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Commentary: USGA Proposes Rollback Rule

By Joseph Luff

General Business Student

USGA logo Courtesy of Wikimedia

Since when does the word rollback equal growth in anything? On March 14, the USGA announced its proposal to rollback the golf ball for professional players on the PGA Tour. Known as the Model Local Rule, the proposed rule will limit how far a golf ball can travel in the highest level tournaments. Are they trying to grow the game, or go backwards? Yeah, I don’t get it either. 

Part of the entertainment value for golf fans is watching their favorite golfer blast the ball 330 yards or more. Part of the fun for an amateur golfer is to practice hard enough and get strong enough to hit the ball as far as their favorite golfer. To play the same golf balls, use the same clubs, play the same courses as their golf heroes. 

PGA pro Keegan Bradley told Sirius XM’s PGA Tour Radio, “It’s too extreme. It creates a huge void between players. One of the coolest things about golf is you can come out and play with a PGA Tour player with a 30 handicap and we are playing the same sport. I can’t go play pro football with Tom Brady with pads on Sunday. I’ll get killed.” Spot on Keegan. 

What is actually being proposed here is a complete remake of the golf balls played only by professional golfers in professional tournaments. This would not affect recreational golfers, thus making it impossible for golfers to try and emulate their favorite player. How could this be good for the game? How is this considered growth? 

The rule, if implemented, would roll the ball back 15-yards for the games longest hitters. What would also be rolled back would be progress. I can’t find any redeeming value in making this change, which would require manufacturers of golf balls to effectively go back to the drawing board and create a golf ball that would limit the distance traveled when struck at a robot controlled swing speed of 127 mph – up from 120 mph – to no-longer-than 320 yards. 

As a golf enthusiast, recreational player and die-hard fan I think this is absurd on so many levels. The USGA wants to change the rules for professionals and limit the long hitters with the massive fan appeal. They want to take away the fun of the game for the amateur and recreational golfers who strive to get strong enough to hit it like their favorite pro player. To what end? What is the purpose?

In a word, bifurcation. This will create a set of rules for professionals and top amateurs that’s different from the rest of the golf world. I’m pretty sure most golfers world would agree there is no reason for bifurcation in the game. Changing rules to keep up with the progress the game of golf has seen instead of taking the game backwards seems like a more reasonable approach to solving a problem that doesn’t exist. 

Let’s talk about the impact on the manufacturers of golf balls. If this proposed rule becomes an actual rule, all current golf balls would be considered non-conforming for professional competitions. The cost to manufacturers would be astronomical in research and development alone to make a compliant golf ball for use by players who are not behind this foolishness in the first place. This makes absolutely no sense at all! 

The majority of professional players are against this proposed rule. Justin Thomas asked, “are they going to put the NBA hoop at 13 feet because people can jump higher now.” Great analogy Justin, couldn’t agree more. 

I have looked at this every which way and I just cannot find any benefit to this, from any perspective or from any point of view. It isn’t good for the players, the manufacturers or the game overall. I think it takes one of the greatest sports in the world and ruins it for everyone involved by setting it back almost 30 years. What’s next, golf carts powered by Fred’s two feet?


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Adam Brown
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