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Golf’s governing bodies have today announced a landmark rule change that will impact both professional and recreational golfers across the world.

The R&A and USGA have laid out proposals for a game-changing universal golf ball rollback, that will see distance controlled not just for the game’s elite, but also for regular amateurs.

The rollback will start for professionals in 2028 and amateurs in 2030.

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And the plans mean that almost every popular golf ball on the market today will eventually be non-conforming in the Rules of Golf, with balls that do conform expected to be up to 15 yards shorter at the elite level, and five yards shorter for regular amateurs.

A joint statement from the R&A and USGA read: “The R&A and USGA will update the testing conditions used for golf ball ball conformance under the Overall Distance Standard (ODS), which will take effect from January 2028.

“The decision aims to reduce the impact increased hitting distances have on golf’s long-term sustainability while minimising the impact on the recreational game.

“The longest hitters are expected to see a reduction of 13-15 yards in driving distance. Average professional tour and elite male players are expected to see a reduction of 9-11 yards, with a 5-7 yard reduction for an average LET or LPGA player.

“The change in testing speed is expected to have a minimal distance impact, 5 yards or less, for most recreational golfers.”

Revised golf ball testing conditions will see clubhead speeds rise from 120mph to 125mph, with a a spin rate of 2,200 rpm and a launch angle of 11 degrees.

Martin Slumbers, CEO of The R&A, said the decision was made to protect the long-term future of the sport.

• USGA chief hits back at ‘ambulance chasers’ leading rollback ‘frenzy’

• Rory McIlroy hits out over rollback proposals

“We are convinced that this decision is one of the key ways of achieving a sustainable future for golf, protecting the integrity of the game and meeting our environmental responsibilities,” Slumbers said.

“The measure we are taking has been carefully considered and calibrated while maintaining the ‘one game’ ethos deemed to be so important to the golf industry. Importantly, it also keeps the impact on recreational golfers to an absolute minimum.

“We are acting now because we want to ensure that future generations can enjoy the unique challenge of golf as much as we do.”

Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA added: “Governance is hard. And while thousands will claim that we did too much, there will be just as many who said we didn’t do enough to protect the game long-term.

“But from the very beginning, we’ve been driven to do what is right for the game, without bias. As we’ve said, doing nothing is not an option – and we would be failing in our responsibility to protect the game’s future if we didn’t take appropriate action now.”

In addition to the new ball-testing conditions, the governing bodies are set to expand the testing approach to better detect ‘Driver Creep,’ which can result in drivers exceeding the limits set out in the Equipment Rules.

• Golf ball rollback: Equipment brands respond to rule change

The governing bodies say that “this is a change in the testing methodology for submitted drivers, to identify and proactively address driver models that are within current tolerance levels and have Characteristic Time (CT) values that are more likely to exceed the limit through regular use.”

In addition, it was announced they will continue to monitor drivers and explore possible additional options related to distance.

“We will research the forgiveness of drivers and how they perform with off-centre hits,” the statement read. “This is an ongoing review and we will seek input from and continue to work with the industry, including manufacturers, to identify driver design features that can be regulated as a means to reward centre impact position hits versus mis-hits.”

“The R&A and the USGA are guided by an overarching principle to continue to preserve the fundamental elements of golf – protecting the integrity of golf courses, including their overall length, and ensuring that a variety of skills are needed to be successful.”

The decision comes after a three-year “Notice and Comment” period where the USGA and R&A invited feedback from golf’s relevant stakeholders.

On the environmental reasons behind the rule changes, the missive read: “Longer golf courses require additional resources such as water, the cost of renovating or moving elements like tees and bunkers continues to rise and other long-term impacts have been identified as a result of increased distance.

“The governing bodies believe that if the sport is to enjoy a sustainable long-term future then these economic and environmental impacts have to be kept under control.”

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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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