2018 British Open: R&A chief Martin Slumbers addresses driver testing

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2018 British Open: R&A chief Martin Slumbers addresses driver testing

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2018 British Open: R&A chief Martin Slumbers addresses driver testing

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers is in “listen mode.” Many think he should be in “act mode” to limit the distances today’s professionals launch the golf ball.

Slumbers said during his pre-British Open press conference that the R&A sent advance notice to potential competitors that drivers would be tested for conformity this week. Thirty players were randomly selected for testing. It’s part of the R&A head’s efforts to get on top of distance.

The R&A and U.S. Golf Association’s Distance Report released earlier this year caused consternation for the governing bodies. In February, Slumbers said there had been a “significant move up across all tours.”

“We had talked for a number of years about slow creep,” Slumbers said. “This is a little bit more than slow creep. It’s actually quite a big jump.”

The R&A has had capabilities at previous Opens to test drivers for COR (coefficient of restitution) and CT “characteristic time.” In laymen’s terms, the spring-like effect of driver faces. But the governing body is becoming more proactive this year.

“We’ve always had an equipment test capability down on the range, certainly since I’ve been involved in the Open,” Slumbers said. “It’s been an option for players or the manufacturers to take their equipment in and have it tested. We felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players’ drivers straight out of the bag.”

The R&A used the Japanese Tour earlier this year to test drivers, and none were found to be illegal. However, the R&A CEO seems to be making a statement of intent that he’s willing to take on the equipment manufacturers on the vexed issue of distance.

Slumbers is following the traditional R&A line of taking a measured approach to issues. Many in the game didn’t need a distance report. They’ve watched in horror as some classic courses have become practically obsolete because of the power game. In fact, the R&A has invested a lot of money over recent years “upgrading” Open venues to bring them into line with the modern game.

Thankfully, Carnoustie hasn’t needed much upgrading. It’s actually playing 19 yards shorter than it did in 2007. Still, Slumbers seems on a crusade.

“When we published it at the beginning of this year, we were very clear saying that the concern that I had alluded to a year ago was real and, with the USGA, we said that we would now want to start an open and constructive dialogue around the hitting distance,” he said. “We’ve started that process. We’ve talked to a number of people. From my perspective, I’m in listen mode.”

Slumbers said he’ll be in that mode for a year while he tries to garner support for action. Many hope testing drivers at this Open is an important first step.

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