Golf Datatech conducted a “snap” survey less than one week after the USGA/R&A announced their proposal for a “Model Local Rule” that would apply to “Elite Competition”, whereby it would reduce the overall distance a golf ball would travel off extremely high club head speeds.
The respondents to this survey come from Golf Datatech’s Database of Serious Golfers, an opt in group of passionate, avid players who play the most and spend the most on golf equipment. As such, their opinions are particularly important and valued by the golfing community.
- 1,295 respondents from the Golf Datatech Database of Serious Golfers
- 36% single digit handicaps or better, 30% are 11-15, 21% are 16-20, and 13% have a handicap over 20
- 26% play most of their golf at a private course, 74% public access
- 83% were aware of a new rule, 17% unaware
Feelings About the Proposed Model Local Rule
All respondents were exposed to a synopsis of the rule (below):
On March 14 the USGA and R&A proposed changes to the rules of golf to create a ball that flies shorter, which will be used by “Elite Professional and Amateur” events, while maintaining the current ball for “Recreation” play. In other words, rather than having all golf balls be the same, the Elite players would be required to use the shorter golf ball and recreational players would not have to change from what they currently play.
So, among those who currently have an opinion of the rule:
- 69% do not like the rule
- 31% are in favor of it
Do Not Support the Model Local Rule
Among those who don’t like the rule (669 respondents):
Interpretation of feelings (open ended): Respondents were allowed to provide open ended feelings about the rule and why they do not like it, and there a few general themes among those who are against the rule:
- It penalizes Elite players for being Elite
- Many like to play the same equipment as the Elite players to see how they are the same/different
- Some feel the ball is being held accountable, when the focus should be on clubs
- There is an undercurrent of gofers who are concerned that the expense of designing and making two different balls will ultimately have to be borne by the consumer, and golf ball prices will rise as a result
Support the Model Local Rule
Among those who support the new proposed rule (303 respondents):
Interpretation of feelings (Open ended): Respondents were allowed to provide open ended feelings about the rule and why they support it, and there a few general themes among those who are for the proposed rule:
- A shorter ball will bring more skill back to the game for Elite players
- Concern that bigger/longer golf courses require more resources to maintain (capital, water, fertilizer, etc.), and ultimately will create a sustainability case against the sport
Impact on Personal Enjoyment of the Game
What impact will the proposed new rule have on your personal enjoyment of the game?
- 79% indicated it will not have any effect on their own enjoyment
- 16% said it might make the game less enjoyable
- 4% believe it might make the game more enjoyable
- 1% indicated they will no longer enjoy the game
While the majority of Serious Golfers polled in this initial wave are opposed to the proposed Model Local Rule that would create a different set of ball specifications for the Elite player (and would make the ball fly shorter), ultimately most do not think it will have a direct impact on their own personal enjoyment of the game.
What this snap opinion survey did not evaluate is the potential ramifications on interest in the professional game. Will there be less interest in watching Elite players compete on some of the world’s biggest stages if they are using a shorter/modified golf ball?
As the golf world sorts through these potential outcomes and issues, communications and data from the various organizations will prove crucial to creating an overarching narrative in favor, or against, the proposed rule. At this current moment in time, there are many potential serious concerns arisen by those in opposition, but we’re certain this is only the opening act in what will be a multi-part drama.