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Rory McIlroy says rule change ‘will make no difference to the average golfer’

Rory McIlroy believes “elite pros” are to blame for a possible shorter golf ball being introduced (David Davies/PA)
Rory McIlroy believes “elite pros” are to blame for a possible shorter golf ball being introduced (David Davies/PA)

Rory McIlroy believes “elite pros” and equipment makers are to blame for an expected rule change which will reduce how far golf balls travel.

Golf’s governing bodies announced in March the proposal of a Model Local Rule (MLR) to give tournaments the option to require the use of balls which would travel around 15 yards less.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers and USGA counterpart Mike Whan confirmed that the MLR would apply in their own elite events, most notably the Open Championship and US Open, respectively.

Martin Slumbers
Chief Executive of the R&A Martin Slumbers during a press conference ahead of The Open at Royal Liverpool (Peter Byrne/PA)

McIlroy and Tiger Woods spoke out in support of the proposal but it was opposed by the PGA Tour and strongly criticised by top equipment manufacturing company Acushnet and former world number one Justin Thomas, who plays their market-leading Titleist balls.

In response to what Slumbers termed “very strong pushback”, the R&A and USGA are now understood to be on the verge of announcing a revision to the way balls are tested, which will effectively make current versions non-conforming and require shorter balls to be made.

Golf Digest, which first reported in detail on the revision, say it will apply at the elite level from 2028, but also for recreational players from 2030.

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, McIlroy said: “I don’t understand the anger about the golf ball roll back.

“It will make no difference whatsoever to the average golfer and puts golf back on a path of sustainability. It will also help bring back certain skills in the pro game that have been eradicated over the past 2 decades.

“The people who are upset about this decision shouldn’t be mad at the governing bodies, they should be mad at elite pros and club/ball manufacturers because they didn’t want bifurcation.

“The governing bodies presented us with that option earlier this year. Elite pros and ball manufacturers think bifurcation would negatively affect their bottom lines, when in reality, the game is already bifurcated.

“You think we play the same stuff you do? They put pressure on the governing bodies to roll it back to a lesser degree for everyone. Bifurcation was the logical answer for everyone, but yet again in this game, money talks.”

In response to a follower who queried his view that the change would make no difference to the average golfer, McIlroy wrote: “I don’t believe an average golfer giving up 5-10 yards off the tee is going to have a material effect on their actual score, handicap or enjoyment of the game.”