One of golf’s biggest names is among the few PGA Tour players who have spoken out in support of proposed changes that would limit the distance golf balls travel when hit by the most elite hitters.
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Rory McIlroy said this week that he believes the rules, if implemented, will positively impact the sport’s top level of play.
“I really enjoy playing at the elite level. I really like it,” McIlroy, a four-time major tournament winner and one of the longest-range golfers, said in an interview with the No Laying Up podcast. “I know this is a really unpopular opinion among my peers, but I think it will help determine who the best players are a little easier.”
The United States Golf Association (USGA) and Royal & Ancient Golf (R&A) proposal is called a “model local rule” and could shorten an elite golfer’s tee shot by an average of about 15 yards. After reviewing the driving distance study, the USGA specifically talked about how to look at a golf ball in a unique way and collected feedback. The process is currently in the notification and comment period.
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According to the USGA and R&A Distance Report, the average driving distance for a male amateur is 215 yards, compared to nearly 300 yards for the average PGA Tour player.
“We don’t want to interfere with athleticism,” USGA CEO Mike Wang told FOX Business. “We don’t want truckers not building or using length as an advantage. [It’s] the heart of the game. We try not to interrupt it.”
He noted that the groups “understand the difficulties of continuing to overcome the distance … and at some point [it’s] becomes unplayable. It’s a terrible thing to be passed down to a generation or two to deal with later when we should be making smart decisions about it now.”
Wang also said the group has notified manufacturers of the direction and timing of potential changes.
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However, unlike McIlroy, the other members of the PGA Tour were not happy with the USGA and R&A announcement. At the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida, Justin Thomas criticized the proposal, saying that it was detrimental to the game.
“So, for two of the four biggest events of the year, we will have to use a different ball… try to explain to me how it is better suited for playing golf. 1 percent of all golfers,” Thomas told Golfweek.
At the same event, Sam Burns criticized the possible changes, calling them “stupid”.
“At the end of the day, we are a recreational sport,” Burns told Golf Today. “So people want to get out here and see how far we score, and I think there is a skill in that. I don’t think this is an unfair advantage for anyone. I don’t agree with what this is going to do to our game.”
Wang said he heard responses from both sides of the dispute.
“Some people think, ‘Where have you guys been… you should have done this 10 years ago, and that’s not enough,’” he said. “And then the other side says, ‘I can’t believe you’re asking me to accept a ball that couldn’t fly as far for the first couple of years as it does now.’
If adopted, the new rule is likely to come into effect in January 2026.