"A Solution In Search Of A Problem" - Golf Ball Companies Respond To Model Local Rule Proposal
Golf's leading ball brands have had their say on the changes proposed by the USGA and The R&A to roll back the ball
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The mainstream golf ball companies are now having their say on the proposals outlined by golf’s governing bodies planning to roll back the ball used in ‘elite competitions’. Titleist, Srixon, Callaway, TaylorMade and Bridgestone are the leading brands when it comes to golf ball usage on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour and all were reached out to for comment on the proposals by Golf Monthly.
The USGA and The R&A are now proposing to make available a Model Local Rule (MLR) whereby the Overall Distance Standard (ODS) limit of 317 yards (plus 3 yards tolerance) remains unchanged but balls will be tested at a new clubhead speed up from 120mph to 127mph, with different launch conditions more relevant to those that are optimum for today's premium tour balls. As a result, manufacturers will likely be forced to make slower golf balls that will conform to the new rule that is expected to be enforced at all professional events worldwide from January 2026 and beyond.
Titleist, as the number one ball in golf, arguably has the most to lose from the changes proposed. Its Pro V1 and Pro V1x franchises dominate the tour counts week in, week out, used by the likes of Max Homa, Players Champion Scottie Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay. It has released a statement in response to the MLR, paraphrased below.
“One of golf’s unifying appeals is that everyone in the game plays by the same set of rules, can play the same courses and with the same equipment. Golfers can watch professionals and compare themselves to the world’s best, aspiring to hit the same shots. This unification links the professional and recreational games, enriches the connection and viewing experience of the professional game, and contributes to golf’s momentum, unprecedented growth and promising future. This bifurcation would divide golf between elite and recreational play, add confusion, and break the linkage that is part of the game’s enduring fabric."
“Golf is an aspirational sport, and we believe at its very best when equipment and playing regulations are unified. Golf’s health and vibrancy are at historically high levels,” said David Maher, President and Chief Executive Officer, Acushnet Company, which owns the Titleist brand. “As we see it, existing golf ball regulations for Overall Distance and Initial Velocity are highly effective. During the past two decades, PGA Tour average course playing length has increased by less than 100 yards and scoring average has remained virtually flat. Average PGA Tour clubhead speed of 114.6 mph in 2022 was well below the current 120 mph and proposed 127 mph testing conditions. The proposal of golf ball bifurcation is in many respects a solution in search of a problem.”
“Under the proposed guidelines, events that adopt this MLR would require players to use a substantially shorter golf ball, similar in distance to what was available in the 1990s. The performance changes of any rolled back ball would impact every shot in the round. Players would also be required to adapt to changes in equipment with some players disadvantaged over others by this disruption. Golf ball bifurcation would invite confusion as to what level of competition would use the MLR products and how to effectively manage and officiate. In addition, multiple versions of golf ball models in the market would be confusing to golfers.”
“Unification is a powerfully positive force in the game, and we believe that equipment bifurcation would be detrimental to golf’s long-term well-being. As a result, we will actively participate in this conversation with the governing bodies, worldwide professional tours, PGA Professional organizations, amateur associations and federations, and golfers, in an effort to contribute to the continued enjoyment and growth of the game.”
Callaway has invested upwards of $80m into its Chicopee ball plant over the last few years and is where the company makes all of its Chrome Soft balls, which includes the Chrome Soft x used by Jon Rahm. The brand responded to us just to say:
“We are studying the information and proposals provided. We have no further comment at this time.”
Bridgestone is the ball brand used by Tiger Woods among others that include the in-form Jason Day. Among the best Bridgestone golf balls are tour-played offerings like the Tour Bx, and those used by recreational players including the e12 Contact. The brand had this statement in response to the proposals:
“Bridgestone is proud of our long standing and cooperative relationship with the USGA and R&A. We believe the game of golf benefits from the leadership and guidance of the governing bodies. Regarding the proposed Model Local Rule, we appreciate the transparency of the process that has brought us to this point."
"Golf is enjoying a significant growth phase and is more popular than ever. We are concerned that the proposed rule changes could confuse and dampen the enthusiasm of millions of new participants to our game. We are pleased that the proposed changes do not appear to be aimed at recreational players."
"Bridgestone has always been a leader in golf ball technology and innovation, and we are confident that our superior engineering capabilities will allow us to continue to push the envelope of golf ball performance for recreational players while also making the best possible golf ball for elite competitions. We will closely study the proposed changes and communicate our point of view directly to the USGA and R&A.”
TaylorMade waited until March 21st to release a statement in response the MLR, which also included a link to a survey asking for golfers to be part of the conversation.
"This (announcement of a MLR) will introduce bifurcation into our sport, meaning that you – the golfer – will play with different equipment than the professionals.
We believe a large part of golf’s appeal is this underlying sense of: “I can do that, too.” And using the same equipment as the pros gives us a more accurate feel for how talented these players are. Most of us will never know what it’s like to play in Madison Square Garden, throw a touchdown in the Super Bowl, or score the game-winning goal in a World Cup final, but we can go to St. Andrews, walk across the Swilcan Bridge and for a moment feel what it’s like to be a professional. Walk in their shoes, play the same courses, and use the same equipment. It’s all part of why we love this sport.
The USGA and R&A have provided a window in which all manufacturers can provide feedback on this proposal and its potential impact. As we absorbed this announcement and tried to understand the why, as well as the impact, all of our conversations came back to one place – you, the golfer. We want your voice to be heard, so please, let us know what you think."
Much like Callaway, Srixon also had no comment to make on the developments. It is the maker of the Z-Star and Z-Star XV used on tour by the likes of Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama.
Over the next six months, the USGA and The R&A will enter into conversations with "groups and areas of the golf system that are not as committed to the change", according to R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers, who says the discussions will be "thoughtful and collaborative" and that he "cares deeply about golf remaining a game of skill."
Manufacturers and golf stakeholders can provide feedback until 14 August 2023. If adopted, the proposal would take effect in January 2026.
Joel has worked in the golf industry for over 12 years covering both instruction and more recently equipment. He now oversees all product content here at Golf Monthly, managing a team of talented and passionate writers and presenters in delivering the most thorough and accurate reviews, buying advice, comparisons and deals to help the reader find exactly what they are looking for. So whether it's the latest driver, irons, putter or laser rangefinder, Joel has his finger on the pulse keeping up to date with the latest releases in golf. He is also responsible for all content on irons and golf tech, including distance measuring devices and launch monitors.
One of his career highlights came when covering the 2012 Masters he got to play the sacred Augusta National course on the Monday after the tournament concluded, shooting a respectable 86 with just one par and four birdies. To date, his best ever round of golf is a 5-under 67 back in 2011. He currently plays his golf at Burghley Park Golf Club in Stamford, Lincs, with a handicap index of 3.2.
Joel's current What's In The Bag?
Driver: Titleist TSR3, 9°
Fairway wood: Titleist TSR3, 15°
Hybrid: Titleist TSi2, 18°
Irons: Ping i230 4-UW
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM8, 54°. Titleist Vokey SM9 60° lob wedge, K Grind
Putter: Evnroll ER2V
Ball: 2023 Titleist Pro V1x
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