One big question following the joint announcement by the USGA and R&A that they are proposing a model local rule that would modify the way golf balls are tested to curb distance in elite competition:
Where do the governing bodies envision the line being drawn between who implements this MLR, if enacted starting in 2026, and who doesn’t?
“I think it's safe to say we wouldn't be suggesting this if we didn't think this would be something we would utilize,” USGA CEO Mike Whan said Tuesday.
R&A CEO Martin Slumbers added: “Same.”
But does that mean every championship that the USGA or R&A conducts? According to the USGA, if the MLR is implemented, it would only adopt the new golf ball for the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur, at least right away.
“Beyond that, it is premature to determine, as we don’t have a fully written and finalized MLR for the game to react to, or our championship committee,” a USGA spokesperson told GolfChannel.com. “The MLR, by its very nature, gives the game the option to adopt.”
The PGA Tour and PGA of America released statements on Tuesday, but neither have determined if they would adopt the MLR. The LPGA took a similar stance, though it added that it “does not see distance as a hindrance toward the growth of the LPGA.”
Slumbers made a comment that leads to the belief that this MLR would only be adopted by elite men’s competitions.
“I think at this point there isn't a distance challenge in the women's game,” Slumbers said. “You're certainly seeing changes in the women's game where more power, longer distances is coming in than maybe even five years ago. But at the moment, there's plenty of headroom on the golf courses that we have for the women's game. So, we would not be intending to make any application of this rule in women's elite golf at this point.”
Slumbers added that he’s heard significant feedback asking the governing bodies not to “think about elite golf too narrow,” specifically as it relates to top amateur players.
“I think I feel very strongly about that,” Slumbers said. “You only need to go and watch boys' elite golf to see that the next generation are coming along and they're hitting the ball as far if not farther, and we certainly know that the tours leading up to the PGA Tour the ball tends to be hit further and they cut back a bit when they get to the PGA Tour.”
Whan says he’s yet to have a conversation with the NCAA, but he looked forward to speaking with college golf’s governing body now that the process of the notice-and-comment period has moved into the latter stage.
“Do I think that there's an opportunity here for the NCAA to utilize the same thing? I do,” Whan said. “Exactly where NCAA is on this, we haven't been able to have that conversation until now, so that'll be something that we can do going forward. It would make sense to me given what we see at the college level to implement this. Whether or not that's something that they will or won't do is conversations that we'll have to have going forward from today.”
Reached by GolfChannel.com, an NCAA spokesperson said, “We will have no comment at this time. At this point, this is just a proposal, so it’s too early to discuss any potential implementation at the college level.”