Optional driver length rule to rein in golf's big hitters

LONDON • Top-level golf tournaments will be given the option of imposing a 46-inch limit on club length in an attempt to restrict driving distances - a move that could curb players such as big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau.

The 2020 US Open winner, known for his prodigious distances that averaged nearly 330 yards last year off the tee, had previously practised with a 48-inch driver but has said he was not too worried about any changes to the rules.

Limiting club length is one way the game's lawmakers believe advances in the distance of ball-striking can be kept in check.

The R&A and the US Golf Association (USGA), the two bodies which govern the sport of golf worldwide, announced proposals to limit clubs to 46 inches in February.

They confirmed on Tuesday that this will be an optional choice as a "model local rule" for tournaments at professional or elite amateur level. It excludes putters. They have also announced that the new rule will be available from Jan 1.

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."

USGA chief executive Mike Whan said: "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 proposal was met with mixed reactions earlier this year, with former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy criticising it and describing the campaign as a "huge waste of time and money".

Phil Mickelson, who used a 47.9-inch driver when he won the PGA Championship earlier this year, branded the proposed rule change "pathetic" in August.

  • 46 inches The limit on club length, except putters, which golf tournaments can impose on pros or elite amateurs.

Further proposals relating to the testing of golf balls and the "spring-like effect" on club faces remain under consideration.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2021, with the headline 'Optional driver length rule to rein in golf's big hitters'. Subscribe