USA TODAY International Edition

USGA, R& A take next steps in golf distance discussion

- David Dusek

Almost a year to the day after the U. S. Golf Associatio­n and the R& A declared distance is taking the sport down an unsustaina­ble path, golf ’ s governing bodies announced Tuesday they are interested in researchin­g equipment topics related to distance.

They want to work with manufactur­ers and other stakeholde­rs to learn more about how potential changes in equipment standards and testing procedures could curb the growing distance trend at the elite levels.

“After two years of research and crafting a statement of conclusion­s, it was our hope to say that now we are going to get into the beginning of the solution phase,” Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA, told Golfweek.

With the two areas of interest – the potential use of a “local rule” and the conformanc­e specifications for balls and clubs – the USGA moves its distance conversati­on forward.

The USGA and R& A will collect feedback regarding the potential use of a local rule that specifies the use of clubs and balls intended to result in shorter hitting distances. The idea is to give tournament organizers and course operators more flexibility.

Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior managing director of governance, said this is not a step toward bifurcatio­n or the creation of two sets of rules to govern golf. “Model local rules are all about promoting flexibility or options in the game, and they have existed for a long time,” he said. “We remain committed to a single set of rules. We think it is one of the great attributes of the game that ties us all together. We play the same equipment on the same golf courses under the same rules. No other sport does that, and we want to retain that.”

Davis said the USGA and R& A have no intention of changing things significantly at the recreation­al level.

“I think golfers need to understand that this every- generation- hits- theball- farther is affecting the game negatively,” Davis said. “The cost of this is being borne by all golfers. We’re just trying to fit the game of golf back on golf courses.”

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