USGA & R&A Propose Model Local Rule to Control Golf Ball Distance in Elite Competitions

The USGA and R&A have proposed a Model Local Rule (MLR) that would require manufacturers to test golf balls at a laboratory-controlled swing speed of 127mph, which would not travel more than 320 yards.[0] This rule is intended for use only in elite competitions and the governing bodies claim it will have no impact on recreational golf.[1] The proposed adoption would not take effect until at least January 2026.[2]

Manufacturers and other stakeholders in golf have been given until Aug. 14, 2023 to provide feedback.[3] The USGA and R&A state that this proposed rule change is needed in order to protect the long-term integrity of the sport.[4] “It’s our responsibility as governing bodies to propose change,” said Martin Slumbers, CEO of the R&A. “Golf has become far more athletic, and technology has improved substantially, and it is the future impact that is the most pressing concern to the USGA and the R&A.”[4]

However, some industry stakeholders are not convinced that this proposed rule change is necessary. “Golf is an aspirational sport, and we believe at its very best when equipment and playing regulations are unified,” said David Maher, President and Chief Executive Officer, Acushnet Company.[5] In our opinion, the current regulations regarding golf ball Overall Distance and Initial Velocity are very effective.[6] Over the past 20 years, the average playing length of courses on the PGA Tour has only grown by less than 100 yards, while the average score has stayed nearly the same.[2] In 2022, the average PGA Tour clubhead speed was 114.6 mph, significantly lower than the current speed of 120 mph and the proposed 127 mph testing conditions.[7] In a lot of ways, the idea of splitting a golf ball into two is a solution without a specific issue to be solved.

0. “Golf world reacts as massive new rule could change the entire game” msnNOW, 14 Mar. 2023,

1. “R&A and USGA propose rule to bring in option of distance-reducing ball” The Guardian, 14 Mar. 2023,

2. “ball roll back: R&A and USGA update bifurcation plans” National Club Golfer, 14 Mar. 2023,

3. “A PGA Tour player's response to the USGA's new golf ball proposal” GolfWRX, 14 Mar. 2023,

4. “USGA, R&A propose plan to roll back golf ball for elite players” ESPN, 14 Mar. 2023,

5. “USGA, R&A propose shorter-flying ball at ‘elite male level’” Global Golf Post, 14 Mar. 2023,

6. “Bifurcation ‘detrimental': Stakeholders respond to USGA-R&A proposed golf ball rollback” Yahoo Sports, 14 Mar. 2023,

7. “R&A proposes change to reduce ball distance at Open” BBC, 14 Mar. 2023,