Thoughts on new driver length local rule — Founders Cup tweet roundup — Must-click women’s golf links

The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, October 14, 2021

I’ll state the obvious: men’s golf is NOT the same as women’s golf. That’s a fairly “duh” kind of statement, but I think it’s important to remind ourselves of this, especially when we are looking at something like the new local rule option recently announced by the USGA and R&A.

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If you aren’t familiar, the governing bodies have added a local rule that will allow for the regulation of driver shafts, reducing the permissible length from 48 inches to 46 inches. The respective tours can choose whether or not they want to adopt the rule and so far — both the PGA and LPGA Tours are planning on its implementation beginning in January.

Distance is a hot topic in golf at the moment, with many of the game’s leading organizations fearful of the implications of players’ increasing length off the tee. The subject wasn’t really something that was a pressing issue until Bryson DeChambeau began pushing the envelope last year but now, distance has become a triggering word in golf, one that elicits even more conversation about the health of the game and its future. 

Ball rollbacks have been suggested and golf courses have been lengthened, but this new rule is the first time we’ve seen anything tangible in response to the distance debate and I’m not sure how I feel about it when it comes to women’s golf.

To be honest, the LPGA Tour doesn’t seem to have any issue with players hitting it too far. There’s been plenty of parity in winners this season and it appears that length off the tee really hasn’t had much to do with the final scores posted, if you look at the metrics for every player who’s nabbed a title in 2021. 

Consider Jin Young Ko — arguably the hottest player in golf at the moment — who won two of the last four events averaging only 258 yards with her driver, putting her 74th in average driving distance. Look at Anne van Dam and Bianca Pagdanganan, the two players that lead that category, who are still searching for their first LPGA Tour win. Yes, being able to pound it off the tee matters, but length isn’t everything and I’m not sure regulations like this one are needed in the women’s game like it is in the men’s.

Now, don’t get it twisted. I completely understand the LPGA’s adoption of the local rule. Uniformity is important and what the USGA regulates and says in regards to the health of golf absolutely matters. Consistency with these types of things across all golf organizations makes total sense and the rules of golf are the same for everyone. Therein lies the beauty of this great game. 

I just wonder how rules like this one that appears to be clearly directed at male players chasing 400 yard drives will affect their female counterparts. One can’t help but think about how different the styles of golf played on the LPGA and PGA Tours are and if it’s fair or not to govern both on an issue that really only seems to affect one side. Will the USGA and R&A continue to make adjustments to temper the male game without realizing the limitations it puts on the women’s game? Who knows.

What I do know is that two inches are two inches and players can and will adjust accordingly to conform to the new rules. But it begs the question of whether or not what’s good for one is good for all. And that alone is food for thought.

This week in women’s golf

(Reminder: First: the underlined words are the links. Second: CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers, and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

Tweets of the Week

Five at The IX: Best tweets from the Founders Cup

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Sarah Kellam, @sarahkellam,
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08, NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Sarah Kellam