USGA, R&A provide rule for tours to limit driver length

Sports

Phil Mickelson smiles during a practice day at the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Sheboygan, Wis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The length of Phil Mickelson’s driver he used in winning the PGA Championship won’t be allowed. Bryson DeChambeau can only use a 48-inch driver when he’s competing in Long Drive Association events.

Golf’s governing bodies announced a new “model local rule” available Jan. 1 that would limit the maximum length of all clubs except the putter to 46 inches.

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.”

Mickelson argued that restricted length of a driver would promote a shorter and more violent swing, which would be injury prone, and doesn’t allow for the length of arc in the swing to create speed. He also said the “amateur” governing bodies were trying to make golf less fun.

But this isn’t for everyone, only the elite.

A model local rule gives a tour or any other golf organization the right to apply the rule to specific tournaments. Given that the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient are in charge of the rules worldwide, the driver limit will be in effect at the U.S. Opens, British Opens and their other championships.

The PGA Tour also said it will go along, which was not a surprise. The 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 tour said 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 rules 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/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.”

Martin Slumbers, the CEO of the R&A, said the governing bodies have consulted with players and 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 organizers with the flexibility to choose for themselves within the framework of the rules,” Slumbers said.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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