The PGA Tour notified players and golf equipment manufacturers Tuesday of a new driver testing policy that will go into effect next week at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, the first event of the 2019-20 season, according to a letter obtained by Golfweek.
Starting in 2014, the PGA Tour selected random events on the schedule and had the USGA Equipment Standards Team conduct tests on drivers in tour vans to determine their Characteristic Time (CT), which is a measure of the springiness of the hitting area. Now, in addition to those tests, the PGA Tour will ask the USGA’s team to test drivers that players have or plan to use in tournaments.
“Recently, we have become aware that drivers in play on the PGA Tour may be exhibiting a trait whereby through normal use, the clubface ‘creeps’ beyond the allowed CT limit under the Rules, despite having conformed to the CT limit when new,” the letter notes. “When such a situation occurs, in accordance with the USGA’s Notice to Manufacturers dated October 11, 2017 the club is deemed to have become damaged into a non-conforming state and may no longer be used in competition.”
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The concept of CT Creep was brought to the forefront two months ago after Xander Schauffele said that his Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero driver had been tested by the R&A before the start of the 2019 British Open at Royal Portrush. The club was found to have a CT that was too high and deemed non-conforming before the start of the tournament, forcing Shauffele to use a different driver in the competition.
Callaway’s CEO and president, Chip Brewer, said in a statement that, “high swing speed players could experience what we term CT ‘creep,’ and a driver that originally conformed could become, through play, non-conforming or deemed damaged into a non-conforming state.”
Under the new testing protocols, each manufacturer who has driver heads in play on the PGA Tour will appoint an on-site person who will be contacted any time a player’s club will be tested. The tests will be done at various times throughout the year on unannounced, non-competition days.
According to the letter, players who are selected for driver testing will be notified by the tour when they get to the course and will have to provide any drivers they might use in the tournament. Those clubs will be taken to the on-site test location, tested by the USGA Equipment Standards staff and returned as soon as possible. It takes about 15 minutes to test each club.
This video demonstrates how a CT test is conducted:
The serial number of each club tested will be recorded and after the test concludes, each club will be placed into one of three categories:
- Green: The club is conforming and may be used.
- Yellow: The club is conforming and may be used, but the measured CT is within the USGA’s published tolerance. As a result, the club is more likely to exceed the CT limit plus the tolerance in the future with continued use.
- Red: The club is deemed to have been damaged into a non-conforming state and can not be used.
The only people who will be told the results of the test are the player and the manufacturer’s representative. Clubs coded Green and Yellow will be given back to the player. Clubs that are coded Red will be returned to the manufacturer’s representative.
The tour’s letter states that the focus of changes and additional testing are not on individual players, but rather on ensuring a level competitive playing field for everyone.
“As such, selection of players to be tested will be primarily based on driver usage via the Darrell Survey in order to test a thorough sample of clubs in use on the PGA TOUR,” the letter states. “Additionally, we will seek to spread the testing throughout all regular Tour members over the course of a season.”