Golf tries to protect itself from the big hitters

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Golf tries to protect itself from the big hitters

Knock out the big hitters. This is what the British R&A and the American USGA, the two organizations that govern golf worldwide, are trying to impose with their new proposal to modify the regulations, a change in the type of balls used that in principle would only affect the professional game, and not to the amateur sphere.

They are both concerned about the increase in average distances off the tee and the speeds at which elite golfers swing clubs today.

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These, according to data from Golf Digest, are estimated at 8.9 yards (about 8 meters) since 2011, at a rate of 0.8 per year, and about two miles per hour respectively.

The average yardage from the tee at the PGA reached 299.8 (273 meters) in 2022, more than ever before, and the swing speed stood at 114.7 miles (184.5 kilometers) per hour, about two more than 12 years ago. Although the rate at which the distances have increased since then, 0.8 yards per year, contrasts with the period 1994-2003, in which 2.6 per season were gained, it is no less true that there are more and more fields that need renovations to be able to contain the power of some players.

This is the case of Augusta, which has lengthened several holes over the years to stop this trend. Others like St. Andrews, as demonstrated at the 2022 British Open, are already unable to stop the modern golfer if the weather conditions are favourable.

The form that this modification would take, which if approved would enter into force in January 2026, would be that of a 'local model rule' This means that it would not be imposed at all levels, but that it would be the organization of each tournament that would decide whether or not to accept the rule.

In this case, it would be designed for elite competitions. And not all. Especially, for certain tournaments and/or courses. There would therefore be a disparity between the type of equipment allowed for professionals and that which can be used by amateurs.

According to data from Golf Digest, the changes that would be made to the tests that are carried out to approve the balls could result in a loss of distances of around 20 yards (18 meters). The initiative arises from the conclusions reached in a report on the evolution of distances carried out by the R&A and USGA.

Among these, in addition to the balls, the technological advance in the manufacture of clubs was set as an "area of interest", with increasingly friendly faces, which offer an increasing margin of error, although this aspect will not be touched on for now.

, which would infuriate the manufacturers much more. These, like other institutions, have been speaking out after the joint press conference offered this Tuesday by Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA, and Martin Slumbers, his counterpart at R&A.

The Pga Tour does not seem very convinced, which claims to be "committed to the search for future solutions that benefit the game as a whole, as long as they do not impact the Tour, its players or the enjoyment of the fans." For its part, the PGA of America does not guarantee that, if approved, it will apply the new standard in its flagship tournament, the PGA Championship.

"2026 is still a long way off and until we know the specific aspects of the proposal we cannot make a decision in that regard," they say. And they emphasize that they will not support "any measure that makes the game less fun for amateur golfers" or that favors a "bifurcation" between professional and amateur equipment.

Among the providers, Bridgestone celebrates that the measure "is not directed" at recreational golf. Callaway has nothing to say for now other than that she is "studying the proposal," and Acushnet, which is related to Titleist, says she will "actively" participate in the discussions, but believes the regulation should be "unified." What remained certain this Tuesday after the press conference between Whan and Slumbers is that, if the proposal goes ahead, it will be applied to both the Us Open and the British.