'Hot' drivers to be banned by 2008

USGA and R&A reach agreement to limit long-hitting clubs

'Hot' drivers to be banned by 2008

Just when you thought you were enjoying hitting the ball further than you ever imagined, the rule-makers have stepped in to spoil your fun.

Now you’ve got less than six years to make the most of your TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist or Mizuno driver with the ‘hot face’ before it gets banned for competition use throughout the world.

That’s the outcome of the latest decision by the world’s golf rule-makers, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A) and the United States Golf Association (USGA), who have today (Friday) reached a compromise over the spring-effect of drivers.

In the meantime amateur golfers in the US will be able to use non-conforming drivers in competitions, though pro golfers around the world will fall into line with current USGA regulations from January, 2003.

This means that in joint events like The Open and World Golf Championship tournaments all players will be restricted to the same conforming equipment from next year.

In a three-step process, the USGA and R&A agreed to:

1. From January 1, 2003, establish a worldwide limit of .860 for the coefficient of restitution (rebound effect) of drivers. The USGA imposed an .830 COR limit in November, 1998, but the R&A decided against adopting a limit.

2. Also beginning January 1, 2003, a special ''condition of play'' will limit competitors on the world's major professional tours (including the European and Japanese Tours) to drivers with an .830 COR. The US PGA Tour commented: "This addresses the Tour’s concern that official money events today are being contested under different sets of rules, depending on the competition’s location. We’re pleased the USGA and R&A have proposed a resolution of this issue."

3. A compromise, designed to return golf to a single worldwide standard for all golfers. From January 1, 2008, drivers with a COR that exceeds .830 will be abolished for competitive play or establishing a handicap.

The proposals are due to be ratified by July 15, by which time most golf club manufacturers are expected to submit their comments.

Some manufacturers are opposed to the speedy timetable that will take drivers from .830 to .860, including Nike’s Mike Kelly, who told 'Golfweek' in the US: "The transition is entirely too fast,"

However, chairman Ron Drapeau, which produces the ERC II, which effectively started the driver controversy, called it "a banner day for golf."

Commenting on the proposal, USGA executive director David Fay said: "This is the way that compromises work. Each side gives a little, and finally there is an agreement. The objective here was to unify equipment rules throughout the world.''

Commented the R&A’s Peter Dawson: "I think there’s something in it for all parties. It reflects firstly the game’s need for uniformity at the pro level, where manufacturers stand and understands the position perhaps of the guy who has just spent £500 or £500 on a new driver."

It’s not known whether collegiate or pro mini-Tour competition will allow the use of high-COR drivers during the five-year window. Tournament organisers, including amateur golf, will be able to impose the .830 condition of play at their discretion.

The loss in yardage between a driver with an .830 COR and an .860 COR, according to Callaway is likely to be about nine yards overall.

Not included in the compromise was an agreement on a limit for driver length or clubhead size. The R&A is currently considering responses from manufacturers to a proposed USGA limit of 470 CC.

So is this the end of long-driving on the pay-and-play and private courses of the UK, as we know it? And for bragging rights in the clubhouse? What do you think? Have the rule-makers got it right or do you feel you may have wasted your money on a hot-face driver? Tell us on the Forum.

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