Golf Datatech Survey on Golf Ball Rollback

Kissimmee, Florida, United States: On the heels of the proposal from The R&A and the USGA for a ‘Modified Local Rule’ for elite competition that reduces the overall distance a golf ball would travel at extremely high speeds, Golf Datatech, LLC, has unveiled a survey that provides immediate analysis of where ‘Serious Golfers’ stand on the issue.

“This golf ball rollback is a hot button topic across the professional Tours and among the amateur golf community, especially among better players who rely on distance as a key part of their game,” said John Krzynowek, Partner, Golf Datatech, a leading independent market research firm for retail sales, consumer, and trade trends in the golf industry. 

“For this reason, we expedited this Serious Golfer Survey to put a stake in the ground so we can assess how perceptions and opinions shift on this issue over time,” he added.

It was on March 14 that The R&A and USGA 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.

In developing the Golf Ball Rollback Survey, Golf Datatech analysed data from over 1,250 respondents in the Company’s Serious Golfer database. This is an opt in group of passionate, avid golfers who play the most and spend the most on golf equipment. As such, their opinions are particularly important and valued by the golfing community.

Among the feedback from the respondents, each who were provided a synopsis of the Modified Local Rule, include: 

Opinions on the Proposed Rule:

  • 52% don’t like the proposed rule.
  • 23% are in favour of the proposed rule.
  • 13% don’t know enough yet to have an opinion.
  • 12% don’t care.

Among those who DO NOT SUPPORT the Modified Local Rule (647 respondents): 

  • 72% indicate they ‘like knowing that everyone plays by the same rules’.
  • 55% don’t think it is necessary.
  • 43% believe it ‘complicates’ the rules.
  • 7% indicate they play ‘high level competition’ and the proposed rule complicates things for them.

Open End Feedback among those who DO NOT SUPPORT the Modified Local Rule includes:

  • It penalises 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 golfers 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.

Among those who SUPPORT the Modified Local Rule (293 respondents):

  • 85% don’t want to see classic courses made obsolete.
  • 45% believe technological improvements are ruining the game.
  • 39% feel Tour professionals hit the ball ‘too far’.
  • 26% don’t hit it like a Tour pro, so they don’t really care what the elite players use.

Open End Feedback among those who SUPPORT the Modified Local 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, fertiliser, etc), and ultimately will create a sustainability case against the sport.

Respondents were also asked what impact the proposed new rule will have on their personal enjoyment of the game, and results were as follows:

  • 79% indicated it will not have any effect on their own enjoyment.
  • 17% 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.

Krzynowek said: “While the majority of Serious Golfers polled are opposed to the proposed Modified Local Rule, ultimately most do not think it will have a direct impact on their own personal enjoyment of the game. 

“What this survey did not evaluate is what are 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? That is yet to be determined, but what is certain is that this topic is not going away and we will continue to analyse the issue in the weeks ahead.”

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