Many things in life come in all shapes and sizes - except for today's golf balls.
Golf balls have changed dramatically from their origin as smooth pebbles and rocks being knocked around the fields of 15th century Scotland; today, they are made with multiple layers and responsive cores. A natural response to advances in technology, modern-day golf balls consist of laboratory-proven features that help today's players get the most out of their game. However, advances in technology and manufacturing processes could potentially cause an influx of various sizes and compounds that would take away from the uniformity of today's golf balls, obscuring each player's true ability caused by the use of inconsistent equipment.
That's why the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) of America, the United States Golf Association (USGA), and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of Saint Andrews (R&A) have developed a set of rules and regulations that all organizations involved in professional golf today must abide by.
Professional Golf Ball Regulations
So what are the regulating forces behind today's golf ball rules? Is there any difference between PGA and USGA golf ball regulations?
The simple answer is no. The PGA and LPGA (the organizations of individual golfers) along with the USGA (the not-for-profit governing body of golf) and the R&A all conform to the same set of standards, rules and regulations for acceptable golf balls in modern play.
The standards were developed to keep manufacturers of golf balls in line while simultaneously providing players with golf balls that are reliable and consistent. According to the USGA golf ball regulations posted for 2012-2015, manufacturers like Titleist and Bridgestone have to submit two-dozen golf ball samples to the USGA and the R&A for testing each year to ensure compliance.
The rules regarding regulation are rather straightforward and succinct:
- Golf balls must not be asymmetrical.
- Golf balls are forbidden to have a weight that exceeds 1.620 ounces, or 45.93 gm (there is no minimum weight).
- Golf balls must have a diameter that surpasses 1.680 inches, or 42.67 mm. Interestingly, golf balls do not have a maximum required size.
- Golf balls must adhere to specific measurements of distance and velocity capabilities throughout vigorous trials.
What About Golf Ball Dimples?
The rules seem pretty basic, but there isn't anything directly related to golf ball dimples in the book of USGA golf ball regulations... or is there?
There is such a thing as regulation golf ball dimples, and it's important for players to know that before purchasing golf balls for play - whether it's tournament, professional or recreational. After all, you don't want to adapt to a non-regulation ball during leisurely rounds if you won't be allowed to use it in tournament play. The primary rule regarding the regulation of golf ball dimples is that the pattern must be symmetrical.
This credence was actually written in the late 1970's after a golf ball manufacturing company called Polara designed an asymmetrical golf ball. It was intended as a self-correcting ball to help golfers hit straighter by reducing their chances for slicing it off the tee, simultaneously giving them an unfair advantage against competitors.
Curious how irregular dimple designs can actually better your performance rather than injure it? The positive effect was made possible by creating golf ball dimples that were of normal depth around the ball's equator, but were very shallow elsewhere on the ball. This technological breakthrough adjusted the spin while in flight, correcting the trajectory of the ball produced by an incorrect shot off the tee. While amateur players were more than thrilled with the results, the USGA rightly regarded these unnatural benefits as breaking the rules.
The great thing about today's USGA golf ball regulations is the fact that they are recognized by all of the governing authorities and organizations involved in professional golf. Whether a golfer is playing a tournament in Scotland or teeing it up in the Americas, he or she can rest assured that the same rules will apply to everyone wherever they hold today's USGA golf ball regulations in high esteem.