USGA and R&A moving closer to bifurcation of equipment rules

Golf’s self-appointed governing bodies – the USGA and R&A – appear closer to bifurcation on equipment rules, particularly as it impacts golf ball distance. In their Distance Insights Study that is expected to be officially released some time today, the USGA and R&A said they “assess the potential use’’ of a Local Rule option that would specify use of clubs and/or balls intended to result in shorter hitting distances.


“The concept is that equipment meeting a particular set of reduced-distance specifications – for example, a ball that does not travel as far or a club that will not hit a ball as far – might be a defined subset of the overall category of conforming equipment,’’ according to an early look at the report. ”This could allow committees that conduct golf competitions or oversee individual courses to choose, by Local Rule authorized under the Rules of Golf, whether and when to require that such equipment be used. Such a Local Rule option could be available for use at all levels of play, and golfers playing outside of a competition could also have the option to make this choice for themselves.’’

Such ideas have been batted around for the past several years, but this is first time the USGA/R&A have put them in written form. Basically, it opens the door for a possible shorter-hitting “PGA Tour’’ ball or a shorter-distance ball at USGA/R&A tournaments, such as the U.S. Open and Open Championship.
Nothing is set in stone, yet. The USGA/R&A will give ball manufacturers time to respond – although they likely already know what those responses will be from each company a – and publish a follow-up report. That’s all standard procedure for any proposed equipment changes to the Rules of Golf.

According to the report: “It is anticipated that this important step of gathering input will take at least 9-12 months. After the research is completed and comments are evaluated, if we then decide to propose any rule changes, manufacturers will receive notice of these proposed changes (including a proposed implementation plan) and an opportunity to comment under the Equipment Rulemaking Procedures. The time allotted for this step in the process leading up to a final decision on any proposed rule change would depend on the nature of the proposal.’’


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