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Rory McIlroy has hit out at the R&A and USGA over their proposals to limit the distance players can hit the ball.

On Tuesday, golf’s governing bodies went public with planned changes to their equipment rules and testing standards, as well as other “areas of interest”, all of which are designed to bring about shorter hitting distances.

The news came almost a year to the day after the two organisations unveiled their Distance Insights Project – an undertaking that, according to McIlroy, has been “a huge waste of time and money”.

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McIlroy shared his views in a press conference ahead of this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.

As the presser wrapped up, the Northern Irishman expressed his surprise that he hadn’t been asked about the equipment changes. When the moderator offered to open the floor back up to questions, McIlroy said that “he would be here all day for that” before laying waste to the R&A and USGA’s proposals.

“They are looking at the game through such a tiny little lens, that what they’re trying to do is change something that pertains to 0.1% of the golfing community,” he said. “99.9% of the people this play this game play for enjoyment, for entertainment. They don’t need to be told what ball or clubs to use.”

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He went on: “We have to make the game as easy and approachable as possible for the majority of golfers. Honestly, I think this distance insight report has been a huge waste of time and money, because that money that it’s cost to do this report could have been way better distributed to getting people into the game, introducing young kids to the game, introducing minorities to the game.

“I heard Mike Davis [USGA CEO] say something about trying to protect the game for the next hundred years.

“This isn’t how you do it. This is so small and inconsequential compared to the other things happening in the game. It’s the grassroots. It’s getting more people engaged in golf. That’s where they should be spending their money, not spending it on the distance insight report.”

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Asked if he would be open to the idea of bifurcation – one set of rules for professional golfers and a different set for amateurs – McIlroy was unequivocal with his response.

“I would be all for that,” he said. “If they want to try to make the game more difficult for us or try to incorporate more skill to the game, yeah, I would be all for that, because I think it only benefits the better player, which I feel like I am.

“I think maybe they said that in terms of local rules and maybe some sort of bifurcation, but we are such a tiny portion of golf. Golf is way bigger than the professional game. It’s the other stuff that really matters, and that’s the stuff they need to concentrate on.”


author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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