On Tuesday, March 14, the USGA and R&A formally announced a proposal to introduce a Model Local Rule (MLR) option for “elite competitions.” The proposal was sent to device manufacturers yesterday (Monday), and they have until August 14, 2023 to comment.
You can read the full proposal sent to the manufacturers Here.
Specifically, the USGA and R&A note the following in the proposal:
“For this proposed MLR in particular, golf balls will be tested for compliance with the Overall Distance Standard (ODS) upper limit of 317 yards (plus 3 yards tolerance) under modified Actual Launch Conditions (ALC), namely a club head speed of 127 mph and ALC values of 11 degrees and 37 revolutions per second (2220 rpm). Within the current equipment rules, all other golf balls will continue to be rated at the existing ALC values: 120 mph clubhead speed, 10 degrees and 42 revolutions per second (2520 rpm). The current ODS limit of 317 yards (plus 3 yards tolerance) remains unchanged.”
The USGA and R&A also said in a press release:
“The MLR is intended for use in elite competition only and, if adopted, will have no impact on recreational golf… The Overall Distance Standard was established in 1976 as a ball test intended to reflect the maximum potential shot distance of today’s longest playing players Game. There is a direct correlation between clubhead speed and shot distance (further research has been published in the Distance Insights reports). In the last 20 years, shot distance has increased by about a meter per year on average. The modified experimental setup in The proposed MLR is expected to reduce shot distance by an average of 14-15 yards for the longest clubs with the fastest clubhead speeds.”
The proposal also states that the new local golf ball rule “Available for implementation on January 1, 2026 (earliest).”
Addressing growing concerns about driver compliance, particularly around distance and used drivers, USGA and R&A said: “While they do not seek a reduction in the CT limit, the USGA and The R&A are concerned that many of today’s drivers Values of exhibit CT creep – meaning that their CT values are adequate at the time of manufacture/first use, but may become non-compliant after repeated use, particularly at the highest levels of competition. This is against the purpose and intent of the equipment rules. Therefore, the USGA and The R&A are conducting an extensive investigation into this phenomenon. Further details on this matter will be announced in due course.”
In fact, the USGA and R&A propose a bifurcation in relation to the golf ball. Pros (and elite amateur competition) would play with a golf ball that flies shorter under the new testing requirements, while amateurs would use a golf ball with fewer restrictions.
Over the coming days, weeks and months, golfers from all walks of life will ask questions and offer their opinions, and equipment companies will provide feedback to the governing bodies. Nothing is certain at this point and the rules have not changed. We will probably not know for sure what decision has been made until after August 14 at the earliest.
To see where a PGA Tour player currently stands in the debate, GolfWRX asked Tour player Doug Ghim for his opinion. Here’s what he had to say about the new proposal:
“I don’t care a bit. I think it makes sense that they try. I think when it comes to the argument that the distance between the longest man and the shortest man will still be the same, that’s not entirely true because it’s exponential. I think the guys who hit it the furthest will be affected the most and the guys who don’t hit it as far because they don’t spin it that often won’t be affected as much. Because I assume if they roll the ball back it spins more but at the end of the day everyone is really good. They’ve changed the groove rule on the irons and the boys seem to be hitting from the rough closer than ever.
“At the end of the day, if you’re a really good player, you’re going to figure it out, so I don’t see it becoming a really big deal. I’m sure the racquet makers won’t be happy and the ball makers won’t be happy, but I have a feeling it won’t be as big a deal as people think. The same guys will still play well. It’s to protect the golf courses that we already have. Obviously land is becoming scarcer these days and water is also becoming scarcer. I think there is no more room to expand courses so they need to roll the ball back.”
But what about tightening the fairways, growing the rough, pinching the fairways 300+ yards and increasing green speed? Doesn’t that effectively limit the need to extend courses and give Tour players all the challenges they need?
Ghim continued, “I understand that argument and I think the same thing, but when it comes down to it, if a player decides not to use a driver and he uses a 3-wood instead, it’s like being in the NBA play without being able to dunk the ball. Ultimately, it’s a product that we want to sell to people. And the same with the designated events.
“It’s all about the product and what the fans want to see. And fans don’t want to see Rory hit a 4-iron off the last tee and still be able to hit a 7-iron into the green and win a tournament. They want to force guys to hit drivers. Ultimately, it makes the product more convincing and makes it easier for club manufacturers to market their drivers. When I think about certain tournaments, like DJ’s win at Oakmont, the last time he drove was to win the tournament and I’m sure that’s sold a lot of TaylorMade drivers. At the end of the day I get it…I asked Jim Furyk the same question when we played a practice round at Shinnecock in 2018 and he said nobody wants to see someone hit the 5 iron off the tee every time because it’s fair not an appealing product.”
Everyday amateur golfers, let me ask you this question: when you first serve with your buddies in 2026 after the new rules went into effect, would you use the shorter golf balls that the pros play with, or would you use the longer golf balls that just were made for amateurs? Let us know in the comments.