PGA Tour to adopt ‘local rule’ for driver length

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Golf’s governing bodies announced a new local rule that will allow high-level tournaments to limit the length of drivers to 46 inches.

Called a Model Local Rule, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2022. The PGA Tour said on Tuesday that it will adopt the rule, which does not apply to putters.

The United States Golf Association and R&A received feedback from players, equipment representatives and the various professional tours over the past several months before the announcement.

Bryson DeChambeau, who leads the PGA Tour in driving distance, has experimented with 48-inch drivers. Phil Mickelson, who won the PGA Championship using a 47½-inch driver, was critical of the potential move last month.

“This is PATHETIC,” Mickelson said on Twitter in August. “1st it promotes a shorter more violent swing (injury prone,) doesn’t allow for length of arc to create speed, and during our 1st golf boom, our amateur gov body keeps trying to make it less fun.”

Because it is a local rule, it would not prohibit amateurs from playing with a longer driver for handicap purposes. And it is unlikely regular competitions would invoke the rule; golf manufacturers do not mass-produce driver shafts longer than 46 inches.

There are numerous “local rules” in the rulebook that permit the game to be played in different ways at various levels. The tour often invokes a local rule called “preferred lies” or “lift, clean and place,” when playing conditions are an issue. The professional tours (except for the PGA of America) invoke the “one-ball rule,” which requires a player to use the same make and brand of ball throughout a round.

“We’ve worked closely with our industry partners to ensure the future for golf remains strong,” said Mike Whan, the chief executive officer of the USGA, which along with the R&A announced the change. “Admittedly, this is not the ‘answer’ to the overall distance debate/issue but a simple solution for competitive events.

“It’s important to note that it is not a ‘Rule of Golf,’ and as such, it is not mandated for the average, recreational golfer. Rather, this is an available tool for those running competitive events.”

The PGA Tour said in a statement that it surveyed usage of clubs across all of its tours and “found a very small number of players either have used or are currently using clubs great than 46 inches” and that its player advisory council reviewed the subject before deciding to implement the local rule on Jan. 1.

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