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Titleist has responded to the golf ball rollback announcement, saying that the changes “do not fully reflect the input of those closest to the game”.
Acushnet, the company that owns Titleist, issued a statement through its CEO David Maher that makes several arguments against the plans that will see the very best in the game lose up to 15 yards off their drives.
It says many stakeholders do not see distance as a problem, the way the governing bodies do, and disagree on the best possible outcomes for the game of golf.
It adds that existing regulations around the golf ball are effective and that balls are already tightly controlled in several different facets.
As well as that, Titleist argues golf courses are, in fact, getting shorter, and that between 2010 and 2020 the average length of courses built in the USA averaged 6,652 yards – 274 yards shorter than those built between 1990 and 2010. This is at odds, the creator of the Pro V1 says, with the notion that courses are getting longer to battle distance gains.
Similarly, it says that the average length of courses on the PGA Tour is less than 7,200 yards, which is a stat that has remained the same since 2004.
It also says the mean of the fastest one percent of measured clubhead speeds on the PGA Tour didn’t change from 2019 to 2021, and actually decreased in 2022 and 2023.
Finally, Titleist says it believes further collaboration with golf’s governing bodies and other stakeholders is required before this change comes into place in 2028 for professional golfers.
From a manufacturer’s perspective, Callaway, TaylorMade and Bridgestone have also responded. But Titleist’s statement, which you can read in full below, is the strongest yet on the rollback.
Bridgestone, who make the ball that Tiger Woods plays, says although it hoped new rules wouldn’t impact recreational players, it doesn’t feel further commentary is productive.
Callaway stress it would have preferred bifurcation, rather than the blanket approach that is set to be taken, while TaylorMade has described the decision as disappointing, saying the decision is disconnected from what golfers would like to see.
Titleist golf ball rollback statement in full
At a time when interest in golf is vibrant (2023 will mark the 6th consecutive year in which the number of golfers has grown), golf courses are broadly adding forward tees, back tees are used for less than 5% of rounds, and the average carry distances for female and male golfers are 147 yards and 215 yards, respectively, it is appropriate and necessary that the merits of any proposed equipment rollback are thoroughly evaluated in pursuit of a high degree of consensus and support around meaningful change.
As we consider today’s R&A and USGA announcement against recent feedback provided by the World Alliance of PGA’s and the PGA TOUR, we are also concerned that the golf ball rollback overly impacts golfers and does not fully reflect the input of those closest to the game. There have been requests to align on what data is used and how it is used to draw conclusions prior to any equipment changes being made. Many important stakeholders do not see distance as a problem the way the governing bodies do, and therefore come to differing conclusions about how to proceed to ensure the best possible outcome for the sport.
We support the position of the PGA TOUR and others that there are many areas of focus at the elite level, including initiatives related to golf course setup and conditioning, and other competitive variables which, if desired, can limit the effects of distance while also providing the opportunity for a diverse skill set to succeed at the highest level.
It is also Acushnet’s position that existing golf ball regulations are effective and stand the test of time. Golf balls are already tightly controlled for initial velocity, overall distance, size, weight, and uniformity. As a result of existing initial velocity and overall distance regulation, ball speeds have been moderated as was the intent of the rule.
We note that the mean of the fastest 1% of measured clubhead speeds on the PGA TOUR was flat from 2019-2021 and declined in 2022 and 2023. The mean of the fastest 5%, 10%, 20% and 50% of measured clubhead speeds has been flat since 2017. We consider that the average course playing length on the 2023 PGA TOUR is less than 7,200 yards, just as it has been every year since 2004. We also note that U.S. golf courses built during the period 2010-2020 averaged 6,652 yards – 274 yards shorter than those built between 1990-2010, which is at odds with the notion that equipment has forced courses to expand.
Not all sports have endured from generation to generation the way golf has endured, and the governing bodies deserve credit for having effectively balanced the forces of tradition and technology. This has helped to preserve golf’s unified appeal and values while encouraging innovation that has helped to make the sport more relevant and enjoyable.
We believe that further collaboration and cooperation with the R&A, USGA and other stakeholders is critical prior to moving forward with such a significant equipment regulation change. We continue to advocate for stakeholders to convene to have a meaningful examination of this decision and its consequences, and to discuss alternatives as we look to protect golfers’ enjoyment of the game and the health of golf courses around the world to ensure golf’s promising future.
– Acushnet CEO David Maher
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