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Rolling Back The Ball Will Take Away Some Of The Excitement Of Playing And Watching Golf


Remember when John Daly (Titleist Pro V1X) burst on the PGA Tour in the 90s and introduced the expression “Grip It And Rip It” to describe his philosophy when he approached the tee with a driver in hand?

It became popularized because of all the weekend warriors who wanted to be just like him and hit their tee shots long and straight, though Long John was alone in terms of that unique talent.

But changes in manufacturing to both clubs and balls, player fitness and improved teaching have contributed to balls launching so far that in some rare instances they can reach the green on a par-four hole and leave a relatively easy approach shot to the hole.

Tiger Woods (Bridgestone Tour B XS) took driving to a whole new level because of his power, some of that do to sculping his body in the gym and also his inherent natural talent.

Then came Bryson DeChambeau (Titleist V1x) who took conditioning to a whole new level, for a while anyway, and just cranked his tee shots beyond comparison.

And inasmuch as the PGA tried to lengthen courses and create obstacles such as more bunkers, trees and/or long rough to penalize players who ambitiously used their driver instead of playing cautiously with a three-wood, the time had come among the guardians of the game that something had to change.

So that’s why the recent decision by the USGA and R&A to implement changes to roll back balls finally became legislated after the topic had been debated for quite some time.

What it will mean that the balls the pros use now will change beginning in 2028 and for everyone else in 2030. Some of this will affect clubhead speed, which frankly is one of the more appealing aspects of watching the pros. The TV broadcasters detail the clubhead speed so the viewers can see just how fast it is, and I think that’s what makes it jaw-dropping and fun to watch. There is so much anticipation seeing some of the long bombers crank their balls 350 yards or more. But there are so few that can do that, or even dare to do it at the risk of sending their balls far to the left or right or landing in a bunker or long rough. When all the testing is done, it is designed to produce balls that will have a maximum distance of 317 yards or combined carry distance and roll with a three-yard tolerance. It’s expected the long bombers on the PGA Tour will see a reduction of 13-15 yards, while it will be increasingly lower for elite players, LPGA players and most recreational golfers.

So all this is because a small minority of golfers can drive the ball insanely long compared to the overwhelming majority. And again, is it because they have that talent or there are other factors that have contributed to this? Again, I go back to changes in equipment,

This reminds me of what happened with the belly putter, which was seen to be an advantage for a few that rules were put in place by the USGA and R&A prohibiting a putter from being

anchored to the body. There was a grace period of more than three years for the new rules to go into effect.

R&A Chief Executive Officer Martin Slumbers said in a media release, “We are convinced that this (rollback) decision is one of the key ways of achieving a sustainable future for golf, protecting the integrity of the game and meeting our environmental responsibilities.”

The new rollback rules won’t go into effect on the PGA Tour for several years and even longer for everyone else.

In the meantime, we will marvel at the few golfers, whether they are pros or recreational players, who can hit a tee shot farther and straighter than everyone else. We will see the launch speeds provided by the TV broadcasters and marvel at this.

In a few years when the new rules take place, it will be less about sheer power and more about skill.

David Maher, CEO of Acushnet, manufacturer of Titleist balls, posted a lengthy comment about the change, but what I found interesting was his view that existing golf ball regulations are effective and stand the test of time, and the changes could have a negative impact.

“We are also concerned that the golf ball rollback overly impacts golfers and does not fully reflect the input of those closest to the game…Many important stakeholders do not see distance as a problem the way the governing bodies do, and therefore come to differing conclusions about how to proceed to ensure the best possible outcome for the sport.”


But the decision has been made and all golf manufacturers will have to abide by it.


I just think the concept of faster and further, which in many ways is tied into physics, is what most fans want to see.

Golfers can still grip it and rip it, but it won’t carry as far.


Perry Lefko
Perry Lefko
Perry Lefko is an award-winning writer who has published nine books, three of them bestsellers. He has been involved in sports writing for more than 35 years and has interviewed many superstar athletes. He lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and enjoys watching golf and playing it.

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