PGA Tour eyes ‘single rule’ for the golf ball. Here’s what that could mean
The PGA Tour made it known last month that it had no intention of supporting the Model Local Rule (MLR) the USGA and R&A proposed in March — at least in its current state.
In a memo to players, commissioner Jay Monahan left the door open to collaborating with the governing bodies and industry partners “to arrive at a solution,” but offered little in the way of concrete details regarding what a golf ball rollback might look like from the Tour’s perspective.
In fact, Monahan and Tour executive vice president Tyler Dennis nearly made it through an entire press conference on Tuesday at the Tour Championship before a reporter asked for an update on the Model Local Rule, highlighting where it ranks on the priority list.
But don’t think for a moment the Tour is completely neglecting the future of golf equipment at the highest level.
As Dennis confirmed during the presser, the Tour is very interested in knowing where everyone stands after the feedback period — which allowed manufacturers and golf stakeholders to share their thoughts and concerns with the USGA and R&A on the proposed MLR — ended on Aug. 14.
“We haven’t had any update following the conclusion of the period,” Dennis said. “There’s a lot of constituents that the USGA and the R&A are hearing from during that six-month period. You’re aware of our position, what we’ve heard from our players and all of our constituents.”
While the Tour has already made clear its stance on the MLR, Dennis did include two words that likely piqued the interest of golfers at all levels of the game: Single rule.
“Our plan is to continue to collaborate around a single rule that can make sense,” said Dennis. “It’s what we’ve done really since 2003 when we made a statement alongside the R&A and the USGA about this. And there’s been eight rule changes that we’ve supported through that process. So we’re talking to the USGA and the R&A regularly and I know they’re evaluating that. So there will be more news in the coming months for sure on that.”
While Dennis didn’t expand on his “single rule” comment, it’s possible he’s alluding to the USGA, R&A and Tour getting on the same page. Think of it as unification. What that looks like is anyone’s guess. If the Tour does indeed want the same golf ball rules and regulations for all, it very well could mean expanding the MLR beyond the professional game. In other words, remove the possibility of bifurcation at the highest level of professional golf and require recreational golfers to play the same modified ball as well.
It’s important to note the original Area of Interest (AOI) rolled out in March 2021 and looked at making changes across the board for all golfers, but it was changed earlier this year to “elite championships” — there was no mention of specific events — with an MLR that could be put in place as early as January 2026. Better known as full-blown bifurcation.
What remains to be seen is whether the USGA and R&A would even consider reversing course and going back to the original AOI in an effort to get the Tour on board, especially if it means negatively impacting distance (at certain swing speeds) at the recreational level.
In fact, the USGA has entertained doing the opposite in recent years by expanding the technology gap between the elite and recreational players that could allow for the “elimination of the MOI limit for recreational golfers” — if potential Model Local Rules were adopted. In layman’s terms: Clubs with even more forgiveness to make the game more enjoyable for weekend golfers.
With more than two years to go before an MLR could be in place, it’s all but certain the parties will continue to work together to find an acceptable solution. Whether that future includes the PGA Tour and its players is still very much up in the air.
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