The R&A and the USGA have announced a new local rule that will reduce the length of drivers allowed to be used in professional and elite level events from 48 inches to 46 inches from the beginning of next year.
The proposal was first announced in February this year, which opened a notice-and-comment period to allow the industry the opportunity to provide feedback as part of the equipment rule-making procedures. The comments received from the golf industry, including players, professional tours and equipment manufacturers, were carefully considered before the decision to proceed with the new MLR was reached.
The R&A and the USGA issued an Area of Interest notice in 2014 indicating that research was being conducted into the impact of club lengths of more than 48 inches on hitting distance and whether that limit remained appropriate. A proposed change to the limit was subsequently put forward in 2016 but was put on hold in 2017 when the Distance Insights project got underway.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We have taken time to consult fully with the golf industry, including players, the main professional tours and equipment manufacturers, and have considered their feedback carefully. We believe this is the right thing for the game at this time and it will provide tournament organisers with the flexibility to choose for themselves within the framework of the Rules. We are working hard to maintain an open, collaborative and considered dialogue with these key stakeholders as we continue to evolve the Equipment Standards Rules to ensure they reflect the modern game.”
Mike Whan, Chief Executive Officer of the USGA, said, “We’ve worked closely with our industry partners to ensure the future for golf remains strong. Admittedly, this is not the ‘answer’ to the overall distance debate/issue but rather a simple option for competitive events. It’s important to note that it is not a ‘Rule of Golf,’ and as such, it is not mandated for the average, recreational golfer. Rather, this is an available tool for those running competitive events.”
The proposals submitted in February for changes to the testing method for golf balls and the testing tolerance for spring-like effect are still under consideration. The governing bodies plan to consider feedback on these proposals in line with the responses to the broader Area of Interest – Research Topics notification, which are due by November 2.
Very few players on the global professional tours use a driver longer than 46 inches – although Phil Mickelson had a 47.5-inch model in his bag when winning the US PGA Championship earlier this year – and almost all drivers produced by the leading manufacturers feature drivers with a shaft length of 45 to 45.75 inches. The new rule does not affect recreational golfers or prevent any manufacturer from producing or selling drivers longer than the new 46-inch limit.
The details of the new ruling – MLR G-10 – can be found here.