Golf Ball Rollback (7 Things You Need to Know)

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Golf Ball Rollback

The golf world has been all over the place in 2023 with the LIV – PGA battle and now, a huge rules change for the future. In early December 2023 the governing bodies announced a golf ball rollback. Essentially, the golf ball won’t go as far in the coming years to help protect golf courses. 

Surprisingly, this will impact both professional and amateur golfers. Keep reading to learn how this will impact how you watch golf on TV, how it’ll impact your game, and answers to your most important questions. 

Golf Ball Rollback – 7 Updates  

1. Revised Golf Ball Testing

It’s no secret that some golf courses are becoming obsolete thanks to guys hitting it longer than ever. It’s why professional golfers can shoot more -20 under on a once iconic and challenging golf course. 

Which is what led to this golf ball rollback… the USGA and the R&A wanted to protect the long term stability of the sport. They changed how golf balls will be tested, which will limit the total distance. Basically, the faster swinging players (pros and elite amateurs) will be impacted a lot more than everyday golfers. 

According to the press release (you can read it all here), “The longest hitters are expected to see a reduction of as much as 13–15 yards in drive distance. Average professional tour and elite male players are expected to see a reduction of 9–11 yards, with a 5-7-yard reduction for an average LET or LPGA player.” 

Still, 5-7 yards less distance isn’t fun for the everyday player. 

2. The Rollback is Years Away

With the new testing established, golf ball manufacturing will need years to adapt. This means the rules won’t start for a while, so you can keep playing golf like normal. 

For professional golfers, the rollback begins January 1st, 2028. While it won’t impact everyday golfers until January 1st, 2030. 

I still think it will be so weird and frustrating to lose distance overnight and having to completely rework your distance chart. It’s not something I and many others are looking forward to. 

3. Bifurcation Was a Better Idea 

The idea of changing equipment or having professionals play golf with a different ball isn’t a new idea. It was first introduced in March 2023 as bifurcation – having pros play with one ball or different equipment while not impacting recreational golfers.

But it was shot down by the golf world pretty quickly, leading the USGA to revisit the idea. Looking back, I think this made much more sense because now the golf ball roll back now impacts both pros and amateurs alike. 

4. Golfers Aren’t Happy 

There is a small percentage of players – both pros and amateurs – who actually like the idea. But if you take a look at the comment sections on social media, you’ll see a lot of negative responses.

Rickie Fowler gave one of the best quotes, and I think this sums up how most people feel. 

“To take the game and knock it back when it’s in the best position it’s ever been in, I don’t want to see it as the golf ball being necessarily the right move. Thanks for joining us over COVID. Now we’re going to make you hit it 20 yards shorter. Have fun. I think it’s going to be a huge step back.” 

Another relatable quote was from LA Golf CEO Reed Dickens. “I have said for years that the USGA wakes up every morning and tries to find new ways to make golf more difficult and less fun for amateurs, and they have truly outdone themselves with the ball rollback. 

This decision flies in the face of any rational view of the data around average swing speed, driving distances, and the most recent golf course designs.”

For so many people who just started playing golf, this will likely backfire. Other pros against this idea include Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, and Justin Thomas among many others.  

Related: Average Golf Club Distances 

5. Golf Ball Manufacturers Have to Adapt Quickly 

Your favorite golf balls – like the Titleist Pro V1 or TaylorMade TP5 – will have to change in the coming years. That means golf ball manufacturers have a lot of work to do. Some CEOs and brands are disappointed, while others have accepted and turned to new innovations.

Dan Murphy, the President and CEO of Bridgestone, had this to say. “While we would prefer that any new rules did not impact recreational players, we believe further commentary is no longer productive. At this point, we need to concentrate on creating conforming products that allow both professionals and amateurs to play their best golf.”

Also Read: What’s Inside a Golf Ball

While David Maher, the President and CEO of Acushnet (who owns Titleist) had this to say. “We are concerned that the golf ball rollback overly impacts golfers and does not fully reflect the input of those closest to the game. There have been requests to align on what data is used and how it is used to draw conclusions prior to any equipment changes being made.”

It’s back to the drawing board for a lot of these companies to create brand new conforming golf balls for the future. 

Related: Golf Ball Compression Guide 

6. Golf Is Going to Get Harder

There will be a big impact for everyone and will ultimately make the game harder. Which I think is the last thing we need. Golf has seen a ton of growth in the last few years, but this will not help.

Recreational golfers want to hit bombs, have more fun, and make the game easier… not harder. This is why I can’t believe the rollback applies to amateurs as well. It’s not like the everyday foursome is going out and dominating a golf course from the tips.

In fact, most golfers never break 80. According to My Golf Spy

  • Only 10% of golfers who track their handicap break 80 regularly.
  • Most golfers don’t make a birdie per round.
  • 49% of golfers break 90 o a regular basis. 

Making the golf ball go shorter isn’t going to make the game any easier… which might turn some players away. Not to mention will likely increase average scores/handicaps and negatively impact pace of play. 

7. Golfers Might Not Abide

Non-conforming golf balls might become a hot item on the golf black market, as a Golf Digest poll found that most don’t want the change. “64 percent, in a Golf Digest internet poll—say they won’t use a shorter-flying ball despite it being a USGA rule.”

One player in the poll said, “I would probably play the regular [non-conforming] ball with buddies. The question is, to post or not to post? My gut reaction is that I’d probably post, at least until I ran out of the balls.”

This massive announcement feels like there are more questions than answers. Only time will tell if recreational golfers get on board or boycott the game all together. 

Top Questions 

Have more questions about the newest rule change in golf? Keep scrolling through the top questions and answers now. 

What is a golf ball rollback?

A new rule change from the USGA + R&A that mandates golf balls don’t travel as far. This rule takes place in 2028 for professionals and 2030 for recreational golfers. It will require golf ball manufacturers to completely remake balls, as only 30% of current ones on the market are eligible based on the new criteria. 

Is the golf ball roll back just for professional golfers?

Originally, the rollback or bifurcation was to have two sets of equipment for pros and amateurs. But the latest announcement now makes amateur golfers subject to this rule as well. Amateur golfers will have an extra two years as it rolls out for professional golfers in 2028. 

Wrapping Up

This is big news in the golf world, but it’s not something you need to worry about just yet. Since it won’t take place until 2030, assuming nothing changes, you still have nearly six years to prepare. 

I’m perplexed by the move and feel like it’s dividing the game as much as LIV-PGA drama. In the meantime, it is a good idea to look into speed training and this article on ways to add distance to each club.

Do you think the rollback is good for golf? Why or why not?

Let us know in the comments below.  

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Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard is a full-time writer, author, creator of Wicked Smart Golf and +1 handicap amateur golfer. He left his corporate career in 2017 to pursue entrepreneurship and professional golf; since then, he’s competed in 160+ tournament days and went to Q-school in 2019.

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