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.”

Added Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s chief governance officer: “We’ve worked through third parties and we have a third-party industry expert that went in and did his own analysis and came up with the same conclusions. … I would just tell golfers to trust the process. Trust the numbers. We’re six years out. And when we get to 2030 and they see and play the game, they’re still going to enjoy it, right? [The distance changes] will be imperceptible to many of us.”

According to the governing bodies’ research, the biggest hitters are expected to see the biggest loss in distance, in terms of total yardage.

“The longest hitters are expected to see a reduction of as much as 13-15 yards in drive distance,” the release says. “Average professional tour and elite male players are expected to see a reduction of 9-11 yards, with a 5-7-yard reduction for an average LET or LPGA player.”

Rory McIlroy led the PGA Tour in driving distance last season, averaging 326 yards off the tee, while Polly Mack led the LPGA at 281 yards. With the golf-ball rollback, McIlroy would see his average dip below 310 yards, while Mack would be under 275.

McIlroy is among a minority of players who has voiced support for the rollback. Most other pros, along with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, have vehemently opposed it — or at leas they did when the rollback was originally pitched as a Model Local Rule that would impact only pros and elite amateurs. Now, the rollback will be applied universally.

“Frankly, I’m not sure what the reaction will be,” Pagel told “But as we go through this, I hope that the tours, the industry, the leading organizations really do see that we’ve partnered throughout this process. We’ve listened. We’ve acknowledged the need to change based on feedback. And really, I would hope that they see that the role of the governing bodies is objective. Again, the the only objective we have here is keeping the long term health of the game in mind. We have no other buyers. We have no other motives other than to care about what the game looks like ten years from now and 20 years from now and for the next generation.”

The new testing conditions are set to take effect in 2028. But recreational players will be allowed to use currently conforming balls until 2030.