What did you announce today and why is it so important?
We’re updating the speeds used to test golf balls for the first time in 20 years. The game has evolved significantly during that time and it’s important that our testing conditions also evolve to support golf’s long-term future and sustainability.
How will this affect the golf ball I play?
All golf balls that are manufactured worldwide and submitted for conformance to the Rules beginning with the 2028 cycle will need to be tested under these new conditions.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean your golf ball will be affected.
Starting in 2028, all golf balls used by golfers in any competition must be on the 2028 conforming list. For recreational/non-competitive golfers, you can continue to use balls on the 2027 conforming list for recreational play only until 2030, to provide more transition time.
When will these new conditions take effect?
It all starts with the 2028 season, focused on competitive play (golf balls are submitted in October for the next year’s conformance list, which is published the first Wednesday of the month). Recreational or non-competitive golfers can continue to use balls on the 2027 conforming list for recreational play until 2030, to provide more transition time.
Why make these changes now?
The trends are clear. If left unchecked, hitting distance will continue to increase and could take many golf courses, and the game itself, down an unsustainable path. The study of distance impacts on the game has been several years in the making and the process has been thoughtful and open. An enormous amount of data, research and listening to all constituents in the golf industry has led us to this point.
How do the new testing conditions compare to the current ones?
Currently, the Overall Distance Standard, which defines the maximum yardage golf balls can travel, is set at 317 yards (with a tolerance of 3 yards). Golf balls are tested according to three established launch conditions: clubhead speed (120 mph), launch angle (10 degrees) and spin (2520 rpm). They are intended to represent the swings of golf’s longest hitters.
Starting with the 2028 testing cycle, the Overall Distance Standard of 317 yards (plus a 3-yard tolerance) will remain the same but the three testing conditions will be changed to 125 mph clubhead speed, 11-degree launch angle, and 2220 rpm.
Why change the testing conditions?
To reflect how the longest hitters play the game. The ODS was originally created in 1976 as a ball test to measure the farthest distance golf balls could travel using a mechanical golfer, based on how the longest hitters play the game today. The testing conditions are outdated and need to be updated.
We’re also changing them to reduce the impacts distance will continue to have on the game, long-term. Two of the most important factors are to protect the integrity of golf courses, including their overall length, and to ensure that a variety of skills are needed to play them and achieve success. Both of these aspects have been negatively impacted by increased hitting distance and will continue to be impacted if nothing is done to address these trends.
What’s wrong with golfers swinging clubs faster and the golf ball going longer?
Driving the ball is one of the many skills all golfers can use to succeed in the game, and there’s nothing wrong with improving performance to maximize that skill. But just like anything, there are limits. This update continues the USGA’s governance role across the game, and ultimately ensures golf courses don’t feel the pressure to lengthen, given the cost and resources needed.
Why make a universal change to all golf balls rather than a change that only impacts elite golfers?
It was clear during our listening and comment period that golfers and the entire game want a unified game with one set of rules. This change, including a reduction in the originally proposed test speed, achieves that while also allowing us to stem the trend of increased hitting distance at the longest end of the game, with minimal impact to recreational golfers.
What do you anticipate will be the change in the driving distance of the ball?
Based on what is used now, many recreational golfers will not be affected. Those that could be affected will realize an impact of less than 5 yards, on average, with a driver. Elite female players will see 5-7 yards average difference; elite male players 9-11 yards and the longest players 13-15 yards on average, with variability dependent on a variety of factors including player athleticism, equipment differences, and course conditions.
Does this affect all clubs in my bag, like fairway woods and irons?
No. It is not anticipated that mid and shorter iron play will be impacted by this change. The effect of how far a golf ball travels decreases with lower irons and woods.