Golf’s governing bodies have dismissed the outspoken criticisms of Phil Mickelson and confirmed that drivers measuring more than 46 inches will essentially be banned in professional competition.
The R&A and US Golf Association announced the proposal for a new local rule in February as they sought to limit the likes of Bryson DeChambeau in their ceaseless quest for greater length off the tee.
At that time, DeChambeau was deciding whether to use a 48in driver at the Masters, although he stayed faithful to his 45.5in Cobra.
From Jan 1, he will no longer have the option, with the tours and majors confirming that they will follow the recommendations. In truth, very few pros employ a driver measuring more than 46in, although Mickelson used a 47.5in model when he won the USPGA in May.
Mickelson pre-empted the announcement on Twitter, saying: “Word is USGA is soon rolling back driver length to 46 inches.
“This is PATHETIC. 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 in 40 years, our amateur gov body keeps trying to make it less fun.”
Mickelson is incorrect with his last point as the R&A and USGA have stipulated that the local rule should only be invoked in professional or elite amateur tournaments. Now they have made their verdict, neither organisation will tackle Mickelson’s complaints full on.
Regard this as nothing more than the first shots across the bow before a decision is finally made – probably early next year – on rolling back the ball to limit distances and/or restricting the designs of clubs. That is when the lawyers will become involved and the pro game will be in full uproar.
“Admittedly, this is not the ‘answer’ to the overall distance debate/issue but rather a simple option for competitive events,” Mike Whan, the USGA chief executive said. “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.”