Why golf is moving to stop top players from hitting the ball

Elite golfers, who have increasingly used breathtaking distances on their drives to conquer courses, should be forced to use new balls within three years, the sport’s top regulators said Tuesday, sparking a debate that has lasted decades has gained strength.

The US Golf Association and the R&A, who together write the rulebook of golf, estimated that their technical proposal could shorten the best golfers’ swing shots by an average of about 15 yards. Although the rules of golf are usually universal, governing bodies are pursuing the change in a way that makes it unlikely that it will affect recreational golfers, whose talent and strength are generally far outstripped by many collegiate and top amateur players.

But the measure, which would generally ban balls that travel more than 317 yards when hit at 125 mph, could have far-reaching implications for the men’s professional game, among other testing conditions. Dozens of balls currently in use could become illegal on circuits such as the PGA Tour and DP World Tour now that the European Tour will be marketed if they ultimately adopt the proposed policy change.

That outcome is not guaranteed – on Tuesday the PGA Tour paused close to formally approving the proposal – but the forces behind the recommendation insisted the golf industry must act.

“I firmly believe that doing nothing is not an option,” said Martin Slumbers, CEO of R&A, in an interview. “We want the game to be sportier. We want it to become more of a top sport. I think it’s great that top players are stronger, better trained, more physically fit, so not doing anything would be totally irresponsible for the future of football if I’m really honest.”

USGA CEO Mike Whan had a similar sentiment in a statement: “Predictable sustained increases will become a significant problem for the next generation if not addressed soon.”

Rory McIlroy leads the PGA Tour in driving distance, averaging 327 yards from the tee.

Rory McIlroy leads the PGA Tour in driving distance, averaging 327 yards from the tee.Credit:Getty

During the 2003 season, PGA Tour players averaged about 286 yards with nine golfers typically hitting at least 300 yards from the tee. This season drives average 297.2 yards and 83 players averaged over 300 yards. Typical clubhead speed — how fast the club moves when it makes contact with the ball — for Rory McIlroy, the current leader on the Tour’s driving course at nearly 327 yards, was about 120 mph, just over 7 miles /h above this season’s tour average. However, some of his colleagues have logged speeds of at least 210 km/h.

At the sport’s most recent major tournament, the British Open last July, every player who made it averaged at least 299.8 yards on the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland. When the Open, an R&A administered tournament, was last played at St Andrews in 2015, just 29 of the 80 men playing over the weekend reached that threshold.

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/why-golf-is-moving-to-stop-elite-players-hitting-the-ball-so-far-20230315-p5cs6h.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport Why golf is moving to stop top players from hitting the ball

Ryan Sederquist

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