USGA & R&A Propose Model Local Rule to Curb Distance Gains

The USGA and R&A have proposed a Model Local Rule (MLR) to address the long-term trend of increased hitting distances and the need to curb ever-increasing distance gains.[0] The MLR would give competition organizers the option to require the use of golf balls that are tested under modified launch conditions.[1]

Martin Slumbers, CEO of the R&A, said: “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.”[2]

Per the proposals, a golf ball struck at a laboratory-regulated swing speed of 127mph (increased from 120mph) must not go farther than 320 yards.[3] This change is expected to reduce hitting distance by 14-15 yards on average for the longest hitters with the highest clubhead speeds.[4]

A proposal notice has been sent to golf equipment manufacturers and they, along with industry stakeholders, can provide feedback until August 14, 2023.[5] The proposal, if accepted, would not take effect any sooner than January 2026.[4]

The USGA and the R&A have said that increased hitting distances “threaten golf’s long-term sustainability and undermines the core principle that a broad and balanced set of playing skills” that should “remain the primary determinant of success in golf.”[6]

The PGA Tour has declared that they are still actively working with the USGA and The R&A on various initiatives, one of which is the subject of distance. They will be conducting their own research on the Notice to Manufacturers that was announced today, and will work with the USGA and The R&A, as well as the Tour members and industry partners, to give feedback on the proposal. The Tour is devoted to making sure that any solutions they come up with are advantageous to the sport without having any adverse effects on the Tour, its players, or the fans.[7]

At present, Rory McIlroy is topping the tour with an average drive of 326 yards.[2]

0. “Distance Proposal Includes Model Local Rule for Elite Competitions” USGA, 14 Mar. 2023,

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

2. “Governing bodies propose rolling back golf ball distance for elite players” TSN, 14 Mar. 2023,

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

4. “Governing bodies aiming to introduce ball bifurcation for start of 2026” The Scotsman, 14 Mar. 2023,

5. “Massive Rule Changes Could Be Coming To The Game Of Golf And Players Aren't Sure How To Feel” msnNOW, 14 Mar. 2023,

6. “Ball Rollback Is Coming: Golf's Governing Bodies Lay Out Plans To Reduce Distances” OutKick , 14 Mar. 2023,

7. “PGA TOUR statement on distance proposal” PGA TOUR, 14 Mar. 2023,