Why Drivers Might Be Next In The Big Golf Rollback Plan

In the R&A and USGA statement on rolling back the golf ball, the governing bodies also stated that they'd look at the possibility of limiting how forgiving drivers are

A close up of a driver behind a golf ball teed up
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The golf world is ablaze with opinions on the new golf ball rollback rules being introduced by the R&A and USGA, but could limitations on the driver be next?

Martin Slumbers and Mike Whan have unveiled plans to limit how far the golf ball goes for the entire golfing community, from pros down to recreational golfers. But as golf's governing bodies try to slow down the advancements in distances, the impact drivers have on the game is also being looked at, with the possibility of the the big stick also being limited.

As the R&A and USGA announced the golf ball changes, they also revealed that they'd been delving into the forgiveness of drivers to ensure centre-strikes are rewarded.

Put simply, the R&A and USGA are looking into the possibility that hitting driver has become too easy for the professional ranks, and could look to change the way the driver faces are made to ensure only clean hits from the centre get maximum results.

The R&A and USGA said, as well as rolling back the golf ball, they will:

  • "Expand the testing approach to better detect ‘Driver Creep,’ which can result in drivers exceeding the limits set out in the Equipment Rules. This is a change in the testing methodology for submitted drivers, to identify and proactively address driver models that are within current tolerance levels and have Characteristic Time (CT) values that are more likely to exceed the limit through regular use.
  • Continue to monitor drivers and explore possible additional options related to distance. Specifically, we will research the forgiveness of drivers and how they perform with off-centre hits. This is an ongoing review and we will seek input from and continue to work with the industry, including manufacturers, to identify driver design features that can be regulated as a means to reward centre impact position hits versus mis-hits.”

The announcement of limiting how far the golf ball will go has already drawn plenty of criticism, if the driver is next then expect a similar backlash.

However, a number of pros will support a 'roll back' of the driver, with the likes of Adam Scott and Lee Westwood both in favor.

Former World No.1 Westwood recently tweeted: "This distance issue has been a ball and driver combination. It’s not just the ball. The driver heads got too big and they developed a ball to maximise this and vice versa. Who knows, we might get back to a place where hitting the driver out the middle is rewarded again."

Scott, also a former World No.1 and the 2013 Masters champion, sides with Westwood that drivers in the modern game are too forgiving. 

Adam Scott and Lee Westwood speak at a clinic on the driving range

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"The biggest fundamental change in the game since I’ve been a pro, is traditionally the driver has been the hardest club to hit in the bag, and now it’s the most forgiving," Scott said last month.

“And that’s the biggest evolutionary change in the golf bag to me out of the equipment. The ball is the ball, but the driver went from the hardest club to hit to now the most forgiving and the go-to club for guys if they are nervous.

“The penalty for missing a driver just isn’t high enough anymore, in my opinion, at the top level. I’d like to address that first and see what knock on effects that has. If guys wanna swing at it 130 with a tiny driver head then good luck.”

Paul Higham

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.