The USGA and R&A’s big announcement


The distance debate remains a hot topic in the world of golf and experts point to  technological advancements that threaten to make historic golf courses obsolete. 

Tour professionals on the other hand believe that much of the distance advancement is due to  improved fitness, strength and technique,  which count as  skill, hence the debate with manufacturers continues. Of course the biggest stakeholders in this are equipment brands who keep their sales alive through periodic launches of new equipment promising average golfers increased distance. 

Possible changes could be – 

  1. How manufacturers test equipment
  2. Changing the current specifications of equipment
  3. Limiting the maximum length of golf clubs to 46 inches – meaning a halt for Bryson’s 48-inch driver plans
  4. Letting “committees conducting competitions” implement specific equipment standards that would “result in shorter hitting distances.”

In 2020, the governing bodies announced that they are worried about the distance increase with golfers and how it’s affecting the game, but didn’t propose any changes to it. But on Feb. 3rd, 2021, R&A and the USGA are asking for “research” from manufacturers around “specific Areas of Interest to help mitigate continuing distance increase.”

The governing bodies are re-engaging with the golf industry on the Distance Insights project, which aims to help achieve a more sustainable long-term future for golf.

They are issuing specific Areas of Interest to help mitigate continuing distance increases and three proposed changes to the Equipment Rules to ensure their effectiveness in relation to distance limits. Meaning, they might force local rules in majors like the Open Championship and might ask players to use a lower caliber driver, not up to the current standards to keep the spirit of the course alive. While, this idea might still be a long shot from reality, but distance control, sure does look a topic of interest for the bodies.

The Areas of Interest notice, sent on Monday to golf equipment manufacturers, follows the conclusions of the Distance Insights Report from Feb. 2020. It is the first step of the established Equipment Rulemaking Procedures, which give the opportunity for golf’s stakeholders to provide research and perspectives on topics that might lead to equipment Rules changes.

However, this is just a stepping stone and for all these things and rules to come into force, we might have to wait for next release in Feb. 2022, the month which they normally announce their annual reports on findings.

Mike Davis, Chief Executive Officer of the USGA, said, “The research conducted through Distance Insights clearly shows that hitting distances have consistently increased through time and, if left unchecked, could threaten the long-term future of our game at every level and every golf course on which it is played. This is the first forward step in a journey and a responsibility the USGA and The R&A share with the worldwide golf community, to ensure that golf continues to thrive for the next hundred years and beyond.”

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We are now able to progress with the work on this critical topic and are beginning the next phase as expeditiously as possible. The research topics and the proposed changes we have announced will be the focus of our attention in the coming months and we look forward to gaining insights from the golf industry and fully understanding their perspectives on these key areas. We remain fully committed to conducting this hugely important exercise for the sport thoroughly, efficiently and collaboratively.”


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