Gear brands speak of “harmful” USGA ball rollback

Titleist issued a formal statement following the USGA and R&A MLR proposal.

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The USGA and R&A officially announced a proposal to roll back the golf ball with a Model Local Rule (MLR) that could take effect as early as January 2026 at the US Open and Open Championship.

As you might expect, every rule designed around a device requires approval from the manufacturers who create the tools. In 2010, gear brands were asked to redesign (and reduce) groove volume on irons, wedges, hybrids, and fairway woods to comply with Model Local Rule G-2. All happy to oblige.

More than a decade later, golf federations are again urging manufacturers to increase their R&D budgets in the name of distance domination at elite levels. This time it is unclear whether manufacturers will willingly comply with the new proposals.

Six golf ball brands are currently played on the PGA Tour, but fewer than half released official statements about the MLR golf ball on Tuesday. Titleist was the most vocal following the announcement, calling the golf ball bifurcation proposal “a solution to a problem.”

“The performance changes of a ball being rolled back would affect every shot in the round,” said David Maher, President and CEO of Acushnet (Titleist’s parent company). “Players would also need to adapt to gear changes, with some players being penalized over others by this disruption. Golf ball branching would create confusion as to what level of competition the MLR products are used at and how to effectively manage and govern them. Also, multiple versions of golf ball models on the market would be confusing for golfers.

“…Unification is a strong positive force at play and we believe that dividing up equipment would be detrimental to the long-term welfare of golf. As a result, we will actively participate in this conversation with governing bodies, global professional tours, PGA professional organizations, amateur federations and associations, and golfers to contribute to the continued enjoyment and growth of the game.”

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No one has more to gain or lose from a potential golf ball rollback than Titleist, who currently make the most played golf balls among the pro ranks – the Pro V1 and the Pro V1x – and would need to develop a new iteration to match the MLR -Ball proposal, making their current tour balls non-compliant at the same time.

Of course, Titleist isn’t the only brand cautious about golf ball prospects in the elite ranks. Bridgestone, which makes balls for Tiger Woods, Jason Day and Fred Couples, expressed unease at how the addition of an MLR ball might confuse recreational golfers.

“Golf is in a significant phase of growth and is more popular than ever,” the company said in a statement. “We are concerned that the proposed rule changes could confuse and dampen enthusiasm for millions of new participants in our game. We are pleased that the proposed changes do not appear to be aimed at recreational players.”

Callaway declined to comment, saying in a brief statement that it was “studying the information and suggestions provided.” TaylorMade, Srixon and Wilson are yet to make formal statements.

More than two years before the proposal could become an official MLR, expect manufacturers and governing bodies to engage in in-depth discussions as they seek to shape the future of the elite-level golf ball.

Looking to gain some distance and confidence off the tee with your own game this season? Find a suitable location near you at the GOLF subsidiary True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Geared podcast below.

jwall

Jonathan Wand

Golf.com Editor

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Senior Equipment Editor. Before joining the team in late 2018, he spent 6 years covering gear for the PGA Tour.

https://golf.com/gear/golf-balls/equipment-manufacturer-usga-ball-rollback/ Gear brands speak of “harmful” USGA ball rollback

Ian Walker

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