The USGA and R&A took a marginal step toward limiting driving distance in professional golf with a local rule announced Tuesday that will allow professional and elite amateur tournaments to cap club length — other than putters — at 46 inches beginning Jan. 1, 2022.
Previously, clubs could be up to 48 inches long. Here's the relevant part of the co-branded release from the R&A and USGA, which are golf's governing bodies:
The R&A and the USGA have announced that a new Model Local Rule (MLR G-10) will be available beginning on 1 January 2022 to provide those running professional or elite amateur golf competitions with the option of limiting the maximum length of a golf club (excluding putters) to 46 inches.
The proposal was announced in February 2021, which opened a notice-and-comment period to allow the industry the opportunity to provide feedback as part of the equipment rulemaking procedures. The comments received from the golf industry, including players, professional tours and equipment manufacturers, were carefully considered before the decision to proceed with the new MLR was reached.
As noted above, this has been in the works since February 2021. It isn't a knee-jerk reaction to recent distance gains in particular.
The practical impact is this: tour pros and elite amateurs will not play the kind of long-shafted drivers used in professional long-drive championships.
An argument can be made this rule change is the USGA and R&A's effort to get ahead of the curve. There are few if any PGA Tour players who use a driver that would be illegal under the new rule. Phil Mickelson is one of the few who has played a driver close to 48 inches. Remember his semi-rant last month about the USGA "misreading" the data?
Before the rule change, it wouldn't have been a stretch envision someone, maybe Bryson DeChambeau, putting a crazy-long driver into play. DeChambeau finished seventh in a long-drive competition in Nevada last month. Kyle Berkshire won it using a 48-inch driver, according to his biography page on krankgolf.com.