Early reports were confirmed on Wednesday morning by the United States Golf Association and the R&A that a golf ball rollback is just a few years away.
Starting in 2028, golf’s governing bodies will change how golf balls will be tested for conformity to reduce the effects of distance in the sport (to learn how balls are tested, click here).
Nearly every golf ball being sold today – including the Titleist Pro V1, Callaway Chrome Soft, TaylorMade TP5, Bridgestone Tour B and Srixon Z-Star – would go too far and fail the new test. Balls that had previously been legal but failed the new test will be removed from the Conforming Ball list, making them illegal for official play starting Jan. 1, 2028.
The news produced quite a reaction from golf equipment companies, professional tours and their players. Here’s what they had to say about the USGA and R&A’s news of a golf ball rollback.
“The LPGA is appreciative of the leadership and stewardship of the USGA and The R&A on a variety of topics within the game, including today’s announcement regarding the anticipated changes to the rules governing distance. While we do not feel there is a distance issue in the women’s game, we recognize the need for the USGA and the R&A to address complex challenges and ensure the game’s continued long-term growth, success and sustainability.”
“We support the USGA and R&A’s decision to eliminate their previous proposal for implementation of a Model Local Rule related to the golf ball as we believe a unified approach to the game is important for the continued growth of women’s golf. Consistency across the game provides the best opportunity for the LPGA to showcase the enormous talent of our athletes and helps ensure the LPGA will continue to be a leader in elevating, inspiring, and advancing girls and women as we have been for more than 73 years.”
“We will continue to study the data the USGA and The R&A have shared and the effect these proposed changes will have on the women’s recreational, junior, amateur and professional game in 2028 and 2030; and we will continue to advocate for the advancement of the women’s game at every level.”
TaylorMade Golf CEO David Abeles
“As a brand that prioritizes improving product performance for golfers of all skill levels, the decision to proceed with the golf ball rollback is disappointing. While appreciative of the opportunity to have a seat at the table and a voice in the debate, we feel like the rollback is simply disconnected from what golfers believe is best for the game.
“Throughout the decision-making process, the USGA provided a platform to express our views, provide new data sources, and engage in candid discussions. In the spirit of collaboration, we acknowledge and respect the rules that form an integral part of our game’s fabric, even when we disagree with them. Looking ahead, as the new golf ball standards come into effect in 2028 for professional golfers and 2030 for amateurs, we assure everyone, at every level of our game, that we will be well-prepared to navigate these changes.
“Our commitment to innovation remains unwavering. As with every product we make, we will work tirelessly to find alternative pathways to make them better and we will continually push the performance boundaries within the parameters set by the rules.”
“I’ve spoken about it in the past as far as rolling back or different stuff not being the best option, and I think the rollback or how things have been talked about or the rumors that were going around from last week don’t fully explain it quite well,” Fowler said to Golf Channel ahead of the Grant Thronton Invitational. “It’s just kind of modernizing the ball test going from kind of that 127 mph speed to 125 mph which is not that big of a change and I think more along the lines of what a lot of guys have talked about or the Tour and whatnot trying to somewhat cap or freeze where we are.”
“So I think with this process, and over the course of what is it the next five-ish years it’ll allow kind of the time for that transition for everyone to kind of get on board and get stuff ready for that. By that time, I don’t think there’s going to be as big of a rollback as people would call it and more of like I talked about a freezing of where we are. Ultimately, we don’t want the game to continue to get faster and longer. It’s in a really good spot and I think we’ve seen that through the growth over COVID and the amount of people that are in and playing golf, so I think calling it a bit more of a freeze or a cap versus a rollback is, from the way I understand it, a little bit more of a better description than the rollback. I don’t look at it as we’re necessarily going quite that far backwards.”
Bridgestone Golf President and CEO Dan Murphy
PGA of America
“We appreciate that the USGA and R&A ran a collaborative and patient process over the past several years. We are particularly gratified that they heard our concerns regarding the significant operational challenges bifurcation would have presented and are no longer considering a local rule regarding the ball for elite players. We are also pleased that the proposed change to the ball has been delayed until 2028 for elite players and 2030 for recreational golfers. Given the important role our nearly 30,000 PGA of America Golf Professionals play in the recreational game, having more time to adjust to the new rule is helpful.”
“We remain opposed to any change that may potentially lessen the enjoyment of the game for recreational golfers or diminish the unprecedented momentum the game is enjoying. It appears recreational golfers will see a greater reduction in distance than we would advise. While this decrease has been lessened, we continue to recommend being more moderate on the swing speed change for the golf ball conformance test.”
“At this time, we continue to have concerns and look forward to continuing this important conversation and finding resolution with all of our golf industry partners.”
“We value our relationship with the USGA and R&A and respect their role as administrators of the Rules of Golf and the equipment standards of the game. We will continue to share our feedback on this, and any topic that affects our PGA of America Golf Professionals and the countless number of golfers they coach and welcome into the game each year.”
“I think it was expected. I’ve been pretty consistent for the last decade of my stance on the golf ball and blaming the golf ball for the increase in distance,” Horschel said to Golf Channel ahead of the Grant Thronton Invitational. “I think if we took the golf ball from 2005 to the golf ball now I don’t think it goes that much further. Maybe it’s a mile, two miles per hour faster. I’ve been pretty consistent and that we shouldn’t punish players for skill set that they have.”
“My fix to the situation is that the one skill set that has been lost with the advances in technology that we’ve all reaped the benefits of, amateurs and professional, is the ability to hit the center of the sweet spot has been diminished over time because the clubs are so much more technically advanced. The sweet spots are bigger and everything and so you don’t have to be as precise to hit the sweet spot which means if you’re a little off, the ball goes straighter. So I thought if there was a way we could, maybe at least with a driver, reduce the size of the driver, reduce the center of the sweet spot, would it make the ball go shorter, make guys hit it shorter? I’m not sure but I think what you would see is that the ball would go more offline, the mishits would be punished more and that’s been my my solution to the fix, but I think we all knew what was coming and we’ll see how it all plays out.”
“I think I was a little surprised because I don’t think that courses for us play fairly short in my opinion,” Vu said to Golf Channel ahead of the Grant Thornton Invitational. “I mean, you can tell the majors are pretty difficult and not only that even some of our regular season events too, so I wasn’t really entirely ready, but it’s okay. I heard that it’s in effect in 2028 and I guess we’ll all cross that bridge when we get there.”
“Honestly, it’s quite surprising that the women are kind of a part of this. We don’t hit it quite as far as the men, so for us it’d be like a simple solution, we would just play a little further back and make it a little tougher on us distance-wise that way,” Khang said ahead to Golf Channel ahead of the Grant Thornton Invitational. “It’s interesting to see the announcement come out and see how the USGA is gonna handle it. I know there’s probably some mixed feedback from both tours, but for the most part, I’m sure the USGA is going to do what they think is in the best interest for the game of golf. It definitely was a surprise hearing it come out for the woman as well.”
Topgolf Callaway Brands President and CEO Chip Brewer
“Topgolf Callaway Brands respects the perspectives of the governing bodies and knows they are acting in what they believe is in the best interest of the game. However, when viewing the same data, we have consistently communicated that we would not have chosen to roll the ball back and we would have preferred bifurcation over a change across the board.”
“Having said that, we would like to thank and compliment the USGA and R&A for their approach and process in making this decision. Throughout this process, we believe they have been open and thorough in their analysis. They took the time to actively seek input from multiple stakeholders, including us, on multiple occasions and levels. They clearly listened and were thoughtful in their responses; and, when they deemed it appropriate, they modified their approach in ways that benefitted both the game and the industry that supports it. Along these lines, we appreciate the lead time the ruling bodies have provided to conform to the new rule. This will give us time to redesign and implement new products successfully. They also modified the testing protocols to avoid unnecessary testing ambiguity. Perhaps most importantly, they sought to minimize the impact on the end consumer by providing an adequate grace period for the transition in recreational golf. Certainly, all leading ball manufacturers, including Callaway Golf, will bear some added expense associated with redesign and tooling; however, there also likely will be new opportunities to differentiate which we look forward to.”
“Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of further conversation around this subject; particularly regarding whether this decision is good for the game and if all parties associated with the game will adopt the new regulations. In the end, we believe the game will be best served by us all aligning behind a common set of rules and standards. Therefore, while we will always participate actively in the debate; when a final decision is made, we will align behind it. The game at large has never been stronger, and we look forward to being a major part of growing both on and off course golf moving forward.”