USGA and R&A Propose Model Local Rule to Roll Back Golf Ball for Elite Players
The USGA and R&A have proposed a Model Local Rule (MLR) for 2026 that would roll back the golf ball for elite players, limiting their distance and separating them from recreational golfers in terms of the equipment they use. The proposal has generated mixed reactions from industry stakeholders, prompting a response from the PGA Tour and reactions from some of the world’s top golfers.
The MLR would bifurcate the rules of golf, allowing the vast majority of golfers to continue using the golf balls they currently play while requiring players in elite competitions to play a different ball designed to fly a shorter distance. The ball struck at a laboratory-controlled swing speed of 127mph must not travel more than 320 yards, significantly reducing driving distances at top events.
USGA CEO Mike Whan released a statement highlighting the need for a change: “Hitting distances at the elite level of the game have consistently increased over the past 20, 40, and 60 years. It’s 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. The MLR we are proposing is simple to implement, forward-looking and does so without any impact on the recreational game. We are taking the next steps in this process, guided first and foremost by doing what’s right by the entire game.”
The PGA Tour responded to the announcement by conducting its own analysis of the proposal and collaborating with the USGA and the R&A, along with its membership and industry partners, to evaluate and provide feedback on the plan.
Golfer Justin Thomas had a different opinion on the proposal, saying: “You’re trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s so bad for the game of golf – some of the great things to me is the fact that you can play the exact same golf ball that I play. I mean, that’s cool.” He added: “It’s not about rolling golf balls back; it’s about making golf courses more difficult. I think it’s the most unimaginative, uninspiring, game-cutting thing you could do.
0. “Justin Thomas criticises plans to restrict how far golf balls fly at future elite tournaments” BBC, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/sport/golf/64969882
1. “Justin Thomas blasts USGA, R&A over new golf ball proposal” USA TODAY, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/golf/2023/03/16/justin-thomas-blasts-usga-r-a-over-new-golf-ball-proposal/11483860002
2. “Pro golfers up in arms over proposed ball rollback for elite competitions” Marca English, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.marca.com/en/golf/2023/03/15/641240f722601d1e288b458b.html
3. “Paige Spiranac Wants Shorter Pants, Not Golf Balls” OutKick , 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.outkick.com/paige-spiranac-wants-shorter-pants-not-golf-balls/