2002: Amateur groups wary of COR rule impact
By James Achenbach
The U.S. Golf Association has delayed a decision on which of its 13 national championships, in addition to the U.S. Open, will be covered by a “condition of competition” that limits competitors to drivers with a coefficient of restitution of .830.
According to USGA president Reed Mackenzie, a decision will be made after July 15. On that date, a notice-and-comment period on driver COR will end, and Mackenzie said the USGA, along with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, want “a chance to fully consider those comments.”
After the conclusion of the comment period, the USGA and R&A are expected to formally endorse a proposed compromise on COR. This compromise would allow everyday golfers around the world to use so-called “hot” drivers with a COR of .860 for five years, but would establish the optional .830 rule for tournaments that wish to limit players to less-potent drivers. After five years, the .860 standard would revert back to .830 for all of amateur and professional golf.
The USGA says the difference between the two drivers, based on center hits, is about 6 yards. Other independent estimates, however, are somewhat higher.
Organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the America Junior Golf Association are waiting for the USGA to decide whether to require .830 drivers in all of its 2003 championships (so far, only the U.S. Open has been designated an .830 event). The NCAA and AJGA already have declared they will follow the USGA’s example.
Mackenzie said a suggestion was made “that we should shorten the (notice-and-comment) period because of consumer uncertainty seen by some manufacturers. After discussions with the R&A, it has been decided to wait as per the original announcement.”
Peter Dawson, secretary of the R&A, said his organization probably would not invoke the .830 rule, at least initially, in any championship except the British Open.
“I think we have quite a severe problem,” Dawson said. “All of our affiliated unions around the world are looking to us for the lead on that matter. All that we have to work with at the present moment is a USGA disapproved list. If you go and play in the Japanese Amateur or the Hong Kong Amateur, you see a lot of drivers in people’s hands that have never been submitted for testing. They have never been targeted at the U.S. market. There is a huge logistical exercise if the condition of competition were to be invoked, to know which guy was complying and which wasn’t. Until there is a portable, on-site, simple test, I don’t see how we can (invoke the .830 rule).”
On that subject, the USGA’s new portable COR tester continued to make news as state and regional golf associations reflected on the driver dilemma. The new pendulum COR tester, which does not require the use of golf balls, could be used at tournament sites to determine if drivers conform to specified COR standards.
Jay Mottola, executive director of the Metropolitan (N.Y.) Golf Association, was skeptical of the new device.
“From a practical point of view, it would be very difficult to administer a tournament and try to do that at the same time,” Mottola said. “There is also the issue of having the expertise to run and use the equipment.”
Mottola said the Met GA probably would invoke the .830 condition of competition for some of its events, but not all of them.
“We’ve seen very few of the (.860) clubs used at any level here in the Met area,” Mottola said. “I don’t think there will be a stampede to buy them, either. That’s my gut feeling.”
Jim Gibbons, executive director of the Oregon Golf Association, agreed with Mottola that testing clubs at a tournament site could be a nightmare.
“Maybe we would have a tester available at our headquarters,” Gibbons said, “and golfers could come by and test their own drivers.”
The Oregon GA runs 13 championships, and Gibbons guessed that the .830 rule would be used in few of them.
Jim Demick, executive director of the Florida State Golf Association, said he is worried about the driver confusion: “First of all, I’m very concerned about the perception that golf will have two sets of rules, beginning in January of next year. My larger concern is 2008 (when the five-year grace period for .860 drivers has expired). Suddenly we will put golfers in a position where their drivers don’t conform to the Rules of Golf. It doesn’t seem quite right.”
Demick was doubtful his organization would use the .830 condition of competition. “I think there is a fair chance we will not utilize that condition of competition,” he said. “I run 17 different championships with all sorts of players. All of a sudden, I’m going to tell members of our association that they can’t play with certain drivers that conform to the Rules of Golf because we’re implementing a local rule? That makes me uncomfortable. We might be inclined not to invoke the local rule at all.”