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R&A & USGA to use new ball test

The Royal & Ancient and U.S. Golf Association will start using a new ball test Wednesday, which will include a higher swing speed, a titanium driver and a distinct line in the sand when it comes to distance.

``With the adoption of the updated test conditions, we will be testing balls like today's PGA Tour players are hitting balls,'' said Dick Rugge, the senior technical director for the USGA. ``It's more accurate than the old test, and more relevant to today's golf.''

Just about any change would have made the golf ball test more relevant.

The old system had been in place since 1976, the year after Lou Graham won the U.S. Open. It used a wooden club swung at 109 mph (175 kph), and the overall distance standard had a limit of 296.8 yards.

The new test will use a titanium club at 120 mph (193 kph), and the overall distance standard has been increased to 320 yards.

Rugge said every ball on the market will conform to the new standards. But he says the new test does not allow for huge gains in golf ball construction like the market has seen over the last five years.

Rugge said a titanium driver and the increased swing speed is worth about 30 extra yards. But the ODS limit only increased about 23 yards.

``It's definitely a line in the sand,'' Rugge said. ``There's no room for the balls to get any longer.''

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