US PGA Champion Justin Thomas has strongly criticized the plans of the R&A and the United States Golf Association to limit the distance traveled by golf balls in future elite tournaments.
Former US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and golf ball makers Titleist have also been critical.
The makers want professional and elite amateur golf to be played using a “tournament ball” that would not fly as far as those currently used in the game.
“You’re trying to create a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” Thomas said. “For me, it’s so bad for the game of golf.”
Recreational amateur golf would not be covered by the “Model Local Rule” that the R&A and USGA recommend for elite golf use. Both organizations say they plan to implement the move at their majors – the Open and the US Open in 2026.
“What’s great for me is the fact that you can play the exact same golf ball as me,” added Thomas. “That’s great.
“For an everyday amateur golfer, it’s quite unique that we can play with exactly the same equipment.”
The new rule means that a ball hit by a driver swinging at 127mph under laboratory conditions should not be able to fly more than 320 yards. With touring clubhead speeds averaging around 114 mph, this would result in a substantial reduction in driving distances at the biggest events.
“If you can swing 127 miles per hour, like, power to you,” Thomas said.
“I mean, people are running faster, so, what, are they just going to make the length a mile longer so the fastest time doesn’t change, or are they going to put the NBA hoop at 13 feet because people can jump higher now?
“Like, no. It’s evolution. We’re athletes now. Like, we train to hit the ball further and faster and if you can do that, good for you. So yeah, like you can see it, I’m clearly against it.”
DeChambeau, who is among the longest hitters in the game, told the LIV Golf website: “I think that’s the most excruciating thing you can do in golf.
“It’s not about rolling golf balls back; it’s about making golf courses harder.”
DeChambeau won his only major title at the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot, where narrow fairways and thick roughs were set to create one of the toughest courses in major history.
But Brandon Matthews, who has the fastest average swing speed on the PGA Tour (126.6 mph) told Golf Channel he welcomes the proposals.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing some shooting forms again like you used to,” Matthews said.
“Like a ball flight going up. You don’t see that anymore because of ball technology. So you’re going to see that coming back a bit more, which is really cool.
“I don’t know how far they’re going to go with this, but it’s going to be a really exciting change and I think it’s going to make the game a little bit better.”
Meanwhile, the boss of Acushnet, which makes the most popular Titleist balls on tour, attacked the “bifurcation” of rules separating elite and recreational forms of the game.
“Golf is an ambitious sport and we believe it is at its best when the equipment and playing rules are unified,” said David Maher, president and CEO of the company.
“Over the past two decades, the average PGA Tour game length has increased by less than 100 yards and the scoring average has remained virtually flat.”
The R&A and USGA believe the game has “crossed a rubicon” and that it would be irresponsible not to restrict driving distances in the future.
Next month’s Masters in Augusta will see the famed 13th hole stretched 35 yards to cope with modern strikes.
There were fears that the Old Course at St Andrews would prove too short for the world’s best players at last year’s Open.
Policymakers have given the golf industry six months to provide feedback on proposals that would come into effect in 2026.
It is clear that they will face considerable opposition from some quarters.