USGA and R&A Resolve Differences
USGA and R&A Resolve Differences, , Agree to Raise COR Limit for five years
By John Gordon, Sportsnet.ca
The USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews' decision to
allow the "non-conforming driver" into play will be a boon for weekend
(posted May. 13, 12:25PM EDT)
The golf courses you play just got a wee bit shorter, and you never even
noticed. Thanks to a compromise reached late last week by the United States
Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, most
so-called non-conforming drivers will be legal for play starting in 2003.
The most infamous of those "illegal" drivers is the Callaway ERC II, whose
paper-thin titanium face is said to provide a "spring-like" or trampoline
effect which launches unsuspecting golf balls higher and farther than they
have ever travelled before.
The announcement is significant because while it unites the world's two
major ruling bodies, it creates a two-tiered rules system: one for the 1,000
or so players on the world's major pro tours, and one for the tens of
millions of hackers like you and me.
As of Jan. 1, 2003, the R&A, which had no limitations on the coefficient of
restitution (COR, or the measurement of springlike effect) will adopt the
.830 guideline used in North America for the British Open. At present, no
other tours have a limit on COR, but they will have the option of falling in
line with the R&A, USGA, PGA Tour and Royal Canadian Golf Association. As of
that same date, the COR limit worldwide will be raised to .860, allowing the
ERC II and its brawny brethren to be unleashed just about anywhere in the
world except on the pro circuits. The COR limit will revert back to .830 for
everyone, pros and amateurs, on Jan. 1, 2008, under the current agreement,
but a lot can happen in five years.
(Notably, there has been not a peep about the decision from our own Royal
Canadian Golf Association, which got its gray-flannelled butt sued by
Callaway a couple of years back when it jumped the gun and ruled the
original ERC illegal prior to any announcement by the USGA.)
Will this decision make a difference for you and me? Perhaps, although Frank
Thomas, who was the USGA's technical director for years, says even a pro
would average only 15 more yards per drive if all restrictions were removed
from drivers and balls. Average players would gain perhaps six. Do the math.
If you hit the driver a dozen times per round, you're only gaining about 70
yards in total.
In compromising with the older and wiser R&A, which at no time outlawed any
drivers, the USGA finally acknowledged what most of us had already realized:
Length, as in many things in life, is greatly overrated.
While we may hit the ball farther, most of us are playing from tees that are
too long, raising our scores, exacerbating the slow play plague, and forcing
architects and developers to design, build and maintain courses that are up
to 1,000 yards longer than we really need.
Florida course architect Bill Amick, in an effort to amend current thinking
about course design, has made a study of just how far mid- and
high-handicappers hit the ball with each club. His observations, combined
with a Golf Digest study that concluded that 90 per cent of golfers will
never break 100, should serve as a wake-up call for the golf industry - an
industry under siege, wrestling with the spectre of declining rounds because
golf is becoming too expensive and too time-consuming.
Among Amick's determinations are that for most amateurs, "reaching the green
in regulation can be practically impossible on medium-length and long par
4s." He found that the average male amateur's drive is 212 yards of combined
carry and roll, while the average woman's is 184 yards.
Extrapolating from that data, Amick suggests the following maximum distances
for holes for average male amateurs - par 3s, 185 yards; par 4s, 397 yards;
par 5s, 551 yards. For women: par 3s, 142 yards; par 4s, 303 yards; par 5s,
Before you protest, note that Amick also concludes that most golfers think
they hit the ball farther than they actually do, with or without a hot
driver. If you want a solution to slow play, that's a large part of the
secret: Move up one tee deck and play the course appropriate to your
The game played by Tiger Woods and his pals holds little relation to the
game played by me and mine. If there are to be two sets of rules, so be it.
I promise not to challenge him in the U.S. Open if he vows not to show up
for my club championship.
Kudos to the golf associations for agreeing to permit amateurs to use the
Callaway ERC II and the rest of the non-conforming clubs. Would it be so bad
if, as an outcome of technology, golf became an easier game to play? More
people might take it up and more might remain in the game. If they can hit
if farther and straighter, and from the right set of tees, a round might be
more fun and take less time.
Last week's decision is an endorsement of the late Ely Callaway's imaginary
Rule 35 (there are only 34 real Rules of Golf): "Have fun!" The regrettable
aspect of the USGA-R&A decision is that it came almost a year after his
death. That, I guess, is the difference between a visionary and bureaucrats,
but maybe last week's announcement is a hint that things are changing in
golf's ivory towers.
Note from the Pope of Slope: Most importantly, I am happy to see that
amateur golfers that choose to use the high COR drivers can post their
scores for USGA Handicap purposes, as they should have been able to do all
along (and most did anyway), during this regrettable period.