What the golf ball rollback means for the sport

Yahoo Sports’ Jay Busbee breaks down the details between the significant decision by the USGA and R&A — which will impact both professional golfers and recreational players around the world.

Video Transcript


JAY BUSBEE: Change is coming again to the world of golf, and this time, it's going to affect everyone from Tiger Woods to you. Now that doesn't mean you're going to be getting a nine-figure offer from the Saudis to play LIV Golf. What it does mean is that the game you play now is about to become a little bit harder. Golf's governing organizations, the USGA and the R&A, have announced a rollback in the distance that golf balls can travel. Starting in 2028 for pros and 2030 for the rest of us, this is going to be illegal equipment. Golf balls must be manufactured to travel about 5% shorter distances than they do now.

So why is this happening? As players have gotten stronger and equipment has gotten better, certain golf courses have become virtually obsolete. At the world's most famous golf course, the old course at St. Andrews, today's players can virtually reach the green off the tee. Augusta National has compensated by moving tee boxes back to nearly South Carolina. When players can overpower a course's strategic challenges, the essence of the game is lost.

Advocates of the rollback also claim that it will help with sustainability and course maintenance. If you don't need to allow for long driving distances, you don't need to create and maintain such long golf courses. Many pros oppose the rollback since they love having the ability to bash the ball into orbit and snug up close to the green. They instead favor bifurcation, which is a fancy word for having two different golf balls, one for pros and one for amateurs. This past weekend, Keegan Bradley called the decision, quote, "monstrous and stupid." And Rickie Fowler added, quote, "I think it's going to be a huge step back."

But bifurcation presents a challenge for manufacturers since that would force them to divide existing marketing testing and production efforts. Manufacturers are opposed to rolling back the ball for amateurs as well because golf is a tough game, and manufacturers live or die on the promises of making it easier. Trying to get people to play a product that is measurably inferior to the previous version is a tough sell.

But look at the bright side. At least you and Tiger Woods will still have something in common out on the golf course. And if you have a few boxes of these tucked away in your closet, you might be able to turn a tidy profit, too. For Yahoo Sports, I'm Jay Busbee.