Rory McIlroy BACKS rule-makers’ unpopular proposal to limit driving distances
Rory McIlroy BACKS golf’s rule-makers’ unpopular proposal to limit driving distances – as their initial plan to launch a NEW ball in 2026 is shot down by stars including Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm
- The R&A and the USGA floated plans to introduce a new ball in 2026 last week
- Driving distances would reduce by approximately 15 yards on average as a result
- The plan would stop courses from being over-powered and rendered obsolete
Rory McIlroy has backed proposals to curb driving distances in a stance that has put him at odds with a number of golf’s top names.
His sport’s rule-makers, the R&A and the United States Golf Association, last week floated plans to introduce a new ball in 2026 that would reduce big hitting by around 15 yards in efforts to prevent courses from being over-powered and rendered obsolete.
If ratified, the changes would only impact the elite-level tournaments that choose to adopt them, which would almost certainly include The Open and the US Open. The proposals have so far been shot down by the likes of Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm as well as the owners of the prime ball brand Titleist, but McIlroy has thrown his weight and influence behind the idea.
‘I’m glad in this new proposal that they haven’t touched the recreational golfer, but for elite level play I really like it,’ said McIlroy, who two years ago had declared his opposition to possible equipment changes.
‘I know that’s a really unpopular opinion amongst my peers, but I think it’s going to help identify who the best players are a bit easier. Especially in this era of parity that we’ve been living in these past couple of decades.’
Rory McIlroy has backed fresh proposals to curb driving distances with a new ball from 2026
Driving distances would reduce by approximately 15 yards on average after the change of ball
Pointing to changes made two decades ago by the All England Club to their grass courts, McIlroy told the No Laying Up podcast: ‘We were just talking about a few things (with the chairman of the AELTC) and he said, “Rory, back in the early 2000s, when men’s tennis was predominantly serve and volley, it wasn’t very good for the entertainment aspect of the game. Rallies wouldn’t last more than three shots. We can’t make the court any bigger. So what we did do is we slowed the ball down and we changed the grass on the court to make it a little stickier”.
‘You fast forward from that change three years later and you’ve got Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal playing, probably one of the best finals of Wimbledon ever. This isn’t unique to golf, this happens in other sports as well.’
With the proposals receiving cold to lukewarm feedback since they were publicised, there will be keen interest in the pre-Masters media briefing by Augusta chairman Fred Ridley on April 5.
If the Masters choose to adopt the changes from 2026, it could put pressure on PGA Tour events to do likewise.
Both Justin Thomas (left) and Jon Rahm (right) have spoken out against the new ball proposal
McIlroy, who is currently playing at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas, added: ‘Honestly, for me the major championships are the biggest deal, so if the PGA Tour doesn’t implement it, I might still play the model Local Rule ball, because I know that that’ll give me the best chance and the best preparation leading into the major championships.
‘Again, this is personal preference and personal opinion at this stage of my career.
‘I know that I’m going to be defined by the amount of major championships that I hopefully will win from now until the end of my career. And that’s the most important thing for me.
‘If that gives me the best chance to succeed at the major championships and feel as prepared as I possibly can be, then that’s what I would do.’