How golf could get easier for some players with new equipment regulations


Mike Whan at the US Open on Wednesday.

Images: getty

BROOKLINE, Mass. – It’s only fitting that at the Country Club, one of the USGA’s five founding partner clubs, the conversation around the ongoing debate over distance in professional golf has come to the fore.

At the US Open on Wednesday, USGA CEO Mike Whan addressed the self-proclaimed “slow and deliberate” process the organization went through to review rule changes, and hinted at some interesting regulations that could impact the game at both professional and amateur levels.

Here’s a look at what Whan said and what it means:

mike whan

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Luke Kerr-Dineen

Slowing down drivers for the pros

What Whan said: “…looking at a driver that might be something we only have as a local rule model that would reduce the spring effect on the face and reduce some of the sweet spot sizes. That means, bigger payoff for hits to the center and greater deterrence, quite frankly, for missing the center of the club.

What this means: Drivers are designed for distance and one of the fastest ways to reduce that is to slow face springing. As a rule, the maximum driver head size is 460cc, and just like a backyard trampoline, the more surface area the face takes up, the greater the potential for that face to flex and bounce.

Driving test pendulum

If the USGA creates a local rule to limit rider size for professionals and elite amateurs, it would not only potentially slow the face, but also reduce the overall MOI – or Moment of Inertia, a measure of forgiveness – that which would again emphasize the importance of hitting the middle of the face.

The concern with this local rule from a USGA perspective is that it only applies to professionals and elite amateurs and would require equipment manufacturers to produce different heads specifically for these competitors. . With that in mind, the governing bodies have also considered changing ball testing protocols.

Golf balls easier to hit

What Whan said: We actually talked about removing some of the other tests that have been in place for a long time. One is called the muzzle velocity of a golf ball, and the other is the limitation of the size of a sweet spot. We’re analyzing the potential removal of those two tests, and the benefit of that is that we believe that if we remove that, there’s potential – not a guarantee, but a potential that will free up innovation space for that manufacturers create a ball that is actually better for low club speeds, better for beginners…but actually gives manufacturers a bit of freedom.

What this means: It’s an interesting statement because it’s less about what he said and more about what he didn’t say. If the USGA removed the initial speed test but did something else to limit aerodynamic efficiency, it would allow manufacturers to produce a bullet that was faster but slowed faster at higher speeds.

Let me use a simplified supercar analogy. Top speed of a car is not a linear relationship with power, so if it takes 500 horsepower to reach a top speed of 180 mph, it could take twice as much to reach 200 mph, due to resistance to the wind created at higher speeds.

So, as Whan mentioned, this could create a scenario where high-speed players see less benefit for a new ball than those at lower speeds who might not see a drop in distance performance – “potentially “, as Whan said.

Bigger sweet spots

What Whan said: “If we freed up a little more space in the sweet spot, maybe we could create even more forgiving golf clubs. At the same time, we try to approach distance at the highest level, we also want to make sure that we respect what’s happening on the retail side of this game and the recreational game and not just enjoy it, but potentially maybe even fuel it a bit.”

What this means: The sweet spot refers to the ME, which again is a quantifiable measure of forgiveness. Higher MOI clubs offer a huge advantage to beginner and higher handicap golfers because the CoG (center of gravity) can be pushed far back in the head to help get the ball airborne more easily.

An extremely high MOI is a great advantage for beginners and slower speeds, but detrimental for players at higher speeds as it can create a lack of shot shape control that professionals desire. To use another car analogy, a club with an extreme and potentially unforeseen level of tolerance would be like putting traction control on a car built for a professional drifter/stunt driver – not useful for highly skilled drivers.

Golf lives in an ever-changing ecosystem, and just as the stymie was removed from the Rules of Golf in 1952, new equipment regulations are coming. For amateurs, they could make the game easier.

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