R&A to Unveil Updated Ball Regulation by Year's End

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At last, a resolution on the pressing issue of rolling back the golf ball is on the horizon, and its implications could reverberate across the entire golfing community. The regulatory bodies, R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA), have been grappling with the prolonged "distance debate," acknowledging the necessity for action.

Their initial proposal for a Model Local Rule permitting elite events to enforce the use of a distance-limiting ball faced significant opposition, despite support from notable figures like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. During the comment period, which concluded in August, the PGA Tour emerged as a vocal critic of the proposed rule.

In response to the backlash, Martin Slumbers, the CEO of R&A, outlined potential courses of action, stating, "We can bifurcate, as we suggested; you change the whole game; or you do nothing. And doing nothing is not an option." Despite making these remarks in late summer, Slumbers recently reiterated the imperative to address the issue in an interview with Golf Digest.



The core problem lies in the contemporary players' ability to drive the ball excessively far, rendering courses inadequate to accommodate 340-yard drives. The cost, environmental impact, and feasibility of extending courses to maintain the challenge for top players make it an impractical solution.

Initially, the plan was to restrict only the most proficient players, allowing recreational golfers to enjoy the benefits of advanced equipment. This proposed "bifurcation" challenges one of golf's cherished principles — that amateurs can play the same courses with the same equipment as professionals.

Slumbers acknowledged the discontent with the Model Local Rule, recognizing the concern that it would create a divided game at the elite level. He admitted, "It was a very strong pushback against that. The PGA Tour was very public about it. So was the PGA of America. A number of players spoke out. And our job is to listen."

The regulatory bodies faced resistance, particularly from players sponsored by golf equipment manufacturers, reluctant to curb the performance of their products. Top players, financially backed by these manufacturers, naturally sided with those supporting their equipment. The PGA Tour, amid changes in the professional golf landscape, couldn't risk alienating its star players.



Some speculate that the bifurcation proposals became collateral damage in golf's ongoing civil war, triggered by the LIV tour's arrival 19 months ago. The sentiment within the European-based DP World Tour is more nuanced, with some supporting the idea of restricting driving distances through tighter limits on drivers.

However, outlawing clubs that enhance enjoyment for recreational players appears drastic and likely to face widespread disapproval. The original bifurcation concept had merit, with its most significant impact affecting players with the highest swing speeds. Club hackers wouldn't have noticed much difference if they opted for the adapted elite balls.

Now, as the golfing community awaits a new plan, Slumbers emphasizes their commitment to the long-term future of the game. The decision, currently in progress, will be unveiled before the end of the year, promising a significant development in the ongoing debate over golf ball regulations.
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