Responses from manufacturers, tours and organizations on golf-ball rollback
The USGA and R&A announced on Wednesday plans to dial back how far the golf ball will travel, with the new rules being implemented in 2028 for elite players and 2030 for recreational players.
Here’s a look at how some equipment manufacturers, prominent organizations and tours have responded (will be updated as statements are released):
TaylorMade CEO, David Abeles
As a brand that prioritizes improving product performance for golfers of all skill levels, the decision to proceed with the golf ball rollback is disappointing. While appreciative of the opportunity to have a seat at the table and a voice in the debate, we feel like the rollback is simply disconnected from what golfers believe is best for the game.
Throughout the decision-making process, the USGA provided a platform to express our views, provide new data sources, and engage in candid discussions. In the spirit of collaboration, we acknowledge and respect the rules that form an integral part of our game’s fabric, even when we disagree with them. Looking ahead, as the new golf ball standards come into effect in 2028 for professional golfers and 2030 for amateurs, we assure everyone, at every level of our game, that we will be well-prepared to navigate these changes.
Our commitment to innovation remains unwavering. As with every product we make, we will work tirelessly to find alternative pathways to make them better and we will continually push the performance boundaries within the parameters set by the rules.
Topgolf Callaway Brands president & CEO, Chip Brewer
Topgolf Callaway Brands respects the perspectives of the governing bodies and knows they are acting in what they believe is in the best interest of the game. However, when viewing the same data, we have consistently communicated that we would not have chosen to roll the ball back and we would have preferred bifurcation over a change across the board.
Having said that, we would like to thank and compliment the USGA and R&A for their approach and process in making this decision. Throughout this process, we believe they have been open and thorough in their analysis. They took the time to actively seek input from multiple stakeholders, including us, on multiple occasions and levels. They clearly listened and were thoughtful in their responses; and, when they deemed it appropriate, they modified their approach in ways that benefitted both the game and the industry that supports it. Along these lines, we appreciate the lead time the ruling bodies have provided to conform to the new rule. This will give us time to redesign and implement new products successfully. They also modified the testing protocols to avoid unnecessary testing ambiguity. Perhaps most importantly, they sought to minimize the impact on the end consumer by providing an adequate grace period for the transition in recreational golf. Certainly, all leading ball manufacturers, including Callaway Golf, will bear some added expense associated with redesign and tooling; however, there also likely will be new opportunities to differentiate which we look forward to.
Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of further conversation around this subject; particularly regarding whether this decision is good for the game and if all parties associated with the game will adopt the new regulations. In the end, we believe the game will be best served by us all aligning behind a common set of rules and standards. Therefore, while we will always participate actively in the debate; when a final decision is made, we will align behind it. The game at large has never been stronger, and we look forward to being a major part of growing both on and off course golf moving forward.
Bridgestone Golf president and CEO, Dan Murphy
Acushnet CEO, David Maher
At a time when interest in golf is vibrant (2023 will mark the 6th consecutive year in which the number of golfers has grown), golf courses are broadly adding forward tees, back tees are used for less than 5% of rounds, and the average carry distances for female and male golfers are 147 yards and 215 yards, respectively, it is appropriate and necessary that the merits of any proposed equipment rollback are thoroughly evaluated in pursuit of a high degree of consensus and support around meaningful change.
As we consider today’s R&A and USGA announcement against recent feedback provided by the World Alliance of PGA’s and the PGA Tour, 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. There have been requests to align on what data is used and how it is used to draw conclusions prior to any equipment changes being made. 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.
We support the position of the PGA Tour and others that there are many areas of focus at the elite level, including initiatives related to golf course setup and conditioning, and other competitive variables which, if desired, can limit the effects of distance while also providing the opportunity for a diverse skill set to succeed at the highest level.
It is also Acushnet’s position that existing golf ball regulations are effective and stand the test of time. Golf balls are already tightly controlled for initial velocity, overall distance, size, weight, and uniformity. As a result of existing initial velocity and overall distance regulation, ball speeds have been moderated as was the intent of the rule.
We note that the mean of the fastest 1% of measured clubhead speeds on the PGA Tour was flat from 2019-2021 and declined in 2022 and 2023. The mean of the fastest 5%, 10%, 20% and 50% of measured clubhead speeds has been flat since 2017. We consider that the average course playing length on the 2023 PGA Tour is less than 7,200 yards, just as it has been every year since 2004. We also note that U.S. golf courses built during the period 2010-2020 averaged 6,652 yards - 274 yards shorter than those built between 1990-2010, which is at odds with the notion that equipment has forced courses to expand.
Not all sports have endured from generation to generation the way golf has endured, and the governing bodies deserve credit for having effectively balanced the forces of tradition and technology. This has helped to preserve golf’s unified appeal and values while encouraging innovation that has helped to make the sport more relevant and enjoyable.
We believe that further collaboration and cooperation with the R&A, USGA and other stakeholders is critical prior to moving forward with such a significant equipment regulation change. We continue to advocate for stakeholders to convene to have a meaningful examination of this decision and its consequences, and to discuss alternatives as we look to protect golfers’ enjoyment of the game and the health of golf courses around the world to ensure golf’s promising future.
PGA Tour statement
Throughout the process, we have provided feedback to the USGA and The R&A and are pleased to see a number of our recommendations reflected in this most recent announcement. However, we believe the proposed increase in test clubhead speed to 125 mph is disproportional to the rate of increase we see when analyzing PGA Tour radar data. In conjunction with guidance from the Player Advisory Council, Player Directors and Policy Board, we will continue to share our feedback with the USGA and The R&A.
PGA of America statement
We appreciate that the USGA and R&A ran a collaborative and patient process over the past several years. We are particularly gratified that they heard our concerns regarding the significant operational challenges bifurcation would have presented and are no longer considering a local rule regarding the ball for elite players. We are also pleased that the proposed change to the ball has been delayed until 2028 for elite players and 2030 for recreational golfers. Given the important role our nearly 30,000 PGA of America Golf Professionals play in the recreational game, having more time to adjust to the new rule is helpful.
We remain opposed to any change that may potentially lessen the enjoyment of the game for recreational golfers or diminish the unprecedented momentum the game is enjoying. It appears recreational golfers will see a greater reduction in distance than we would advise. While this decrease has been lessened, we continue to recommend being more moderate on the swing speed change for the golf ball conformance test.
At this time, we continue to have concerns and look forward to continuing this important conversation and finding resolution with all of our golf industry partners.
We value our relationship with the USGA and R&A and respect their role as administrators of the Rules of Golf and the equipment standards of the game. We will continue to share our feedback on this, and any topic that affects our PGA of America Golf Professionals and the countless number of golfers they coach and welcome into the game each year.
DP World Tour statement
“We appreciate the amount of time and effort the game’s governing bodies, The R&A and the USGA, have expended in research in this area. They are golf’s rule makers, and we therefore respect the decision they have arrived at.”
The LPGA is appreciative of the leadership and stewardship of the USGA and The R&A on a variety of topics within the game, including today’s announcement regarding the anticipated changes to the rules governing distance. While we do not feel there is a distance issue in the women’s game, we recognize the need for the USGA and the R&A to address complex challenges and ensure the game’s continued long-term growth, success and sustainability.
We support the USGA and R&A’s decision to eliminate their previous proposal for implementation of a Model Local Rule related to the golf ball as we believe a unified approach to the game is important for the continued growth of women’s golf. Consistency across the game provides the best opportunity for the LPGA to showcase the enormous talent of our athletes and helps ensure the LPGA will continue to be a leader in elevating, inspiring, and advancing girls and women as we have been for more than 73 years.
We will continue to study the data the USGA and The R&A have shared and the effect these proposed changes will have on the women’s recreational, junior, amateur and professional game in 2028 and 2030; and we will continue to advocate for the advancement of the women’s game at every level.