Further to the accord on golf equipment rules announced on 9th May 2002, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (the “R&A”) and the United States Golf Association (the “USGA”) have independently reviewed the proposal to regulate the “spring-like” effect of driving clubs.
The two organisations had separately invited comments on the proposal from interested parties to be received by 15 July 2002. Many submissions were forthcoming and these have been carefully reviewed by the R&A and the USGA respectively.
Overwhelmingly, the submissions welcomed the prospect of a return to worldwide uniformity on equipment rules, but felt that insufficient notice of the planned interim arrangements was being proposed. The absence of an immediately available simpler test to replace the current Coefficient of Restitution (“COR”) test also caused concern.
In light of these comments, the R&A has decided not to proceed with the proposal announced on 9 May 2002 and, in particular, not to introduce an interim COR limit of 0.860.
Instead, the R&A intends to proceed as follows in its area of rules jurisdiction:
- for most competitions and all recreational play, there will continue to be no “spring-like” effect test or COR limit until 1 January 2008;
- from 1 January 2003 until 31 December 2007, the Committee in charge of a competition restricted to highly skilled players may decide to introduce a Condition of Competition limiting COR to 0.830. The R&A will introduce this Condition of Competition at The Open Championship in 2003 and beyond and will recommend its introduction for all events on the major Professional Tours;
- from 1 January 2008, the Rules of Golf will be changed to include a conformance test with a COR limit of 0.830 (or the equivalent – see 4 below); and
- initially, the test method to be used will be the same COR test as currently employed by the USGA. However, work on the development of a new, simpler test to replace the current COR test will continue.
In the United States, many additional comments were received. The proposed relaxation of the existing COR limit to be followed five years later by its reinstatement was widely criticised as confusing and unnecessary. Having regard to these views, the USGA has also decided not to introduce an interim COR limit of 0.860, but instead will retain its current Rule on “spring-like” effect limiting COR to 0.830. It will also continue with the collaborative work in developing a new test method.
The R&A appreciates the special difficulties which would arise in the United States if the original proposal were adopted and feels that the best interests of the game will be served by the most orderly possible return to worldwide uniformity of equipment rules.
Both organisations believe that the actions described above will achieve this, will allow sufficient time to finalise a simpler test procedure and will minimise disruption to golfers and to equipment manufacturers. The R&A and the USGA remain committed to the Joint Statement of Principles which was also announced on 9 May 2002.