The USGA and R&A announced a new local rule Tuesday, which lowers the maximum length of driver shafts from 48 to 46 inches. The length restriction, which takes effect on Jan. 1, will enable the various tours to adopt a local rule (MLR G-10) that restricts drivers to a maximum length of 46 inches.
This idea was first announced in February, and many people believe it is a reaction to Bryson DeChambeau’s recent distance increases, although the USGA and R&A claim that study into the subject began in 2014. In 2016, a proposal to limit driver shaft length was submitted but subsequently abandoned after the governing bodies joined forces on the Distance Insights Project.
Despite attempting with a 48-inch driver in the run-up to the 2020 Masters, DeChambeau has stuck with a 45 ¾-inch model since then.
The majority of professional golfers only use drivers that are 46 inches or less in length. Phil Mickelson, the current PGA champion, has spoken out against the authorities’ decision on this subject:
“We have taken time to consult fully with the golf industry, including players, the main professional tours and equipment manufacturers, and have considered their feedback carefully,” said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers. “We believe this is the right thing for the game at this time and it will provide tournament organizers with the flexibility to choose for themselves within the framework of the rules.”
USGA CEO Mike Whan added the following: “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 governing bodies stated that further study on golf ball testing and tolerance of the spring-like effect is still being considered at the conclusion of the release.