How much distance would you lose with a balata golf ball? | Fully Equipped

With the USGA and R&A proposing a Modern Local Rule golf ball, golfers have been wondering just how much distance pros could stand to lose with a glorified equipment governor. No one is telling pros they have to go back to using Titleist’s Tour Balata, but to give his peers a peek at what things could look like in the future, Tiger Woods brought some balatas with him for a Monday practice with Rory McIlroy.

While Woods and McIlroy didn’t take any cuts off the tee with the balata balls, Fully Equipped co-host Ryan Barath caught winds of the story and decided to conduct his own head-to-head testing between the modern-day and balata versions to see how much distance would be lost.

The USGA and R&A have claimed the MLR ball would go about 15-20 yards less, but when it comes to balata versus modern, Barath found the carry delta gap to be even wider. Take a look at the numbers below.

Fully Equipped co-host Ryan Barath recently tested a balata golf ball against the modern version. Ryan Barath/GOLF

It’s easy to get fixated on the ball speed and carry deltas, but check out the spin rate.

That’s a delta of just over 1,200 RPMs — a significant number, to be sure. As Barath noted on the podcast, reducing loft is one way to lower spin rate, so it’s very possible the gap could be reduced. But you aren’t lopping off 15 to 20 yards with the turn of a wrench.

It’s a fun test that highlights what could be in store for pro golfers in 2026.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2023? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.


Jonathan Wall Editor

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour.