On the heels of the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&As) proposal for a “Modified Local Rule” for elite competition that would reduce the overall distance a golf ball could travel at extremely high speeds, Golf Datatech, LLC released its Golf Ball Rollback Survey, offering an analysis of where “serious golfers” stand on the issue.

For more background on long-distance standards and proposed rule changes from Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA and Thomas Page, USGA Chief Governance Officer, go here to learn more or click on the photo below.


“This golf ball rollback is a hot-button topic across the professional tours and among the amateur golf community, especially among better players who rely on distance as a key part of their game,” said John Krzynowek, partner, Golf Datatech, LLC. “For this reason, we expedited this Serious Golfer Survey to put a stake in the ground so we can assess how perceptions and opinions shift on this issue over time.”

On March 14, the USGA and R&A proposed a change to the rules of golf to create a ball that flies shorter and would be used at “Elite Professional and Amateur” events while maintaining the current ball for “Recreation” play. In other words, rather than having all golf balls be the same, elite players would be required to use a shorter ball, and recreational players would see no change from the ball they use during play.

In developing the Golf Ball Rollback Survey, Golf Datatech analyzed data from over 1,250 respondents in its Serious Golfer database—an opt-in group of avid golfers who play frequently and spend the most on golf equipment. Feedback from the respondents, each given an overview of the Modified Local Rule, includes:

  • Fifty-two percent do not like the proposed rule;
  • Twenty-three percent are in favor of the proposed rule;
  • Thirteen percent don’t know enough about the rule to have an opinion; and
  • Twelve percent don’t care.

Among those respondents who do not support the Modified Local Rule, 647 respondents:

  • Seventy-two percent said they “like knowing everyone plays by the same rules”;
  • Fifty-five percent do not think it is necessary;
  • Forty-three percent believe it “complicates” the rules; and
  • Seven percent indicate they play “high-level competition,” and the proposed rule complicates play.

Open-end feedback among respondents who do not support the Modified Local Rule includes:

  • It penalizes elite players for being elite;
  • Many like to play using the same equipment as elite players to see how they are the same/different;
  • Some feel the ball is being held accountable when the focus should be on clubs;
  • There is an undercurrent of golfers concerned that the expense of designing and making two different balls would have to be borne by the consumer, and golf ball prices would increase as a result.

Among those respondents who support the Modified Local Rule, 293 respondents:

  • Eighty-five percent do not want to see the classic courses made obsolete;
  • Forty-five percent believe tech improvements have ruined the game;
  • Thirty-nine percent feel tour pros hit the ball “too far”;
  • Twenty-six percent do not hit the ball like a tour pro, so they do not care what the elite players use.

Open end feedback among those who support the Modified Local Rule:

  • A shorter ball would bring more skill back to the game for elite players; and
  • Concern that bigger/longer golf courses would require more resources to maintain (capital, water, fertilizer, etc.) and create a sustainability case against the sport.

Respondents were also asked what impact the proposed rule would have on their enjoyment of the game with the following response:

  • Seventy-nine percent indicated it would not affect their enjoyment;
  • Seventeen percent said it could make the game less enjoyable;
  • Four percent said it might make the game more enjoyable; and
  • One percent said they would no longer enjoy the game.

Krzynowek added, “While the majority of serious golfers polled are opposed to the proposed Modified Local Rule, ultimately, most do not think it will have a direct impact on their own personal enjoyment of the game. What this survey did not evaluate is what are the potential ramifications on interest in the professional game. Will there be less interest in watching elite players compete on some of the world’s biggest stages if they use a shorter/modified golf ball? That is yet to be determined, but what is certain is that this topic is not going away, and we will continue to analyze the issue in the weeks ahead.”