The R & A is considering implementing an effective test that can measure the thickness of golf clubs as a result of the introduction of the “spring-like” effect on some modern drivers.
Research at the University of Birmingham is still continuing but on the results so far "the performance enhancements due to equipment alone could result in golfers gaining significant increases in driving distances." Despite the short-term appeal, the R & A feel such "distance gains are not considered in the best long-term interests of the game, especially when added to other factors that enable modern golfers to hit the ball further than their predecessors."
Research has also indicated that much of the enhanced performance i.e. increased driving distance, assuming good design, and manufacture, is the result of flexing (due to thinning of the face, crown or sole, or some combination of these) in modern hollow metal woods. The R & A statement issued today, emphasises that the Rules require the face of the club to be "hard and rigid" (Appendix 11.5a) and that all parts of the clubhead must be "rigid" (Appendix 11.4a).
Rule (Appendix 11.5a) states - "The material and construction of, or any treatment to, the face or clubhead shall not have the effect at impact of a spring , or impart significantly more spin to the ball than a standard steel face, or have any other effect which would unduly influence the movement of the ball."
The principle of the test is to place minimum thickness limits on the clubhead’s face, crown or sole. These can be measured by a commercially available, hand-held ultrasonic measurement device which when coupled to a personal computer, will produce a picture of the strata of each component at a certain location, including the thickness of the paint or lacquer and pores.
The exact numerical thickness limits are the subject of continuing research at the University and could take a further eight weeks. Manufacturers have been invited to provide submissions concerning the proposal by 23 June, 2000 with the R & A considering an implementation date for the new test of 1 October 2000.