After years of research and consultation, this week the R&A and USGA finally confirmed plans to roll back the golf ball for both recreational players and professionals alike. The governing bodies have argued that protecting golf course sustainability and curbing the ever-increasing driving distances of pros are key reasons behind the decisions.
Both bodies had initially proposed a bifurcation of the golf ball back in March, with professionals using separate balls from amateurs, but that proposal received widescale criticism from tour pros and manufacturers alike.
However, the 72-time LPGA winner has suggested that may have been the preferable option to the wholesale rollback announced this week and is wary about how the changes may affect amateur players.
While @ANNIKA59 is a fan of the @USGA & @RandA, she wonders if the “sustainability” argument applies to amateurs and @LPGA pros that a golf ball rollback will impact. pic.twitter.com/MuEv8U0neQDecember 6, 2023
“I’m a fan of the R&A and USGA and we have to look after the game and obviously the future and what’s good for the game,” the 53-year-old told Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio.
“But the game is not the same for amateurs and professionals so if we are talking about sustainability and running out of land, well I haven’t heard an amateur ever say ‘Oh, this course was really short’.”
Driving distance has become an increasingly problematic issue on the PGA Tour. In the past 20 years, the average driving distance has increased by almost 15 yards, while, the number of players averaging 300 or more yards off the tee has grown from just nine to 98.
Comparatively, the LPGA Tour has not seen a similar exponential growth. Germany’s Polly Mack led the Tour in driving distance in 2023, but her average was only 281.7 yards. Only 12 players averaged more than 270 yards driving distance across the whole season, leading Sorenstam to believe that the problem of ever-increasing distance is only something pertinent to the men’s game.
“I really think this is a PGA Tour issue more than anything. On the LPGA Tour, we haven’t run out of courses,” she added. “I’m happy to play the courses that the men can’t play, courses that we think of, bucket list courses that are too short for the men.”
Instead of a universal rollback, the 10-time Major champion has said that the focus should have been on making men’s courses more difficult in tournament conditions.
“I think there are other things that you can do to make these courses more difficult,” she ended. “If you look at some of the courses they play [on the PGA Tour], they really don’t score that low – what’s the difference there?
“It’s not just the distance, it’s the greens and the rough and more narrow fairways where you have to have more strategy than just bombing of the tee.”