R&A and USGA Decision To Limit Driver Length Hit With Criticism

The R&A and USGA have introduced a new local ruling that will allow top-level golf tournaments to limit driver length to 46 inches from next year in an attempt to reduce driving distances.

The United States Golf Association (USGA) announced a new 46-inch limit on driver club length last week, which has been met with resistance from several players, including Phil Mickelson. Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas have also both disputed the decision, noting that it’s “stupid.”

From next year, the R&A and the USGA will offer local rules allowing top-level golf tournaments to impose a 46-inch limit on club length – excluding the putter – in order to curb increases in driving distance.

The local rule can be applied to any professional or amateur event beginning January 1, and Phil Mickelson has criticized the steps taken to limit length increases. In the past, Phil Mickelson has used a driver with a 47-inch shaft.

“Stupid is as stupid does.” Mrs Gump,” Mickelson tweeted. “Really though, are the amateurs trying their best to govern the professional game the stupid ones? Or the professionals for letting them?”

The plan was unveiled in February and was one of the recent modifications to the Distance Insights Report, which stated that longer hitting distances had changed the game’s difficulty and endangered golf courses.

“I don’t really agree with it,” Justin Thomas explained ahead of The CJ Cup. “I don’t know. I feel like there’s a lot of other things, you know, like the arm bar putter that they should be approaching as opposed to the length of driver.

“I think the fact that you see only a few people using a long driver speaks for itself, that it’s not really that big of an advantage. It’s a lot harder to hit it straight.

Golfers should be able to choose between a 47 or 48-inch driver, according to Justin Thomas.

“In terms of do I think it makes the game of golf and growing the game better? No, I don’t at all, but they seem to have their kind of mind around that for a while now, so it seems to be the issue because if there’s an amateur golfer or players at home that want to hit it a little bit farther, so be it.

“If there’s guys out here that want to have a chance to put it in play with a 47-, 48-inch driver, then power to them. I had that opportunity; I just chose not to. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but it is what it is.”

A 48-inch driver has been tried by Bryson DeChambeau on the PGA Tour, but with no tournament results to date, and two-time major winner Collin Morikawa doesn’t think it will have a significant impact on most professionals.

“It’s not going to change my driver specs, I’ll tell you that, and I don’t think it’s going to change many other guys’ driver specs,” Morikawa exclaimed. “Is that the answer to hitting it shorter? No.”

The new local regulation will not significantly affect the professional ranks, according to Collin Morikawa.

“If you have a long drive and you see what Bryson [DeChambeau] did, you see what long drive guys do, they have a longer driver, right, and they’re able to hit it farther, but can you maintain that on the golf course? Hasn’t been done yet. Not saying it won’t be done, but you know like if a guy wants a 47-inch driver, I think they should let them because why not?”

“We’ve seen courses that you end up shooting 10 to 15 under and it’s not because the course is 9,000 yards long, we don’t play that. It’s because it makes you shape shots, it makes you hit different shots and it’s all about course design. So that’s my opinion in it or on it, is that I think course design needs to be structured in a way where we don’t need 8,000-yard courses.

“Yeah, they’re great sometimes, but there’s a lot of short courses on our tour that don’t provide 25 under par and it’s because of the way the layout is and the conditions. I don’t think many guys have over 46 inches, their driver, anyways, so I don’t think it will change much.”

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