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R&A decide to allow use of "hot" drivers

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club concludedthat there is no need for a test to measure the spring-like effect in drivers, a move that gives the world of golf two sets of equipment regulations.

"Based on the data currently available to the R&A, any consequential increase in driving distance ... is not considered to be detrimental to the game,'' the R&A said in a statement.

The decision means players can use Callaway's controversial ERC driver in the season-ending American Express Championship at Valderrama in November, even though the same club is deemed illegal for PGA Tour events in America.

"We did not know this was coming, but it's gratifying to know that the R&A would thoroughly study the issue and come to the conclusion that we have held all along,'' Callaway spokesman Larry Dorman said.

"Extra distance off the tee when provided with human power is not a threat to the game.''

The U.S. Golf Association felt otherwise, and adopted a test in 1998 to measure the trampoline effect in thin-faced drivers, which are said to cause the ball to travel as many as 30 yards farther.

USGA executive director David Fay recently described the advantage of such drivers as "diving into a swimming pool off a diving board versus the side of the pool.'' There are 21 "hot'' drivers on the USGA's non-conforming list.

The R&A, based at St. Andrews in Scotland, sets the rules for golf all over the world except for the United States and Mexico, where the USGA is the governing body. Canada has sided with the USGA over the issue of thin-faced drivers.

The R&A said in a letter sent May 3 to club manufacturers that "regulation, in the form of a test procedure, is required,'' and that it hoped to have a test in place by Oct. 1.

"Without any regulation in this area, performance enhancement due to equipment alone could result in golfers gaining significant increases in driving distances,'' the R&A said May. ''...Such distance gains are not considered to be in the best long-term interests of the game.''

Nearly five months later, the R&A apparently has changed its mind. It did say that stricter regulations on equipment -- both clubs and balls -- could be required if it finds extreme distance gains through either athleticism, coaching or the way fairways are cut so short.


Pierre Fulke became the first player to win on the European Tour with a "Hot" driver - the Scottosh PGA. Allsport

Pierre Fulke became the first player to win a tournament with a non-conforming driver when he used the ERC in the Scottish PGA Championship. Only 12 players used it in the British Open because they were getting enough length from dry, fast conditions.

Drivers that are illegal in the United States can now we used in such events as the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship in Australia in January, and even the Ryder Cup in England next year.

The R&A said it was aware that such lack of uniformity of the rules is "undesirable,'' but said it would continue to consult with the USGA on other issues as it deems appropriate.



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