The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the governing authority for the Rules of Golf outside the United States of America and its territories, has decided that a conformance test for’spring-like’ effect in golf clubs is not necessary at present.
The’spring-like’ effect issue concerns the proper interpretation of the Rule (Appendix II, 5a) which states:
“The material and construction of, or any treatment to, the face or clubhead shall not have the effect at impact of a spring (test on file), or impart significantly more spin to the ball than a standard steel face, or have any other effect which would unduly influence the movement of the ball.”
This Rule will continue to be interpreted as it has been since 1984, without any specific restrictions on the clubhead’s dimensions or its coefficient of restitution (“COR”).
The R&A’s Implements and Ball Committee has been studying this issue for over two years. In January 1999 an independent programme of research was commissioned and it has been the completion of this research, conducted by a multi-disciplinary group involving the Physics, Applied Mathematics and Advanced Material Science departments at the University of Birmingham, which has led to this decision.
The study of the club/ball impact process involved both ultrasonic analysis and advanced mathematical modelling techniques, together with a comprehensive metallurgical study, in an effort to better quantify behaviour at impact in terms of the physical properties of the club and the ball. The research project concentrated on these issues, using available data and technical information. The completion of this project has provided a much greater understanding of the complex impact process. It has also yielded important information regarding club design.
The R&A’s Implements and Ball Committee has studied the research team’s findings, including an assessment of the effect of possible further developments in clubhead design and construction and the results of field tests. It has been determined that modern driving clubs have greater clubhead flexibility and higher COR values than wooden and first generation metal drivers. However, based on the data currently available to the R&A, any consequential increase in driving distance that may be achieved and which is solely attributable to these factors, is not considered to be detrimental to the game. Furthermore, the R&A is satisfied that any further increases in clubhead flexibility and COR values, which may be evident in the next generation of driving clubs will not, by themselves, significantly increase driving distance.
Notwithstanding the above and although innovation and technological advances in golf equipment have served the game well over the years, Rules are necessary to prevent golfers from relying too much on technology as opposed to their own skill and to preserve the traditions of the game. Also, the equipment being used is only one of the factors which enables modern golfers to hit the ball further than their predecessors (others include improved physique, fitness, coaching, course preparation, etc). Therefore, if in the future, the R&A determines that any or a combination of these factors result in golfers gaining significant increases in the distance the ball is hit, new, stricter regulations on equipment, both clubs and ball, may be required.
The R&A is aware that this decision differs from that taken by the United States Golf Association (’USGA’) in November 1998 and acknowledges that the resultant lack of uniformity in this particular aspect of equipment regulation is undesirable. Consistent with its commitment to reach independent conclusions with respect to equipment issues, the R&A will continue to consult with the USGA as appropriate.