Women's Game Unaffected By Golf Ball Rollback Proposal

R&A CEO Martin Slumbers confirmed that the plan will only affect elite players in the men's game

A generic image of a female golfer taking a shot
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The golf ball bifurcation plans that will see elite players use different balls to recreational golfers to address concerns over increasing driving distances will not affect the women’s game.

R&A CEO Martin Slumbers and his USGA counterpart, Mike Whan, held a media conference outlining the plans to address an issue that has affected the men’s game for years. There are concerns that the increasing athleticism of professionals and prevalence of state-of-the-art technology means that, if left unchecked, it is only a matter of time until many courses become too small for the distances players are able to hit the ball.

A new Model Local Rule that would allow competition organisers to enforce a rule ensuring pros use balls that go shorter than the current legal models has been proposed, but Slumbers explained that’s not an issue of concern for the women’s game at present. He said: “I think at this point there isn't a distance challenge in the women's game.”

Slumbers acknowledged that the women’s game is becoming more distance-driven, but that it’s not yet close to a point where it needs curtailing. He said: “You're certainly seeing changes in the women's game where more power, longer distances is coming in than maybe even five years ago. But at the moment there's plenty of headroom on the golf courses that we have for the women's game. So we would not be intending to make any application of this rule in women's elite golf at this point.”

The main argument put forward by Slumbers and Whan for the rollback proposal was that it will protect the long-term integrity of the game. Slumbers said: “We've crossed the Rubicon with regards to where hitting distance is but more importantly where it is trending, and it's our responsibility as governing bodies to propose change to protect the long-term integrity of our sport.”

Meanwhile, Whan explained: “If we simply do nothing, we pass that to the next generation and to all the golf course venues around the world for them to just simply figure out.”

The plans have not gone down too well with everyone, though, with Titleist saying that the concept of elite players using different balls to recreational golfers will create confusion and division and that it’s “a solution in search of a problem”.

Whatever the answer, for the time being at least, the women’s game can continue unchanged.

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.