The R&A has written to golf equipment manufacturers advising that its latest proposals to update the method of testing golf balls for overall distance will be adopted from 27th May 2004. This means that all balls submitted for conformance testing after this date will be evaluated in accordance with the conditions and limits of the updated test.
This news marks the second phase of changes to the Overall Distance Standard (“ODS”) since November 2002, when the introduction of new computer technology meant that all testing for overall distance could be moved indoors onto the indoor test range.
The introduction of phase II of the updated test follows an extensive period of notice and comment with manufacturers, the final stage of which began in July 2003. Those comments received have been evaluated and a number of relatively small changes have been made to the the joint USGA and R&A test protocol as a result. However, the main essence of the proposals has remained unchanged and can be summarised as follows:
- An increase in swing speed from 109 miles per hour to 120 miles per hour;
- The use of a non-branded, titanium clubhead in place of the laminated wooden clubhead currently being used;
- The replacement of the current calibration ball with a ball of modern construction; and
- An increase in the ODS limit from 296.8 to 320 yards.
The increase in the ODS limit does not mean that longer distance balls will be permitted which are not permitted today. Testing balls at a higher swing speed with modern equipment, however, will mean that balls which conform to the current ODS limit might exceed that limit if no change were made. Therefore, the increase in the ODS limit will merely ensure that all golf balls currently included on the R&A’s list of conforming golf balls will continue to conform to the Rules under the new procedures.
Commenting on the new test, David Rickman (director of rules and equipment standards) said, “The effect of these changes is that the Overall Distance Standard will become more reflective of what is happening today on the professional tours – rather than what was happening in 1976 when the standard was first introduced.”
“The new test is really a common-sense approach,” said USGA senior technical director Dick Rugge. “We will now test balls under swing speed, equipment and launch conditions similar to today’s PGA Tour players. We‘ve set the limit at a place that provides meaningful restrictions on distance while maintaining the continuity of the current conforming list.”
Rugge added that none of the balls currently on the USGA’s Conforming Ball list would be deemed nonconforming under the new rule.