The R&A is expected this week to propose rolling-back the ball in the long-distance saga – but it could still be years before a decision is reached.
The Telegraph Sport has learned that the impending announcement is thought to center around “a discussion document” about reining in the ball and essentially introducing restrictions that would eventually reduce travel distance even in optimal conditions.
Along with the US Golf Association, the St. Andrews governing body announced they were conducting a joint report and their “Distance Insight Project” three years ago concluded that professionals of ever-increasing length are taking the issue seriously. . Killing it is “detrimental to the game”.
Since then, the USGA and R&A have been consulting with industry about the problem which they have declared “undermines the core principle that golf should require a wide range of skills to be successful”.
This is just one concern in a debate that has been going on for decades. Classic courses are in danger of becoming obsolete as players such as Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm routinely launch drives in excess of 350-yards, reducing the test, in some cases, to drive, pitch and putt.
Longer courses are required, resulting in not only the nature of the layout sometimes being beyond recognition and then a clear increase in maintenance costs, as well as increased environmental concerns with the need for additional water and chemicals. Even in club competitions rounds are inevitably taking longer to compete.
This week, 12 months ago, the R&A and the USGA issued an update that essentially alerted equipment manufacturers to the fact that they should investigate the potential effects on distance of increasing ball-test speed. so as to reflect the clubhead speeds achieved by today’s mass. Hitters is another “key area of focus” as well as a specification driver.
However, after a six-month consultation period in which manufacturers have voiced objections and shared ideas, Telegraph Sport has learned the R&A and USGA – despite limiting shafts to a maximum of 46ins last year – have mainly Seems focused on reducing and not making drastic rule changes on clubs, which could affect recreational golfers.
“We think we can make changes to the golf ball that may affect the longest hitters but have really minimal effect on average drive distance for recreational golfers,” USGA chief administration officer Thomas Pagel said in 2022. Said.
This would allow the Jacquets to continue playing under the same rules as the experts, but it may be easier for the powers-that-be to introduce the regulation as “model local rules” that tours and tournaments can use. If they do so choose.
The news will inevitably receive a mixed reception, ranging in intensity from relief to anger, and certainly in a time of ongoing uproar.
Before the advent of LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded rebel circuit that split the elite men’s game in two, it was a burning topic in golf, with the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods standing on different sides of Rory McIlroy’s argument. , many modern professionals and even the PGA Tour.
In some respects, the LIV controversy has given officials breathing room, although Nicklaus, for one, has been distraught over the failure to act swiftly.
“I don’t know what they’re doing,” said the 18-time major champion. “They are slow to respond to this issue. They say they put a line in the sand but that line in the sand gets wider and wider. They keep crossing it. For all concerned, the return of the golf ball Very important to the game of golf to bring a lot of things back into perspective. I imagine something will be done, how long will it take them to research the problem?
In fairness to the R&A and the USGA, this has the potential to become a legal minefield, with manufacturers’ lawyers already on the case and the last thing the game needs at this point is to open another front in a civil war.
“This is only a discussion document and it will still take years to resolve,” said an insider. “The word is that 2026 could be the date that anything finally goes into effect.”