The PGA Tour released a statement in response to Tuesday’s announcement from the USGA and R&A about the proposal to roll back the golf ball for elite golfers come 2026.
The game’s governing bodies plan to reduce distance at elite levels by altering the tests that must be passed for any ball to be deemed conforming to the rules. By increasing robotic testing speeds and altering other test parameters, the governing bodies effectively will require a slower, shorter golf ball to comply with the Model Local Rule. It will then be up to any event or tour to adopt the Model Local Rule.
The PGA Tour’s response states: “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.”
Manufacturers and golf stakeholders can provide feedback on the proposed changes until Aug. 14, 2023. If adopted, the proposal would take effect on Jan 1, 2026.
Acushnet, which produces Titleist and FootJoy equipment, also released a statement, saying this bifurcation would divide golf between elite and recreational play, add confusion and break the linkage that is part of the game’s enduring fabric.
“Playing by a unified set of rules is an essential part of the game’s allure, contributes to its global understanding and appeal, and eliminates the inconsistency and instability that would come from multiple sets of equipment standards,” said David Maher, president and CEO of Acushnet. “Unification is a powerfully positive force in the game, and we believe that equipment bifurcation would be detrimental to golf’s long-term well-being. As a result, we will actively participate in this conversation with the governing bodies, worldwide professional tours, PGA Professional organizations, amateur associations and federations, and golfers, in an effort to contribute to the continued enjoyment and growth of the game.”
If the testing changes are approved, equipment makers will need to make balls for elite players that meet one set of testing standards and make different balls that meet the current set of testing standards for club players.
Although these proposed changes aren’t yet approved, they could signal a large shift in the way professional golf is played and viewed.