R&A and USGA plan to reduce sweet spot on golf drivers

Golf driver and ball
Advanced drivers will mitigate the effect of coming changes to the ball - Getty Images/Ross Kinnaird

First they came for their balls and then they returned for their driver heads. If the average golfer feels under siege at the moment then they should be warned that the authorities are looking at reducing the “sweet spot” that helps make their Saturday mornings so mouthwatering.

Certainly, it was the paragraph at the bottom of Wednesday’s historic statement that will have made the equipment-makers dab their sweating brows with head covers.

They knew the ball argument was lost – and they would be almost insane if they dared challenge the new regulations in court -– but they hoped that the prospect of the R&A and US Golf Association going after their main money earner was remote.

Yet there it was, in the fine print, near the end of their joint announcement. “We will monitor drivers and explore possible additional options related to distance,” it read.  “Specifically, we will research the forgiveness of drivers and how they perform with off-centre hits.”

Those words will have sent alarm bells ringing through the industry.  To be clear, this is not the first time the R&A and USGA have looked at the big-headed drivers. But this is the first time they have publicised their concerns about their forgiveness.

“We will monitor drivers and explore possible additional options related to distance,” a statement said. “This is an ongoing review and we will seek input from and continue to work with the industry, including manufacturers, to identify driver design features that can be regulated as a means to reward centre impact position hits versus mis-hits.”

Bryson DeChambeau
DeChambeau's forgiving driver has enabled him to swing more freely - AP/Brynn Anderson

Any changes would probably not be introduced for another decade but the intention is non-negotiable. “The R&A and the USGA are guided by an overarching principle to continue to preserve the fundamental elements of golf,” the statement said. “And they protect the integrity of golf courses, including their overall length, and ensure that a variety of skills are needed to be successful.”

Lee Westwood, the former world No 1, has long been an advocate for the solution to golf’s distance problem not being focused simply on the ball. “It’s both,” Westwood told Telegraph Sport. “They made the driver heads massive and then they made the balls to suit those massive heads – or vice versa, or whatever. All I know is that we should get back to a place that when you hit the driver out of the middle, it is rewarded. Not much to ask.”