Bryson DeChambeau: R&A rule change proposals set to curb US Open champion’s length

DeChambeau’s is just one of the players who could be hampered by a new ruling

Bryson DeChambeau’s experimental practice with a longer driver seems to have been in vain following proposed changes in regulations by rule makers.

As he sought more distance off the tee, the big-hitting US Open champion trialled a 48-inch driver, the maximum shaft length under current rules.

Under new proposals from the R&A and United States Golf Association (USGA), shafts could be reduced to 46 inches.

R&A chief Martin Slumbers said it is a “balance of skill and technology”.

DeChambeau currently uses a driver that measures just under the proposed mark and can smash tee shots more than 350 yards.

However, Slumbers insists the proposal is not directly aimed at the American. “This is not person specific,” said the St Andrews based boss.

“We were looking at this four years ago. And in our ‘Distance Insights’ report this was one of the options available to us when we were considering this back in February [2020].

“We’ve tried really hard in this to be agnostic to individual players but inevitably long hitters could be personalised in that and there is no doubt there has been a lot of players who explored the use of longer drivers, not just Bryson.”

The proposals are part of the latest developments in a ‘Distance Insights’ project which seeks to limit driving distances. The governing bodies have also announced a review of club and ball specifications.

A report published last February followed research that convinced the R&A and USGA that golf balls are flying too far. The next stages in the process were scheduled for March 2020 but were put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the report’s publication, DeChambeau has won the US Open while another of the game’s biggest hitters, Dustin Johnson, won the Masters with a record-breaking score at Augusta.

“We are now at a point where we want to get going again,” Slumbers told BBC Sport.

Interested parties, including club manufacturers and professional tours, will have until 4 March to comment on the proposal to limit the length of clubs other than putters to 46 inches.

The R&A and USGA have also given formal notification that they are interested in bringing in a local rule “that would specify the use of clubs and/or balls intended to result in shorter hitting distances”.

It could mean the introduction of a restricted ball or limits on the effectiveness of clubs in professional tour and amateur events to reduce driving distances.

“This would enable committees conducting competitions to stipulate whether such equipment should be used,” the notification document states.

The authorities are convinced action needs to be taken and these “areas of interest” will be considered by the golf industry until 2 November 2021.

“I have often said through this project that this is a serious problem for serious thinking and we are now in that very serious thinking stage,” Slumbers said.

“We are balancing up the long term future of the game, the sustainability of the game and this balance of skill and technology,” he added.

“And that means a local rule could be applied on a much broader scale than just professional golf and it would be misleading to think its is just professional golf.”

USGA chief executive Mike Davis said: “Hitting distances have consistently increased through time and, if left unchecked, could threaten the long-term future of our game at every level and every golf course on which it is played.

“This is the first forward step in a journey and a responsibility the USGA and The R&A share with the worldwide golf community, to ensure that golf continues to thrive for the next hundred years and beyond.”

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