Should recreational players be concerned about golf ball rollback?

Rory McIlroy driver

The USGA and R&A have confirmed they will implement new golf ball testing standards aimed at curbing the distances being achieved by top professionals.

According to, ‘the new testing conditions will be 125-mph clubhead speed, a spin rate of 2200 rpm, and a launch angle of 11 degrees. The previous conditions, which were established 20 years ago, were 120 mph, 2520 rpm and a 10-degree launch angle.’

Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s chief governance officer, said the plan was to focus solely on elite pros and amateurs initially.

“This is not about taking the game back 20 years, 30 years as it relates to ball technology,” Pagel said.

“There were practical challenges that we heard from stakeholders,” Pagel said. “What should the collegiate game do? What should state amateurs do? What should junior amateurs do? How would PGA professionals approach this at their club if they’re asked to regulate?

“It caused us to step back and say, okay, the game is expressing a preference for unification. We are committed to minimizing the impact on the recreational game, and that ultimately led us to the conclusion of that 125 mph.

“Even under these rules, manufacturers will be able to produce modern golf balls that look and feel the same. We say five or less yards on your driver, that’s a big range. But that’s a big range because it’s player-dependent, it’s swing-dependent. Frankly, it’s going to be equipment dependent.

“Yes, there’ll be an impact. We don’t want to downplay that. People are going to feel challenged, feel it. There’s going to be an impact. But the reality is we’re confident in our estimates that this will have a minimal impact to the recreational game and for the recreational game.”

Once these changes filter down into the recreational game, is there any reason for players to be concerned about the impact on their game? It seems that the numbers point to ‘not really’, with recreational players expected to see a decrease of less than five yards in driving distance, based on an average swing speed of 93 mph for male golfers and 72 mph for female players according to the governing bodies’ research. They further claim that when they get into their irons, golfers are likely to see no perceptible change in distances gained with balls produced to the new standard.

These measures aren’t exactly what the governing bodies wanted, but they believe it is a workable compromise.

“I’ll be honest, it’s a bit of a compromise, but it’s a compromise that we feel confident in,” Pagel said. “We feel that we will have an impact and we feel like it’ll have an impact that won’t require us to come back straight away. That’s the important thing.

“This is not about identifying courses that the game is passed over and somehow bringing them back into the mix at the elite level. This solution is not going to do that. I think some of those who are going to be upset would want that to be the case. This simply isn’t going to do it. But what it’s going to do is slow the pace of growth and perhaps slow the number of courses that are added to the list that the game has passed by. That’s what’s important to us.”