Sports | February 3, 2021 11:54 am

USGA and R&A Propose New Rules for Elite Players to Cut Down on Driving Distance

The organizations have jointly proposed equipment standards changes

USGA and R&A Propose New Rules For Elite Players to Cut Down on Driving Distance
Bryson DeChambeau plays a shot at the Kapalua Plantation Course in 2021.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Golf’s ruling bodies jointly proposed equipment standards changes this week that would theoretically limit elite players from continuing to drive the ball increasingly long distances.

The proposed restriction from The United States Golf Association and the R&A, which would apply on professional tours and at elite amateur competitions but not at local courses for everyday players, would limit the length of a club to 46 inches, down from the current max of 48.

The USGA and the R&A also suggested changes to how drivers and balls are tested for distance, which is known as the spring-like effect, and allowing individual tournament organizers to implement specific equipment standards, according to ESPN. If implemented, the new equipment regulation could be enforced as early as April at The Masters at Augusta National.

The rationale behind the proposal is that technological advances to clubs are making it too easy to drive the ball a long way, which is rendering some of golf’s most historic courses too easy to play and turning the game into one requiring power, not skill.

In 1990, the average PGA Tour driving distance was 262.8 yards. In 2020, it was 296.4 yards — an increase of nearly 13%. Last year, the USGA and the R&A said the continuing increase in length was “detrimental” to the sport.

“This is about long-term, for the whole of the game,” USGA CEO Mike Davis told Golfweek. “I think golfers need to understand that this every-generation-hits-the-ball-farther is affecting the game negatively. The cost of this is being born by all golfers. We’re just trying to fit the game of golf back on golf courses.”

It would seem golf’s ruling bodies had players like Bryson DeChambeau, who led the PGA Tour in 2020 with a driving distance of 322.1 yards, in mind with the club-length proposal.

DeChambeau, who had previously floated the idea of playing with a 48-inch driver, seemed unperturbed when speaking about the equipment restrictions.

“I welcome it as long as they don’t change the human element,” DeChambeau said. “I’m going to play with whatever they gave me. I’m not worried about it. I’m going to do what that they say is legal and I’ll just go from there and find the best way to play for me under the rules. There’s no issues. I’m sure there’s a lot of excitement about me having a potentially controversial thought on it but I don’t. It’s a little flattering in a sense.”

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