US PGA champion Justin Thomas has slammed plans by the R&A and USGA to limit the distance golf balls can travel at future elite tournaments.
Former US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and Titleist golf ball manufacturers have also been critical.
The rulemakers want top professional and elite amateur golf to be played with a “tournament ball” that does not fly as far as those currently in use.
“You’re attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” Thomas explained. “It’s just so bad for the game of golf,” he says.
The “Model Local Rule” that the R&A and USGA are recommending for elite golf use would not apply to recreational amateur golf. Both organizations say they intend to implement the change at their major tournaments, the Open and the US Open, in 2026.
“The fact that you can play the exact same golf ball that I play is fantastic,” Thomas added. “That’s fine.
“It’s very unusual for an average amateur golfer to be able to play the exact same equipment.”
According to the new rule, a ball struck by a driver swinging at 127 mph in laboratory conditions should not fly more than 320 yards. With tour clubhead speeds averaging around 114 mph, this would result in significantly shorter driving distances at top events.
“Power to you if you can swing 127 miles per hour,” Thomas said.
“People are running faster, so are they just going to lengthen the mile to maintain the fastest mile time, or are they going to put the NBA hoop at 13 feet because people can jump higher now?
“No way, no how. It’s called evolution. We’re now athletes. For example, we’re working on hitting the ball farther and faster, and if you can do it, great. So, as you can see, I’m clearly opposed to it.”
DeChambeau, one of the game’s longest hitters, told the LIV Golf website: “It is, in my opinion, the most heinous thing you could do to the game of golf.
“The goal isn’t to roll golf balls back; it’s to make golf courses more difficult.”
DeChambeau won his only major at Winged Foot in 2020, where narrow fairways and thick rough were expected to make for one of the most difficult course layouts in major history.
However, Brandon Matthews, the PGA Tour’s fastest average swing speed (126.6mph), told the Golf Channel that he supports the proposals.
“I’m looking forward to seeing shot shapes like you used to see,” Matthews said.
“Similar to a rising ball flight. Because of ball technology, you no longer see that. So you’ll see a little more of that return, which is fantastic.
“I’m not sure how far they’ll go with this, but it’s going to be a really exciting change, and I think it’ll make the game a little better.”
Meanwhile, the CEO of Acushnet, which manufactures the most popular Titleist balls on tour, slammed the “bifurcation” of separating rules for elite and recreational players.
“Golf is an aspirational sport, and we believe it is at its best when equipment and playing regulations are unified,” said David Maher, president and CEO of the company.
“Over the last two decades, the average PGA Tour playing length has increased by less than 100 yards, while the scoring average has remained virtually flat.”
The R&A and USGA believe that the game has “crossed a rubicon” and that it would be irresponsible not to limit driving distances in the future.
The famous 13th hole at Augusta National will be lengthened by 35 yards to accommodate modern hitting at next month’s Masters.
At last year’s Open, there were concerns that the Old Course at St Andrews would be too short for the world’s best players.
The golf industry has been given six months to provide feedback on proposals that will go into effect in 2026.
It is clear that they will face stiff opposition from some quarters.