distance. At this time, we do not see distance as a hindrance toward the growth of the LPGA Tour or to the courses on which we can compete. We intend to explore and examine this proposal during the comment period and beyond from all angles. As always, we will act in accordance with what is best for our players, our partners, our Tour, our fans and the women's game overall. We are committed to ensuring the golf course is an equitable place for everyone, and our focus will be on helping grow the women’s game and providing equal opportunities for girls and women of all ages."

American Junior Golf Association (AJGA): "The AJGA’s mission and purpose is to prepare our players for college golf. If the MLR is adopted at the collegiate level, it would be an important part of that preparation for our players and the college coaches who are recruiting them."

American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), Brit Stenson, president: "ASGCA members welcomed the opportunity to provide information [to the USGA] on golf course architecture and how it has been influenced by the continuing equipment evolution. As the statement from USGA and R&A notes, “The proposed MLR…would not impact the current recreational game in any way.” ....The ball is just one part of the game that influences the economic sustainability of facilities, their environmental footprint, the strategic challenge of playing the course as designed by the golf course architect and the pure fun that comes from playing the game from tees that match a player’s skill level. All golfers should be encouraged to take advantage to play from tees that provide the most enjoyment and the best opportunity for them to score well."

Bridgestone Golf: "We believe the game of golf benefits from the leadership and guidance of the governing bodies. Regarding the proposed Model Local Rule, we appreciate the transparency of the process that has brought us to this point. Golf is enjoying a significant growth phase and is more popular than ever. We are concerned that the proposed rule changes could confuse and dampen the enthusiasm of millions of new participants to our game. We are pleased that the proposed changes do not appear to be aimed at recreational players. ...We are confident that our superior engineering capabilities will allow us to continue to push the envelope of golf ball performance for recreational players while also making the best possible golf ball for elite competitions. We will closely study the proposed changes and communicate our point of view directly to the USGA and R&A."

Callaway Golf: “We are studying the information and proposals provided. We have no further comment at this time.”