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R&A and USGA agree on equipment rules

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the United States Golf Association have reached an accord on golf equipment rules, which will restore uniformity to the game worldwide and help ensure the maintenance of uniformity in the future. This accord includes a set of written principles which will provide a framework to be followed by both governing bodies when proposing new equipment rules in the United States and its territories (USGA) and the rest of the world (R&A), along with a joint proposal to develop a uniform standard for 'spring-like' effect in driving clubs.

Statement of principles

A joint statement of principles which will guide the R&A and the USGA in formulating equipment rules both now and in the future. The last time such a statement was published by the two organisations was in 1952 at a time when no formal mechanism for co-ordinating the respective views was in place and, as a result, there were a number of differences between the individual codes.

This statement demonstrates a joint commitment to improve further the existing consultative processes between the two bodies, to ensure that all parties communicate fully and expeditiously and to ensure consistency of equipment rules around the globe.

'Spring-like' effect

The R&A and the USGA have also reached an agreement on a proposal that will apply identical standards worldwide to regulate the 'spring-like' effect of driving clubs. A difference has existed between the two organisations since 1998 when the USGA instituted a 'spring-like' effect test while the R&A refrained from doing so. The USGA's test procedure measured the coefficient of restitution (COR) of a driving club and the limit was set at 0.830 COR

The proposal, which is subject to the two organisations' customary notice-and-comment processes for equipment rules and their independent review, contains four points:

From January 1, 2003 until December 31, 2007, the Rules of Golf worldwide will be changed to include a conformance test with a COR limit of 0.860 (i.e. the R&A will introduce a limit for the first time and the USGA will increase its current limit from 0.830 to 0.860).

From January 1, 2008 onwards, the Rules of Golf worldwide will be changed, reducing the test's COR limit to 0.830 (i.e. the current USGA limit).

From January 1, 2003 until December 31, 2007 a Condition of Competition, targeted at competitions for highly skilled players, will be introduced enabling the Committee in charge of the competition to apply a limit of 0.830 COR. The R&A and the USGA will introduce this Condition of Competition at their respective Open Championships in 2003 and beyond and will recommend its introduction for all events on the major Professional Tours.

Initially, the test method to be used will be the same COR test as currently employed by the USGA. However, efforts are being made by both organisations to design a new simpler test as soon as possible.

This proposal is the result of extended discussions between representatives of the R&A and the USGA and seeks to resolve a difficult situation in a way that is best for the game of golf and is fair and reasonable to all parties, including manufacturers of golf equipment and golfers who have purchased high COR drivers.

Comments from the governing bodies

"Golf is an international game, particularly at the elite level, and needs a uniform set of equipment rules," said Peter Dawson, Secretary of the R&A. "A return to uniformity, which this 'spring-like' effect proposal seeks to achieve, is in golf's best interests while the joint statement of principles provides an important framework for future equipment regulation."

"The USGA and the R&A have worked closely together for more than a century in writing the Rules of Golf," USGA President Reed Mackenzie said. "It is helpful for any organisation to re-examine its approach to one of its core functions and at this time, we thought it made sense to ensure closer collaboration and formulate equipment rules that are uniform worldwide. The joint principles we announce here, coupled with our joint proposal regarding 'spring-like' effect, should help ensure that we achieve our goals of writing understandable and consistent worldwide equipment rules."


Update on other equipment issues

The R&A and the USGA continue to examine numerous comments that each organisation has received regarding proposals made earlier this year to update the golf ball test procedures, as well as proposals to introduce new limits on the size of clubheads and the length of clubs. At this time, no decisions have been taken on these issues and work on these three proposals is on-going.


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