The First Call Inbox

Golf ball rollback decision brings strong opinions

After years of discussion, the USGA and R&A finally decided to roll back the golf ball and reduce the distance it will travel. Readers of The First Call have varied views on the change

Turkish Airlines Open
According to the USGA, recreational golfers can expect see an approximate reduction of up to 5 yards in driving distance once the rollback takes place.

Question of the week [December 11-17]: What are your thoughts on the decision by the USGA and R&A to roll back the golf ball?

RELATED: The First Call Inbox archive
— — — — — — —
Even though there's two starkly distinct viewpoints on the decision, 
there's only one result: Golf loses.

How on earth does golf need "governing"? All it needs, like every 
beloved sport, is participation. And participation doesn't need 
decisions, it simply needs consensus — from consideration, conversation 
and collective arrival at a majority opinion. There's a place for 
everyone who's at the table to live on in the game. Only one realization 
necessary: Explode the myth of golf's unity, that we all play the same 

We don't, and never have.

Paul McGough
Manassas, Virginia

I think it’s the most ridiculous thing the governing bodies are trying to accomplish. 

How the heck are they going to regulate/control/police the distance changes of every ball manufactured for approved play? The change is not going to bring old Tour venues back into play. Modern courses and old courses that have the real estate to adjust length have already done so. 

Stop any future distance gains, but leave the current ball technology alone. 

Bob Polanzi
Spring Grove, Illinois

A 400-yard drivable par 4 is in the future. You have to restrict the ball sooner or later. 

Douglas Smith
Edgewood, Kentucky

Golf should have followed cricket and baseball, which regulate the size of their respective bats, and kept a size and composition rule for clubs under a certain loft.

Alan Campbell
Eyemouth, Scotland

The USGA and R&A got it right. As a short hitting senior, I don’t know or care if my drive flies 220 or 210 yards. Can you distinguish between 270 or 260?

I do know if I flushed it — or not — which is the thrill. I do care what distance remains to the green, which moving tees forward resolves. Shorter course equals quicker rounds, too.

As for pros, this will end the driver / wedge trend, add some challenges for the best in the world, keep classic courses relevant, and reduce business costs for land, water and maintenance.

Slow the ball for all, while moving tees forward to shorten the courses for recreational players.  We won’t notice a difference.

Gary Stauffenberg
Phoenix, Arizona

Quite simply rolling back the ball has nothing to do with golf, but everything to do with society's biggest illness — greed.

The most frequent excuse is that old mainline courses that previously held Opens cannot be lengthened due to cost and available space. The truth is that, for the most part, these courses can't support the infrastructure necessary to generate the revenue necessary to fill the coffers of the governing bodies and increasing that profit on an annual basis.

Courses of exceptional length will never be built since, without a Tour event for one week a year, no one else has the ability to play them — let alone the wallet for the obscene fees. Forget the cost of land or the development costs, there is no ROI on this investment.

And don't think for one minute that the ball manufacturers aren't dancing in the boardroom with projections of the higher margins this is going to generate. I'm sure they can all dig out the specs on a previous version of their ball, which will pass the new standards and get on with life. However, I can hear the claims of millions in expense for R&D and development costs as well as required manufacturing changes resulting in a new cost per dozen in the $80 to $85 range. Now that's what I call growing the game.

And to the holier than thou blue bloods who run the USGA and R&A, you can take your revised rule book and stick it where the sun doesn't shine. I have plenty of golf balls to last for my lifetime if I never find another. And, I don't lose many. You think you are upholding the honorable qualities of the game. Tell that to the next player who sees someone who hasn't come anywhere close to shooting net par in 40 consecutive rounds turn in a net 60 in a tournament. I am outnumbered 50-to-1 by sandbaggers and cheaters, so if you think I am going to succumb to anymore USGA bull? The horse has left the barn.

Dave Parske
Fort Meyers, Florida

Just plain silly.

Jay Rogers 
St. Louis, Missouri

Absolutely ridiculous. Why do you think we like to watch them play?

Carol Bietsch
Marana, Arizona

Worst decision ever. Golf equipment manufacturers live off of improving and enjoyment within the current rules. The public thrives on distance discussions and playing the same courses, clubs and balls as the Tour players. Try selling balls that go less distance at any measure. This is the best way to kill the golf movement, reminds me of EV cars and driving across the country. Pretty tough sell, way to go USGA.

Jeff Young
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

For those of us who no longer play competitive golf, the roll back means little. We have no need for a handicap nor a strict adherence to the Official Rules of Golf, so we can continue playing the balls that we have and when we run out, I am sure there will be black market balls that do not conform to the rules. We can play golf for pleasure. I may even try to find my old Ping Eye 2s and resurrect them.

James Brock
Atlanta, Georgia

Won't affect me. By the time it goes into effect for recreational players in 2030, I'll be 75 and playing from the senior tees. So it actually will seem as if I'm hitting it farther. Can't wait.

Randy Youngman
San Clemente, California

All in the blue blazer brigade have finally shot themselves in the foot. I, for one, will not renew my USGA membership and my hope is that many others feel the same way and cancel their membership. I have written letters — obviously to no avail — so this is the only way I know to express myself. The golf ball rollback is wrong headed and they should be ashamed.

David A. Cremeans
Carmel, Indiana

I totally understand why the USGA and R&A want to control distance in professional events. Too much tradition and history could be lost due to technological advancement of clubs and balls.

However, to want to apply restrictions to amateur golfers is sheer lunacy.

For years, manufacturers have enticed us to plunk down $500 for a driver or $55 for a dozen balls, just so we can get an extra 5 or 10 yards. Now the powers that be say "Oh, it's just a few yards. It won't make a difference".


Bifurcation should have started years ago. Pros play a totally different game and anyone who doesn't admit that is just kidding themselves. 

Terry Fraser
Huntsville, Alabama

The best way to create cheating that I've ever heard of. Both manufacturing and playing. How are they going to police it? If I buy a bunch of balls and use them after the rule change? Probably all new balls will have to have some kind of marking do you think?

Donald Thompson
Traverse City, Michigan

I agree that something needs to be done and this seems to be the best option.

Patrick Moriarity
Denver, Colorado

I do not like the decision to roll back the golf ball. In the 57 years that I've played golf, I have never played with anyone that wanted to hit the ball shorter.  I've also never played a course that was going to be made obsolete by the distances my group was hitting the ball. The courses the rollback supporters are talking about that will become obsolete are so minuscule in number relative to all courses. It means nothing to you and me. 

The [distances] only pertain to the pro game, once a year — or less.  In that case, grow the rough, firm up the greens. and take away the generous fringe around the greens. Make hitting greens a premium and bring back the short game. Maybe that will change winning numbers from 22 under to 10. Then we won't be talking about obsolete courses anymore.

[USGA CEO] Mike Whan even said that for the basic amateur, we're going lose five yards with the driver. Just have the clubs move the tees up five yards and you're even. And for us 65- to 70-year-old players with clubhead speeds of 85-90 mph, the rule will never affect us when it goes into effect in 2030. We'll be swinging it 75-80 mph then, hopefully.

Barry Duckworth
Knoxville, Tennessee

I will turn 75 years old 10 days from now. I started playing golf when I was seven, and I still have an index of 1.1 off the white tees. Old age has robbed me of most of my skill and ability to play the game I have loved my entire life, but I battle every day against the unbeatable foe.

Now the USGA has joined forces with my mortal enemy in an apparent final effort to rid the game of my presence. 

I'm stubborn, but I'm not stupid. I know when I'm beat. The USGA can rest assured that I will no longer threaten the game of golf the day the rollback becomes effective for the likes of me.

Rick Austin
Peachtree City, Georgia

I don’t think it’s a big deal overall. Ball manufacturers will change their priorities from distance to accuracy and feel. I expect more tension between equipment and ball manufacturers in the future as they fight over whose advancements are causing non conformance.

As for players: pros are making courses obsolete hitting driver-wedge to many holes. I’d like to see them work a little harder. Birdie fests just aren’t that compelling to me. All pros will be hitting an extra club or two into greens, so the relative distance advantage enjoyed by longer players won’t change much.

I laughed when I read about the ex-college golfer who said he’d quit golf if rollback happens. If losing 3-5% distance blows up someone’s enjoyment of this wonderful,  challenging game, he needs to find another hobby anyway.

For me, a 72 year old 10 index, I’ve been leaking distance for at least a decade and still like the game just fine.

Tim Miller
Durango, Colorado

The First Call invites reader comment. Write to editor Stuart Hall at Your name and city of residence is necessary to be considered for publication. If your comment is selected for publication, The First Call will contact you to verify the authenticity of the email and confirm your identity. We will not publish your email address. We reserve the right to edit for clarity and brevity.