The R&A has taken radical steps to protect classic courses such as the Old Course by introducing new across-the-board regulations that will ensure balls travel shorter distances.
Top pros and weekend hackers will all be affected by the “historic” announcement from St Andrews HQ on Wednesday, delivered in conjunction with the US Golf Association, the sport’s other governing body.
The powers-that-be expect that the new testing speeds on balls will see the big-hitters curtailed by 13 to 15 yards, while they claim there will be “a minimal distance impact, of five yards or less, for most recreational golfers”. The rules will be introduced in 2028 for the pros and 2030 for the rest.
With the news leaking on the weekend, there was no surprise, but that does not mean that anger will be in short supply. Indeed, moments after the confirmation was released a memo from the PGA Tour to its members emerged, calling the changes disproportionate. “We do not support today’s announcement,” said the email send early on Wednesday.
But backed by the greatest two male pros perhaps of all time – Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods – and by Rory McIlroy, the most recognisable of the current world top 10, the R&A and USGA are determined to hold firm.
They are in charge of the Rules of Golf and if anyone – from professional tours, to elite amateur events, to the 10s of thousands of golf clubs across the world who hold weekly medals – wish to adhere then from 2028 for the pros and from 2030 for the rest, then they must ensure only conforming balls are used in competition.
“We are convinced that this decision is one of the key ways of achieving a sustainable future for golf, protecting the integrity of the game and meeting our environmental responsibilities,” Martin Slumbers, the R&A chief executive, said.
“The measure we are taking has been carefully considered and calibrated while maintaining the ‘one game’ ethos deemed to be so important to the golf industry. Importantly, it also keeps the impact on recreational golfers to an absolute minimum. We are acting now because we want to ensure that future generations can enjoy the unique challenge of golf as much as we do.”
Slumbers referenced the industry’s opposition to the initial plans which would effectively have brought in separate rules for the elite players and the recreational golfers. The R&A and USGA have long stated during their exhaustive research, deliberation and consultation into the distance issue that “doing nothing is not an option”. So everyone gets to play under the same regulations. Roll-back for all.
More to follow . . .