February 6, 2004
This week’s column continues the discussion of some of the intriguing changes in the 2004 Rules of Golf adopted by the Royal & Ancient and the United States Golf Association.
The foreword to this year’s edition, by Paul D. Caruso, Jr. of the USGA and Ian R.H. Pattinson of the Royal and Ancient, claims that the amendments “represent the most comprehensive revision of the Rules of Golf for twenty 20 years.”
They weren’t kidding.
One major improvement throughout the new volume is how much more readable it is, compared to prior editions. I’m an attorney, and I often had trouble working through the tortured syntax of the old versions of these committee-drafted rules. The redraft is much easier to comprehend.
Another major improvement involves the etiquette standards. This segment includes a brand new section on enforcement against players who persistently fail to meet the honorable standards expected of all golfers.
The new Rules now recommend that the Committees overseeing a competition or a course take disciplinary action for etiquette lapses, including suspending playing privileges or limiting competition. For severe breaches of etiquette, the text also suggests outright disqualification.
That printed guidance should help provide some backbone to some club committees, whose timid approach to going after real jerks diminishes the enjoyment of their course for the other members.
On the plus side, the Rules of Amateur Status imposed a limit of $500 on prize values for many years. They took a major step to recognize inflation’s impact on this limit, and raised it to $750.
Considering how expensive some golf equipment can be, the upgrade in prize values for gift certificates at Cape Region golf clubs is a welcome development.
For many years the USGA, the Royal and Ancient, and golf club manufacturers have argued over equipment standards, equipment testing, and the impact of new technology on golf course design and maintenance. The new Rules include several changes to the equipment standards, and this time it looks like the golf industry will accept the new limits.
Then again, the new dimension limitations for woods won’t affect the continued use of most of the popular, huge drivers now on sale. Clubhead size can be as large as 28.06 cubic inches (460cc) plus a tolerance of 0.61 cubic inches (10cc). In addition, the distance from the heel to the toe of the clubhead can’t extend beyond 5 inches. The distance from the club’s crown to the sole cannot exceed 2.8 inches.
The newest models come close to or match these restrictions, while also meeting the new Coefficient Of Restitution (COR) rules that control how hard and far a ball can bounce off a club face. For example, the new Adams Redline model on sale at Clubhouse Golf ($299.99) is 460cc large, and rated at the .830 COR limit. It also just fits inside the 5 inch dimension boundary, and is almost as deep as the new 2.8 inch ceiling. TaylorMade’s model 580XD ($399.99) and Cobra’s 440SZ driver ($299.99) are also behemoths that nonetheless comply with the new rules.
These new clubs dwarf the classic club head designs of yesteryear. Almost twenty years ago, for example, I bought a standard metal driver from Austads. This driver measures only 3 1/8 inches across from heel to toe, and is only 1 5/8 inches high from crown to sole.
The driver I now use, a TaylorMade 200 Steel, sits in between these two extremes. It measures 4 3/8 inches from heel to toe, and is about 2 1/8 inches high.
Club lengths are also established in the new rules, at least for everything but putters. The new maximum length can’t exceed 48 inches, using a defined measurement protocol.
If you’ve been playing with one of those 50- to 51-inch drivers, though, you still have time to learn how to hit a shorter club. Any existing clubs that exceed the new standards can be used in competition until the end of this year.