The Blog

Here’s how much distance golfers can expect to lose with new golf-ball rollback

After several days of rumors and speculation, golf’s governing bodies have made it official: a golf-ball rollback is coming.

In a joint press release from the USGA and R&A Wednesday, the governing bodies announced they will “will update the testing conditions used for golf ball conformance under the Overall Distance Standard.” The update “aims to reduce the impact increased hitting distances have on golf’s long-term sustainability.”

In layman’s terms, the governing bodies are aiming to limit the distance modern golf balls fly in an effort to preserve the game for generations to come. The new testing conditions will be 125-mph clubhead speed, a spin rate of 2200 rpm and a launch angle of 11 degrees. The previous conditions, which were established 20 years ago, were 120 mph, 2520 rpm and a 10-degree launch angle.

The golf-ball rollback has generated much discourse on social media since news of the announcement broke last week. The report generated passionate opinions on both sides of the aisle, with the most vocal — on social media, anyway — claiming the new balls will make the game disproportionately more difficult for weekend warriors.

How many yards will golfers lose with the rollback?

Don’t believe everything you read online. According to the governing bodies’ research, recreational players should expect to see a decrease of less than five yards in driving distance, based on an average swing speed of 93 mph for male golfers and 72 mph for female players. And when they get into their irons, they’re likely to see no perceptible change in distance.

“The way it works, especially if you make the change through aerodynamics [of the ball], it goes actually to the square of the velocity,” John Spitzer, the USGA’s managing director of equipment standards, told “So we don’t expect to see much distance loss at all — even at the highest levels — once you get to the 5-iron. And when you have low swing players like myself, I’m going to lose my distance almost all on the drive and I won’t see anything in the fairway woods or hybrids. But the rest of the golfers at the highest level, by the time they get to 5-iron [their distances] would be the exact same.”