Ball-Testing, Driver Characteristics The Focus Of New Distance Report

Golf’s governing bodies advanced the great distance debate on Wednesday, releasing a new insights report that hones in on two key areas of interest.

The — ahem — long and short of it? Golf-ball testing could get a modern makeover and proposed rules changes would reduce the forgiveness of drivers used in elite competition.

The findings issued jointly by the USGA and the R&A set in motion the long-stated mission of dialing back distances at every level of the game. But the research period will continue through September; changes of this magnitude are legislated at a deliberate pace.

As always, there’s a delicate balancing act to consider: can equipment modifications and rules tweaks be enacted without negatively impacting the enjoyment of less-skilled players? A closer look at the report makes it clear that the sport’s ruling class plans to have its cake and eat it too.

  • Potential changes to the testing methods for golf balls: the swing speeds used in golf ball testing are long overdue for an update to account for the astronomical numbers achieved by the likes of Bryson DeChambeau and other bombers, and it’s expected that most balls used on the PGA Tour would no longer conform as a result. However, another controversial testing method — known as the initial velocity test — could be discontinued to allow for manufacturers to cater products to players with slower swing speeds.  
  • Model Local Rules for club performance characteristics: in effect, average golfers would be permitted to keep using the same ultra-forgiving drivers with springy clubfaces in competition while such equipment would be outlawed at the highest levels of the game. 

You can read the full report here.