Skip to main content

USGA Releases Ball Standard Proposal

USGAFAR HILLS, N.J. -- The United States Golf Association, which tests golf balls to determine whether or not they conform to the Rules of Golf, on Thursday issued the second phase of its proposal to update its golf ball test methods. Phase I, implemented late last year, brought all ball testing indoors. Phase II of the proposal addresses current swing speeds and equipment to improve the speed and accuracy of the testing process.
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has made a similar proposal in its jurisdiction outside of the United States and Mexico. All golf balls that currently appear on the USGAs List of Conforming Golf Balls will continue to comply with the Rules under the Phase II proposal.
According to a press release issued by the USGA Thursday, a notice outlining details of the Phase II proposal were sent to manufacturers for comment. The proposal is subject to change after completion of a notice-and-comment period, which runs until December 20, 2003.
According to the USGA, the changes to the test under Phase II are as follows:
  • Swing speed will be increased to 120 miles per hour from 109 miles per hour
  • A non-branded titanium club head with a Coefficient of Restitution (COR) of .820 will replace the laminated wooden head now in use
  • A modern, non-branded set-up ball will replace the current set-up ball that has been in use
  • The new ball test will maintain the current ball launch angle of 10 degrees, the current back spin at 42 revolutions per second, and a steel shaft in the test club.
    The USGA added that increasing the swing speed under Phase II by 11 miles per hour adds approximately 22 yards to golf ball distance. The shift to a titanium club head with a .820 COR spring-like effect boosts distance by approximately another eight yards. But instead of increasing the current ODS limit of 296.8 yards by a full 30 (22 + 8) yards, the USGA has proposed to set the limit using the new ball test procedure at 320 yards, or seven fewer overall yards.
    'Its not accurate to compare the new limit to the old one and assume weve allowed more yards,' Rugge explained in the USGA release. 'The same balls simply go farther when hit at higher speeds with modern equipment. By updating the test and modernizing procedures, its inevitable that the ODS limit would need to rise to reflect the changes in test methods.
    'For example, if you modernized the test procedures but left the limit where it now stands, nearly every ball that now conforms would fail under the new procedure. Thus, weve proposed to set the limit at a place that provides meaningful restrictions on distance, tightens the ODS standard by seven yards, maintains the continuity of the current conforming list, and provides a framework through which we can monitor our test procedures and modify them as player swing speeds and other conditions change. We feel that Phase II accomplishes all these important goals.'
    After all comments are received, the USGA will announce a final decision in the spring of 2004. Under the proposal, the prospective implementation date for Phase II would be June, 2004.