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A decision on whether the golf ball will be rolled back is coming before the end of the year, in a development that will dramatically impact the world of golf.

In an interview with John Huggan of Golf Digest, Martin Slumbers, CEO of the R&A, revealed that golf’s governing bodies have made a decision about whether or not golfers will soon be playing under a different set of rules when it comes to equipment.

That decision, Slumbers said, will be public knowledge before the end of 2023.

Back in March, the R&A and USGA announced they would be bringing in a Model Local Rule, essentially limiting the speed that a golf ball can travel at.

That announcement was met with derision from some quarters, including professionals and equipment manufacturers, with Justin Thomas exclaiming in a rant that a golf ball rollback would be “bad for the game of golf.”

Now, however, Slumbers has cast doubt over whether golf is set for two sets of rules for amateurs and pros, or a complete overhaul of the rules for everyone.

• PGA Tour have say on rollback debate

• What is the proposed Model Local Rule?

The R&A chief explained that doing nothing is “not an option,” but that bifurcation or “changing the whole game,” are the potential ways to tackle the issue.

“The game was not happy with the Model Local Rule,” Slumbers explained.

“There was a view that it would create a bifurcated game at the elite level. It was a very strong pushback against that. The PGA Tour was very public about it. So was the PGA of America. A number of players spoke out. And our job is to listen.

“But our responsibility is to the long-term future of the game. Along with the USGA, the R&A is a custodian of the game.

“We’re responsible for our period of time, something that has gone on for hundreds of years and will go on for hundreds more. So, we are listening. And we have made a decision about what we are going to do. We’re working that through at the moment and will make it public before the end of the year.

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“Unequivocally, the ball is going further than it did 15 years ago. And I see no reason to doubt it will not continue to do so. I’ve long been of this view. And for a long time, I had to keep it private. But once we published our distance report at the start of this process, I was very clear that, for the good of the game, we need to address this issue.

“From that point of view and from an environmental point of view, we have to do something.

“We have been very clear, as has Mike Whan at the USGA. There are only three options: We can bifurcate; you change the whole game; or you do nothing. And doing nothing is not an option. We stand by that.”

It’s not clear when exactly we can expect an announcement on this, but it’s a topic that is sure to to send shockwaves around the golf world.


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Lewis Fraser As bunkered’s Performance Editor, Lewis oversees the content that’s designed to make you a better player. From the latest gear to tuition, nutrition, strategy and more, he’s the man. A graduate of the University of Stirling, Lewis joined bunkered in 2021. Formerly a caddie at Castle Stuart Golf Links, he is a member of Bathgate Golf Club where he plays off four.

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