Daily Mail

Plan for new ball rules to tame big hitters

Moves will protect courses like St Andrews and Augusta

- by RIATH ALSAMARRAI Sportswrit­er of the Year

GOLF’S rule-makers have confirmed controvers­ial plans to roll back the distances travelled by balls at the elite end of the game, amid the growing problem of courses being overpowere­d by the sport’s biggest hitters.

On the back of six years of research, the R&A and USGA announced yesterday their hope that new measures, if ratified, would see tee shots reduced by around 15 yards.

Their proposal, which focuses squarely on ball specificat­ion rather than club design, was sent to equipment manufactur­ers on Monday and, pending feedback, would see changes introduced in January 2026.

The intention is to give tours and competitio­ns the option to use ‘balls that are tested under modified launch conditions to address the impact of hitting distance in golf’, which would effectivel­y make balls currently in use illegal, though it would not impact on the recreation­al game.

Strong opposition to the plans has already been logged by the owners of ball manufactur­er Titleist. But in citing the fact that balls are travelling ever-greater distances — in 20 years, the average drive on the PGA Tour has risen from 285 yards to 299 yards, with Rory McIlroy out in front with a 326-yard average — the bodies in charge of golf’s rules have moved to safeguard courses used in the profession­al game.

For instance, there were fears at the Open last year that St Andrews would be too easily tamed by modern technology and it is notable that Augusta have lengthened the 13th hole for this year’s Masters by 35 yards after the par five became too easy.

Martin Slumbers, CEO of the R&A, said: ‘This is an important issue for golf and one which needs to be addressed if the sport is to retain its unique challenge and appeal.

‘ Hitting distances at the elite level of the game have consistent­ly increased over the past 20, 40 and 60 years.

‘It has been two decades since we last revisited our testing standards for ball distances. Predictabl­e, continued increases will become a significan­t issue for the next generation if not addressed soon.’

Slumbers indicated that half of the players he had spoken to wanted change and the other half were happy with the status quo.

Although it would be up to a manufactur­er to determine how to make their ball compliant, the proposal would require that a ball struck at a laboratory-controlled swing speed of 127mph must not travel more than 320 yards.

A statement from Acushnet, who own Titleist, the most commonly used brand on Tour, was critical of the proposals.

It read: ‘One of golf’s unifying appeals is that everyone in the game plays by the same set of rules, can play the same courses and with the same equipment. ‘The USGA and R&A have announced a notice proposing a potential rule change that provides for reduced distance golf balls intended for profession­al and elite amateur competitio­ns and a different set of rules for all other play. This bifurcatio­n would divide golf between elite and recreation­al play, add confusion and break the linkage that is part of the game’s enduring fabric.

‘Under the proposed guidelines, events that adopt this would require players to use a substantia­lly shorter golf ball, similar in distance to what was available in the 1990s.

‘The performanc­e changes of any rolled-back ball would impact every shot in the round. Players would also be required to adapt to changes in equipment, with some players disadvanta­ged over others by this disruption.’

Acushnet CEO and president David Maher described the proposals as ‘a solution in search of a problem’.

 ?? ?? IMPROVEMEN­TS in club and ball technology and sports science have seen players drive further than ever before. This graphic shows the player with the highest average distance off the tee for each year.
IMPROVEMEN­TS in club and ball technology and sports science have seen players drive further than ever before. This graphic shows the player with the highest average distance off the tee for each year.
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom