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Golf chiefs change rules to shorten hitting distances

Europe's Northern Irish golfer, Rory McIlroy. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Golf’s biggest hitters are expected to lose up to 15 yards in driving distance under new rules relating to ball specifications announced by the game’s governing bodies on Wednesday.

The plan will apply at the elite level from 2028 and for recreational players from 2030.

Golf’s governing bodies have introduced the changes to take account of the greater clubhead speed generated by top stars such as Rory McIlroy.

The longest hitters are expected to see a reduction of 13 to 15 yards in drive distance.

“The decision aims to reduce the impact increased hitting distances have on golf’s long-term sustainability while minimising the impact on the recreational game,” the UK-based R&A and US Golf Association said in a joint statement.

The governing bodies said they wanted to protect the integrity of golf courses, including their overall length, and ensure that a variety of skills are needed to be successful.

“Longer golf courses require additional resources such as water, the cost of renovating or moving elements like tees and bunkers continues to rise and other long-term impacts have been identified as a result of increased distance,” the statement added.

The change will have less of an impact in women’s professional golf and a “minimal distance impact” for most recreational golfers.

“Governance is hard,” said Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA. “And while thousands will claim that we did too much, there will be just as many who said we didn’t do enough to protect the game long-term.

“But from the very beginning, we’ve been driven to do what is right for the game, without bias. As we’ve said, doing nothing is not an option –- and we would be failing in our responsibility to protect the game’s future if we didn’t take appropriate action now.”

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