Bifurcation In Golf Has Started - What Next?

Will we see pros and amateurs playing under completely different equipment rules in the future?

A close up of a driver head and a ball teed up
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Will we see pros and amateurs playing under completely different equipment rules in the future?

Golf's governing bodies, the R&A and USGA, have confirmed that from 1st January 2022, professional and elite amateur tournament organisers can activate a local rule that ensures club shafts cannot be longer than 46 inches.

It's part of the crack down on increased hitting distances, with the governing bodies openly fighting against longer drives.

This is the first real sign of bifurcation in the sport, where pros and amateurs play by different sets of rules.

It is highly likely that, after all the research and consultation between the R&A and USGA and the wider industry, all elite professional tournaments from the Masters to The Open, US Open and regular PGA and European Tour events will use the local rule.

This means that pros will be using driver shafts with a maximum length 46 inches whilst some amateurs will have 48-inch driver shafts in play.

So, now that the professional and amateur games will look ever-so-slightly different, how else may bifurcation change what we see on our TVs vs at our local clubs?

The clubface

The clubface springiness is currently measured by CT, known as Characteristic Time.

This basically means how long the ball stays on the face during impact.

There is also COR (Coefficient of Restitution), and both have their current limits that could be changed one day to lower ball speeds.

Minimum loft

One of the keys to hitting the ball far is to hit with an upward attack angle with low loft to produce high launch and low spin.

Bryson DeChambeau carries a driver of somewhere between 5-6 degrees of loft most of the time and he'd lose distance if a minimum of, for example, nine degrees was introduced.

It seems quite a fairly easy one to implement and maybe that's where the governing bodies will head over the next 5-10 years.

Ian Poulter has previously endorsed this idea.

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Smaller clubheads

In both the professional and amateur games, the maximum size of a clubhead is currently 460cc.

However, back in the 1990s and beyond, professionals weren't hitting clubs anywhere near the size of that.

In fact, is was only really until the 2000s when clubheads were 300cc+.

Reducing the maximum size of clubheads in the pro game would stop the distance increase and we'd see the world's best all carry round super-strong 3 woods like Henrik Stenson.

Bryson already has a club like that, with his lowest-lofted fairway metal currently coming in at a ridiculous 10.5 degrees.

Nick Faldo said he would love to see the driver heads reduced.

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No tees

Another idea that Nick Faldo has been an advocate of is banning tees from the professional game, which is certainly a way to reduce hitting distances.

It won't make a drastic difference as we'd still see plenty of 300+ yarders but it would certainly cut out the 370+ yard Bryson bombs.

Tees, however, are a staple of the game and if they were to be taken away from the pro tours it would certainly be a big decision.

The ball

There have been calls to bring back the ball for decades now and it is possible we could see it change over the next decade and beyond.

The current balls produce low spin on long shots, which result in huge distances, so the easy way would be to make professionals play ultra-spinny golf balls.

This would also make them harder to hit straight, so we would see more players focus on accuracy as opposed to smashing the living daylights out of it.

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Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news team as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as five Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays off of a six handicap. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1

Irons: Mizuno MP5 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV