Nearly a year after the “Distance Insights Project” declared that golfers are hitting the ball farther than ever, the game’s two governing bodies on Tuesday announced three proposed changes to equipment and testing standards.
Bryson DeChambeau might be interested in one of them.
One of the proposed changes includes a local rule that could limit the length of the shaft to no more than 46 inches, down from 48 inches. DeChambeau has been testing a 48-inch driver, though he has yet to use it in competition.
The USGA and R&A also proposed slight changes to how golf balls are tested for the overall distance standard and how drivers are tested to measure how much of a trampoline effect they have on impact.
The comment period for the shaft limit ends on March 4, while the deadline for comments on proposed test changes for golf balls and drivers is Aug. 2. In other words, any changes are still a long way off.
The original plan was to publish a specific set of research topics related to distance last spring, but the USGA and R&A put that on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the update Tuesday, they mentioned six “areas of interest” to explore, the first step in deciding whether to propose new rules. That included a local rule that would be available if tournaments wanted clubs or golf balls that resulted in shorter distances.
The areas of interest include reduction in the limit within the overall distance standard; performance and specifications of golf balls; reduction in the performance of drivers; and how much spin a golf club produces from all areas of the golf course.
Research is likely to take the remainder of the year. Mike Davis suggested as much when he announced last year he was stepping down as CEO of the USGA.
The USGA is proceeding with the hallmark of its biggest championship by announcing sites for the first stage of qualifying for the U.S. Open.
Qualifying at the local and sectional levels had to be eliminated last year because of the pandemic and complications involving so many local golf associations putting on 18- and 36-hole qualifiers from which roughly half of the U.S. Open field is determined.
The first stage of U.S. Open qualifying (18 holes) goes from April 26 through May 18 on 109 golf courses in 43 states and Canada. The next stage is 36-hole sectional qualifying. Those courses have not been announced. The U.S. Open is June 17-20 at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
For the U.S. Women’s Open, the 36-hole qualifying will be held on 22 golf courses between April 26 and May 13.
The U.S. Women’s Open, moved to December last year because of the pandemic, will be June 3-6 at Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Still to be determine is whether the USGA will stage international qualifying for the Women’s Open. Since 2014, such qualifiers have been held in England and Asia.