USGA & R&A Propose Model Local Rule to Address Increasing Hitting Distances in Golf
The USGA and R&A have proposed a Model Local Rule (MLR) that would require golf balls tested under modified launch conditions to address the increasing hitting distances in golf. Under the proposed rule, balls struck at a laboratory-controlled swing speed of 127mph must not travel more than 320 yards. This change is expected to reduce hitting distance by 14-15 yards on average for the longest hitters with the highest clubhead speeds.
Manufacturers and golf stakeholders can provide feedback on the proposed changes until August 14, 2023. If adopted, the proposal would take effect on January 1, 2026 and would only be used for elite competitions, with no impact on recreational golf.
“At the core of our proposal is a desire to minimise the impact on a flourishing recreational game. We believe the proposed Model Local Rule will help us move forward in a way that protects the inherent qualities of the sport and reduces the pressure to lengthen courses. 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.” said Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA.
The PGA Tour has also weighed in on the proposed rule, stating: “We continue to work closely with the USGA and the R&A on a range of initiatives, including the topic of distance. Regarding the Notice to Manufacturers announced today, we will continue our own extensive independent analysis of the topic and will collaborate with the USGA and the R&A, along with our membership and industry partners, to evaluate and provide feedback on this proposal. The Tour remains committed to ensuring any future solutions identified benefit the game as a whole, without negatively impacting the Tour, its players or our fans’ enjoyment of our sport.”
Driving distance on the PGA Tour has increased significantly over the past 25 years, with Rory McIlroy currently leading the tour with an average distance of 326 yards. John Daly ended the season with an average drive distance of 301 yards. The MLR is intended to address the issue of courses being overpowered by the biggest hitters, as well as preserving the unique challenge and appeal of the sport.
With feedback from manufacturers and golf stakeholders due by August 14, 2023, the governing bodies could adopt the rule as soon as January 1, 2026.
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