'It's So Bad For The Game Of Golf' - Thomas Goes In On USGA And Rollback Plans

The World No.10 has criticised the governing body following the announcement of plans to curb driving distances

Justin Thomas takes a shot during the 2023 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass
Justin Thomas has heavily criticised the USGA and its golf ball rollback plans
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Justin Thomas has joined the growing number of players criticising the golf ball bifurcation plans proposed by the game’s governing bodies.

The two-time Major winner is preparing to compete in this week’s Valspar Championship, but before turning his attention to events on the Copperhead Course, he addressed the proposals to curb driving distances in elite competition by limiting the distance the ball can travel.

CEO of The R&A Martin Slumbers, in a press conference with USGA counterpart Mike Whan, insisted that the move is necessary to protect the long-term integrity of the game as driving distances increase, but Thomas doesn’t see the problem, and had particularly harsh criticism for the USGA in his analysis.

He said: “For them to say in the same sentence that golf is in the best place it's ever been, everything is great, but... and I'm like, well, there shouldn't be a but. You're trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn't exist.

“It’s so bad for the game of golf, for an opportunity - I mean, some of the great things to me is the fact that you can play the exact same golf ball that I play. I mean, that's cool. For an every day amateur golfer, it's very unique that we are able to play the exact same equipment. They want it to be, OK, well, the pros play this way and the amateurs play this way, and that just doesn't -  I don't understand how that's better for the game of golf."

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The comments are similar to ones made in a statement by equipment manufacturer Titleist following the announcement, who said: “This bifurcation would divide golf between elite and recreational play” before declaring the plans “a solution in search for problem”.

That opinion is also closely aligned with fellow pro Keegan Bradley, who told SiruisXM’s PGA Tour Radio the plans were “too extreme” and that “it creates a huge void between players." Bradley continued: "One of the coolest things about golf is you could come out and play with a PGA Tour player with a 30 handicap but we’re playing the same sport. I can’t go and play football with Tom Brady with pads on, on a Sunday – I’ll get killed."

Thomas also suggested the plans are unnecessary given the small number of players who can hit the ball far enough to cause concern. He said: “I promise none of you have come in from the golf course and said, ‘You know, I'm hitting it so far and straight today that golf's just not even fun anymore’. Like, no, that's not - it's just not reality.”

The PGA Champion also said the reason players are hitting longer is because of increased physicality - something evident in other sports that haven’t needed to adapt. He said: “People are running faster, so, what, are they just going to make the length of a mile longer so that the fastest mile time doesn't change, or are they going to put the NBA hoop at 13 feet because people can jump higher now? 

"Like, no. It's evolution. We're athletes now. Like, we're training to hit the ball further and faster and if you can do it, so good for you. So yeah, as you can tell, I'm clearly against it.”

As well as Thomas and Bradley, another high-profile player, LIV Golf’s Bryson Dechambeau, has also slammed the plans, describing them as ‘atrocious’.

Mike Hall

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.