Is Bifurcation Coming? Governing Bodies Propose Drastic Equipment Changes

The R&A and USGA are considering three equipment changes to reduce hitting distances

Is Bifurcation Coming? Governing Bodies Propose Drastic Equipment Changes
(Image credit: getty images)

The R&A and USGA are considering three equipment changes to reduce hitting distances

Is Bifurcation Coming? Governing Bodies Propose Drastic Equipment Changes

The R&A and USGA has announced that both organisations are looking at three big equipment changes to stop increased hitting distances in golf.

Crucially, one of them relates to bifurcation - changing the rules for professionals vs amateurs.

The key points involve driver shaft length, the testing of golf balls and the spring-like effect on driver faces.

The R&A and USGA has sent the 'Areas of Interest' document to the manufacturers and have asked for feedback.

Both governing bodies have requested comments back from the manufacturers in 30 days on the subject of driver shaft lengths, with six months given for the manufacturers to consider testing changes on golf balls and CT (Characteristic Time), which measures a club face's spring effect.

The changes on driver shaft length are only proposed for highly skilled players, with the initial proposal mentioning a new Model Local Rule.

This means that regular amateur golfers could still use 48 inch driver shafts whilst pros and elite amateurs would be reduced to a maximum of 46 inches.

The other two points relate to modernising the testing procedures for balls and clubs.

The current ball testing method has been in place since 2002.

In terms of the CT testing, the proposal is to bring the tolerance down from 18 microseconds to six.

Is Bifurcation Coming? Governing Bodies To Consider Driver Shaft Length Change

(Image credit: getty images)

All this follows the Distance Insights Project released in February 2019, which concluded that increased hitting distances are detrimental to the future of the game.

It is not fully known what differences the ball and club testing will make, with more to come on that in six months you would think.

However, we could very quickly see the maximum club length (outside of a putter) reduced to 46 inches for professionals and elite amateurs, just months after many pros have been testing 48 inch drivers or even putting them into play.

Bryson DeChambeau has spoken of his intent to put in a 48 inch driver shaft and Phil Mickelson has also been using one on tour.

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We are now able to progress with the work on this critical topic and are beginning the next phase as expeditiously as possible.

"The research topics and the proposed changes we have announced will be the focus of our attention in the coming months and we look forward to gaining insights from the golf industry and fully understanding their perspectives on these key areas.

"We remain fully committed to conducting this hugely important exercise for the sport thoroughly, efficiently and collaboratively.”

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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, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four 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 at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. 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 HL

Irons: Mizuno MP-H4 3-iron, Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5