During the closing days of 2001 the USGA suggested rule changes regarding balls and clubs that will unfairly limit the equipment choices available to golfers. On the ball front, the USGA plans to revise the Overall Distance Standard (ODS) test protocol and criteria that have been in effect since 1976. The USGA says updates are necessary, even though no ball designed for or played by Tour pros exceeds the current ODS limit. Further, the USGA has shown no concrete evidence that the game has been harmed by advances in ball technology.
The proposed rule regarding clubs is even more foreboding. The USGA intends to limit the size of a clubhead to 385 cubic centimeters and the length of a shaft to 47 inches (except for putters). The 385 cc restriction is arbitrary and fails to take into consideration that drivers exceeding this size are either already on the market or about to be introduced. Limiting large-headed drivers is most likely to impact recreational golfers, who favor the more forgiving clubs, not the Tour pros the USGA continually cites as the excuse for its increasingly restrictive regulations.
The USGA acts as if improved technology is going to make the game so easy that the average player will lose interest. The truth is, despite better technology, participation is flat, rounds played are down, and the golf industry is mired in the same recession as the rest of the U.S.
The timing of the proposed rule changes (which could take effect as early as this year), the absence of any dialogue before they were announced, and giving the industry only two months to present objections prove that the patricians of the USGA aren't making decisions for the good of the game. Rather, they're making important decisions without meaningful give-and-take between the rulers and those who are trying to play by the rules.