What is the Golf Ball Roll Back | Proposal, Changes & Latest Updates

What is the Golf Ball Roll Back

What is the Golf Ball Roll Back and why is it making headlines in the golf world? The governing bodies of golf, the USGA and The R&A, have proposed a Model Local Rule that allows elite competitions to use modified launch conditions when testing golf balls, in order to address the impact of hitting distance.

The proposal is aimed at the longest hitters in the game, with modified testing expected to reduce the average hitting distance by 14-15 yards. 

But what does this mean for recreational golfers, and why are manufacturers and stakeholders being asked for their feedback? Let’s first check what is the golf rollback rule.

Golf Ball Rollback Explained

In simple terms, the golf ball rollback is a proposal put forth by the USGA and The R&A that would require elite competitions to use golf balls tested under modified launch conditions. This proposal aims to address the major impact of hitting distance in golf, specifically by reducing the distance that golf balls can travel when hit under specific conditions.

According to the proposal notice, the modified testing setup is intended to reduce hitting distance by 14-15 yards on average for the longest hitters with the highest club head speeds. It is important to note that this proposal is only intended for use in elite competitions and would have no impact on recreational golf.

USGA Golf Ball Rollback Announcement

On March 13, governing bodies sent the proposal notice to golf equipment manufacturers according to Equipment Rulemaking Procedures.

USGA Golf Ball Rollback Announcement
Image credit: www.usga.org

It is important to note that the MLR is not intended to have any impact on recreational golfers. It is only for use in elite competitions. Manufacturers of golf equipment can provide feedback on the golf ball rollback proposal until August 14, 2023. The proposal would take effect on January 1, 2026, if adopted. 

USGA Golf Ball Roll Back Regulations

As the game of golf has evolved, so has the technology of golf balls. The United States Golf Association (USGA) has recently proposed regulations for the distance capabilities of golf balls, known as the Golf Ball Roll Back Regulations.

According to the proposed USGA golf ball regulations, golf balls must conform to the current Overall Distance Standard (ODS) limit of 317 yards, with a tolerance of plus three yards, when tested at modified Actual Launch Conditions (ALC) with a clubhead speed of 127 mph and based on a calibration setup of 11 degrees and 37 revolutions per second. 

While recreational golfers with slower swing speeds will continue to use the existing ALC values (120 mph, and a calibration setup of 10 degrees and 42 revolutions per second), it is important to note that the modified testing setup proposed in the MLR can reduce hitting distance by 14-15 yards on average for the longest hitters with the highest club head speeds. This reduction in hitting distance is a direct result of the correlation between clubhead speed and hitting distance.

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Interestingly, the Overall Distance Standard was established in 1976 as a ball test designed to reflect the maximum potential hitting distance by the longest hitters in golf. However, over the past 20 years, hitting distance has increased by an average of one yard per year, leading to the development of the proposed regulations. 

As golf technology continues to advance, it is important for governing bodies like the USGA to carefully monitor and regulate the equipment used in the game to maintain the integrity and fairness of the sport.

Findings of Extensive Research

The much-anticipated Distance Insights report, published in February 2020 by the USGA and The R&A, showcased key findings from extensive research into the Implications of Hitting Distance in golf. The report highlighted two crucial themes – the mounting pressure on golf courses to keep increasing their length and the need to maintain a balance of skills required in golf by preventing distance from becoming the predominant factor

Rather ominously, the report also revealed that the overall trend of golf courses becoming longer had detrimental effects, including an increase in time and monetary costs and a reduction in the challenges presented by courses.

Annual Driving Distance Report

As per the 2022 Annual Driving Distance Report, it’s safe to say that the excitement surrounding the sport never fades. As per the latest report, it is clear that the average clubhead speed on the PGA TOUR in the last year remained solid at 114.6 mph, with an average launch angle of 10.3 degrees and a spin rate of 2,597 revolutions per minute (rpm).

The report also sheds light on the impressive numbers within the sport. The fastest 1 percent of clubhead speeds averaged 127.5 mph in 2022, while the fastest 5 percent of clubhead speeds averaged 124.2 mph.

On top of that, there is no denying that the sport is only getting better and better, with a 4% average year-over-year increase in hitting distance across all seven tours. All but the Japan Golf Tour and LPGA Tour reported the longest values on record, which is a testament to the players’ skill, technique, and fervor for the sport.

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Seth Waugh Denounces Proposed Rollback

Seth Waugh, the CEO of American PGA, recently penned a memo to the USGA and The R&A denouncing the proposed rollback. Waugh believes that the Golf Ball Roll Back proposal is not the right answer to the issue at hand and that it may not achieve its intended goal of reducing hitting distance.

Rolling Back the Golf Ball [Wise Call] | The Time Will Tell

As a professional golfer, I have witnessed the changes and developments in the game over the years. While some may argue that technology has helped improve the game, others believe that it has made the game too easy. I believe there needs to be a balance and the proposed new golf ball rollback rule is a step towards that balance.

So, to sum up, the Golf RollBack plan by the USGA and The R&A introduces a new Model Local Rule (MLR) that gives organizers the option to use golf balls that are tested under modified launch conditions. This rule is meant for elite competitions only, which means it won’t affect casual players. 

The MLR conforms to an Overall Distance Standard of 317 yards, and it’s expected to reduce the hitting distance by 14-15 yards on average for the longest hitters. The aim is to address the increasing distance trend over the last 20 years and preserve the balance of skills required in golf. To stay updated on all things golf, don’t forget to bookmark Golf Ace Nation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the stance of Acushnet, the parent company of Titleist, on the proposed golf ball rollback rule change? 

Acushnet argues that the rule change would result in a Model Local Rule that creates reduced distance golf balls intended for professional and elite amateur competitions, while an entirely different set of rules would apply to all other play. They believe such a bifurcation would add confusion, break the lineage of the game, and divide golf between elite and recreational play.

Q. What is the rationale behind the proposed Model Local Rule for the golf ball rollback, according to CEO Martin Slumbers of the R&A?

Martin Slumbers believes that the proposed rule will minimize the impact on recreational golf and preserve the qualities of the sport while reducing the need to lengthen courses. This approach aims to maintain the balance between skill and technology and ensure a sustainable future for golf.

Q. What other measures are USGA and R&A considering?

In addition to exploring potential Model Local Rules, the USGA and R&A are considering narrowing the focus of research topics to reduce the spring-like effect in drivers and change the Moment of Inertia limit to reward central impact. These measures aim to maintain a fair balance between technology and skill in the game of golf. The goal is to promote a level playing field and ensure that golf remains a true test of skill and not just equipment. 

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