Golf’s ruling bodies announce new driver rule for tours


The length of Phil Mickelson’s driver that he used in winning the PGA Championship will not be allowed in major competitions and Bryson DeChambeau can only use a 48-inch driver when he is competing in Long Drive Association events.

Golf’s governing bodies — US Golf Association (USGA) and Royal & Ancient (R&A) — announced a new “model local rule” from January 1, 2022 that would limit the maximum length of all clubs except the putter to 46 inches (116.8 centimetres).

Mickelson uses a 47.5-inch driver — it was 47.9 inches at Kiawah Island when, at age 50, he became golf’s oldest major champion — and Lefty was not pleased in August when he heard this limit was close to being announced, calling it “pathetic”.

He argued that restricted length of a driver would promote a shorter and more violent swing, which would be prone to cause injuries and did not allow for the length of arc in the swing to create speed.

Mickelson also said the “amateur” governing bodies were trying to make golf less fun.

But the new rule is not for everyone, only the elite.

A model local rule gives a tour or any other golf organisation the right to apply the rule to specific tournaments.

Given that the USGA and the R&A are in charge of the rules worldwide, the driver limit will be in effect at the US Opens, British Opens and their other championships.

The PGA Tour also said it would go along, which was not a surprise.

Major tours have been working with the governing bodies on rules in recent years, including the overhaul of the “Rules of Golf” that took effect in 2019.

The PGA tour said that, after hearing feedback on the USGA and R&A’s proposal, it surveyed its own members and found a small number of players on the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions and Korn Ferry Tour were using clubs longer than 46 inches.


“We have concluded that the PGA Tour will implement the local rule,” the tour said in a statement, saying adopting it was consistent with other equipment rule changes the tour has supported since 2003.

DeChambeau toyed with the idea of using a 48-inch driver at the Masters.

His emphasis has been on speed of swing to generate enormous distance.

Those drivers are used in long-drive competitions and DeChambeau recently reached the quarterfinals with a number of drives that went 400 yards or more.

The restriction on driver length has been on the table for years, put on hold when the USGA and R&A embarked on an ambitious “Distance Insights” project, in which it determined that increased gains in distance was not good for the game.

“Admittedly, this is not the answer to the overall distance debate or issue, but rather a simple option for competitive events,” Mike Whan, the CEO of the USGA, said in a statement.

“It’s important to note that it’s 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.”

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said the governing bodies have consulted with players, tours and equipment manufacturers, and considered their feedback.

“We believe this is the right thing for the game at this time and will provide tournament organisers with the flexibility to choose for themselves within the framework of the rules,” Slumbers said.



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