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It might have got lost in today’s news about the golf ball rollback, but buried in the statement from golf’s governing bodies was news on changes to the way drivers are tested.

You have almost certainly already seen the news, but by 2030 we will be playing a ball that flies slightly less distance than the one we play today.

If you’re an amateur, that’s likely to equate from between zero and five yards with your driver.

If you’re one of the longest in the elite game, you’re looking at a loss of around 15 yards with the big stick in your hand.

That change has been the most publicised, but the R&A and USGA also announced that they will be looking more closely at how drivers influence distance in golf, particularly in the professional ranks.

If you want the basic version of this new guidance, let me explain it in the simplest possible terms.

Every driver face needs to conform to a regulation, which limits how much the face flexes at impact. This is called a ‘Characteristic Time’ – CT for short – test, and it’s actually fairly common in the professional game.

Every club on the conforming list will meet this standard, but over time, they might experience ‘driver creep’, which will eventually render a head illegal.

Any club that registers higher than 257 milliseconds on the CT test is non-conforming. Basically, the ball is staying on the driver face for too long.

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You might not have heard of this before, but it’s been in the news in the past. Back in 2019, Xander Schauffele’s driver fell foul of the regulation, just before The Open, so he had to swap it out at the last minute.

At the start of this year, Rory McIlroy was concerned that if he played his driver from 2022, it might now be non-conforming, due to the excessive use it got throughout the year.

Although every driver is constructed to fit into this standard, excessive use, particularly at high speed, could render a driver illegal.

It sounds like, to clamp down on ‘hot’ drivers, the USGA and the R&A are now going to expand their testing on this matter.

As well as that, they say that they’re going to continue to monitor the way drivers are designed. Specifically, looking at how they react when you miss the centre of the club face.

They expand on that, saying they’ll work with manufacturers to identify design features that will reward you more when you hit the middle.

Should you be worried about a driver rollback?

If you’re not playing golf at an elite level, there’s virtually zero chance that your driver is ever going to be CT tested.

If your club is on the USGA’s list of conforming heads, then you’re almost certainly on the right side of the law.

However, if you like big, forgiving driver heads, then you might see changes to those designs in the future.

Where do you stand on the golf ball rollback debate? Get involved on our X and Facebook pages! 


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Lewis Fraser As bunkered’s Performance Editor, Lewis oversees the content that’s designed to make you a better player. From the latest gear to tuition, nutrition, strategy and more, he’s the man. A graduate of the University of Stirling, Lewis joined bunkered in 2021. Formerly a caddie at Castle Stuart Golf Links, he is a member of Bathgate Golf Club where he plays off four.

Performance Editor

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