Golf world in uproar over "atrocious" move

Publish Date
Thursday, 16 March 2023, 2:07PM

One of the biggest hitters in world golf has declared plans to modify balls to reduce how far professional players can hit them as “the most atrocious thing that you could possibly do”.

In a joint announcement on Wednesday, the USGA and The R&A proposed a new local rule that would require tournament organisers to only allow balls that meet strict new testing requirements to “address the impacts of hitting distances in golf”.

The rule, which could come into effect in 2026 and is designed more to protect courses that are being made too easy by big-hitting pros, could mean dozens of balls that are currently used could become illegal.

The news was met with caution by the PGA Tour and howled down by players who declared it was the opposite of what the game needed to do.Z

US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, who has joined Greg Norman’s LIV Golf league, has been the driving distance leader on his primary tour in each of the last three years and was the biggest hitter in LIV’s inaugural season in 2022 with a career-best 299m average driving distance.

Having bulked up considerably to hit the ball as far as possible, he was firmly against the proposal and unloaded on what it could do to the game.

“It’s a great handicap for us guys that have worked really hard to learn how to hit it farther,” he said in an interview published on the LIV website.

“Look, if they do it in a way where it only affects the top end, I see the rationale. But I think it’s the most atrocious thing that you could possible do to the game of golf. It’s not about rolling golf balls back; it’s about making golf courses more difficult.

“I think it’s the most unimaginative, uninspiring, game-cutting thing you could do. Everybody wants to see people hit it farther. That’s part of the reason why a lot of people like what I do. It’s part of the reason a lot of people don’t like what I do.

“I’m all about equality. I’m not about equity on this front.”

Two-time PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas was similarly furious about the proposed change.

“I think the USGA over the years has made some pretty selfish decisions,” he said. “They definitely, in my mind, have done a lot of things that aren’t for the betterment of the game, although they claim it.

“I had conversations with some USGA members and I don’t understand how it’s growing the game. They’re trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s so bad for the game of golf.”

Thomas said it would be a shame to play a different ball from recreational players.

“For an everyday amateur golfer, it’s unique that we are able to play the exact same equipment,” he said.

“I understand that I may have a different grind on a wedge, whatever you want to call it, but you can go to the pro shop and buy the same golf ball that I play or Scottie Scheffler plays or whatever. But the USGA wants to bring it to a point where that’s not the case.

“So why are this group of five- to 15-handicapped amateurs determining the rules of golf for professional golfers?

“They’re basing it off the top 0.1 per cent of all golfers ... I promise you that no golfer has ever come in from the course and said: ‘You know, I’m hitting it so far and straight today that golf’s just not even fun anymore.’ No!

“I mean, people are running faster, so, what, are they just going to make the length of a mile longer? It’s evolution. We’re athletes now. We’re training to hit the ball further and faster and if you can do it, good for you. As you can tell, I’m clearly against it.”

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said it would be “irresponsible for the future of the game” not to address the increased distance players were hitting the ball on courses that had little room to grow.

“I believe very strongly that doing nothing is not an option,” he said.

“We want the game to be more athletic. We want it to be more of an elite sport. I think it’s terrific that top players are stronger, better trained, more physically capable, so doing nothing is something that to me would be, if I was really honest, completely irresponsible for the future of the game.”

USGA chef executive Mike Whan said in a statement: “Predictable, continued increases will become a significant issue for the next generation if not addressed soon.”

But with consultation set to determine whether the proposal becomes an official rule, the PGA Tour showed little support, declaring only it would “continue our own extensive independent analysis of the topic” before submitting feedback.

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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