and USGA change rules on "hot" drivers
In a surprising
reversal Tuesday, golf's two governing bodies scrapped plans to allow recreational
players in the United States to use so-called hot drivers, designed to hit the
The modified policy means Americans cannot use the thin-faced
drivers in club tournaments or to post a score for their handicap index.
plan that was to take effect Jan. 1 would have allowed average U.S. players to
use the hot drivers until 2008. The decision Tuesday does not affect players in
the rest of the world, who already were told they can use the drivers until then.
Tuesday's change was meant to avoid confusion, the new policy by the U.S. Golf
Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club could lead to chaos in the equipment
market, already geared up to sell the new drivers.
A large display window
at the New York Golf Center in Manhattan was devoted entirely to an exhibit of
Taylor Made's R500 series of thin-faced drivers.
``I just lost a customer
because of the ruling,'' salesman Frank Cole said. ``I had been telling people,
'Buy the Taylor Made now. Get used to it. And in January, when you're comfortable
with it, it will be legal.' Now I'm going to have guys coming in, bringing their
clubs back for a refund. The next week is going to be a nightmare.''
change also brought an angry response from Callaway Golf, the first U.S. company
to promote drivers that make the ball spring off the club more quickly.
not going to be able to sell our best technology to golfers that I know will help
them enjoy the game,'' Callaway CEO Ron Drapeau said. ``That's sad for the 25
million golfers in the United States under this jurisdiction.''
declined comment until it could talk to its retailers.
The R&A makes
the rules of golf for everywhere in the world except the United States and Mexico,
which fall under the jurisdiction of the USGA.
The two rules makers had
different equipment standards for drivers. The USGA set a limit of 0.83 coefficient
of restitution (how quickly the ball springs from the clubface), while the R&A
did not impose any limits.
That meant players could use the thin-faced drivers
at the British Open or World Golf Championships held overseas, but not on the
PGA Tour or the three American majors.
A compromise proposed in May would
have allowed recreational players to use drivers with a COR of 0.86 for a five-year
period, starting next year. Beginning in 2008, the worldwide limit would revert
It did not affect touring pros. The organizations recommended that
``highly skilled players'' use drivers that did not exceed 0.83.
USGA officials said two months of feedback -- customary when
they propose rules changes -- indicated the compromise was confusing to players
and manufacturers. Drivers would be illegal until Jan. 1, legal for five years,
then illegal again.
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