Slow ball, a rule that could become epochal


Golf goes so fast these days that it has to be slowed down somehow. In a rather extreme synthesis, this is the principle that inspired iU.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf in proposing a rule that from local could become epochal. The two highest authorities would like to introduce a golf ball for professionals that is “slower” than that of any amateur registered in any Strawberry Cup.

In doing so, however, one of the cardinal principles of the game of golf would be questioned. But let’s go in order.

Slow ball, rule

In the United States they are already called “golf ball roll back”, the return of the balls. U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf, after acknowledging the profound change taking place, have given the green light to a new ball standard capable of flying less than the current one. Regardless of make and model, every golf ball must comply with USGA and R&A requirements.

The proposal was officially presented yesterday. The producers have until next August 14th and, if all goes well, the new course will start on January 1st 2026.

Model Local Rule will be the name of the local rule to be adopted to use the new balls in what the two bodies call “elite competitions”. Basically professional competitions, from the Majors down.

In a video conference Martin Slumbers, CEO of The R&A admitted that “ball distances in pro competitions have steadily increased over the last 20, 40 and 60 years”. Over the past two decades, the average stroke has increased by one meter per year. Someone has already resorted to the calculator: the 300 yards flown by a professional with today’s ball will be at least 285 with tomorrow’s ball. She is about 14 meters less.

Currently the more bombers out there the more problems there are for the golfing world. The reasons are varied. The first is linked to the lesser television appeal of a sport where he always wins and only throws a big blow at the unfortunate Titleist of the moment. In the long run, muscles don’t pay off on TV.

But it certainly doesn’t end there. With ever longer players, the race course must necessarily adapt. For the aforementioned “elite competitions” longer fairways are needed. But a bigger and longer 18-hole course needs more water for irrigation. And therefore more maintenance workers. And then even more and more money (in addition to those needed to acquire new green areas adjacent to the route).

On the web there are those who take it philosophically: “Make too big a change and people will be more inclined to oppose it. Make too small a change and no one will notice” we read on social media referring to the 14 meters less since January 2026. But there are more than one doubts. Starting from the reaction of the industries that those balls will have to produce and commercialize (high costs and a rather small market).

Some doubts also come from the professional side. In a shot with the driver the ball is only one of the variations. Reducing its speed does not equate to getting a shorter shot. In fact, the materials of the sticks as well as the power and/or technique of the professional can make the difference. Will the next step be to slow down all drivers?

But the diversification between balls involves a division never seen before in the world of golf. The beauty of golf is that today Scottie Scheffler, Francesco Molinari and Mr. Mario Rossi can play together and with the same equipment. Not tomorrow: Mario Rossi will continue with his Callaway ball, the other two will have one ad hoc. Doing so undermines the idea that two golfers can take the field on equal terms with the only difference being the playing handicap.

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