The R&A and USGA have announced that tournaments can limit driver length to a maximum of 46 inches from the beginning of 2022. Golf’s ruling bodies have concluded that club length is directly responsible for what they deem troublesome issues over driving distances. They have confirmed that the local rule “will be available beginning on 1 January 2022 to provide those running professional or elite amateur golf competitions with the option of limiting the maximum length of a golf club (excluding putters) to 46 inches”.
The ruling bodies of golf are hoping that the move to limit driver length to 46 inches will ‘protect’ tournaments moving forward from the ferocious hitting distances that players, particularly Bryson DeChambeau, have been reaching in recent times. DeChambeau himself has experimented with a 48-inch driver on occasion this year.
DeChambeau spoke back in March of this year after being informed that discussions were taking place regarding his experimentation with the longer driver. “It’s a little flattering in a sense. I did talk about that 48-inch driver for so long, and it just didn’t work for me the way I wanted it to. It’s cool to see that there’s some change off of the conversations that I’ve had. I did work with it quite a bit, but we just didn’t have the right heads for me yet.”
DeChambeau isn’t the only player, though, to be using a driver of that length. Phil Mickelson has been using a 47.5 inch driver for most of the last year, but it was actually longer when he won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in October. 47.9 inches, to be precise. Mickelson first learned of the possible driver length restriction a couple of months before becoming golf’s oldest major champion, and he was not enthralled with the muted changes, even going as far as to call it ‘pathetic.’ He claimed that any ruling to restrict the allowed length of a driver would make players more susceptible to injury as a shorter driver promotes a shorter and more violent swing and made a strong implication that golf’s governing bodies were trying to take the fun out of golf. He took to Twitter to express his displeasure at the then only rumoured ruling.
“This is PATHETIC,” he wrote, “1st it promotes a shorter, more violent swing (injury prone), doesn’t allow for the length of arc to create speed, and during our 1st golf boom in 40 years, our amateur gov body keeps trying to make it less fun.”
The R&A and USGA will likely exercise their right to implement the local rule option at the two most high profile tournaments they run – The US Open and the Open Championship. It is currently unknown if the PGA of America, who controls the US PGA Championship and Augusta National, who are responsible for the Masters, will also enforce it. The PGA Tour have already confirmed they will be adopting the local rule from January.
It was no surprise that the PGA Tour was so quick to go along with the stance of the R&A and USGA. The major tours have worked closely in recent years with the sports governing bodies regarding rule changes, including 2019 with the overhaul of the Rules of Golf.
The chief executive of the USGA, Mike Whan, said this week, “We’ve worked closely with our industry partners to ensure the future for golf remains strong. 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 CEO of the R&A, Martin Slumbers, said the game’s governing bodies have consulted with the players, tours, and equipment manufacturers and considered the feedback from all parties before reaching a decision.
“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,” he said.