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PGA TOUR’s new driver-testing program to build upon previous initiatives

5 Min Read


    Written by Staff @PGATOUR

    The PGA TOUR’s new driver-testing protocol, which will go into effect at the season-opening A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier next week, is designed to reflect two realities that have come to light, said Tyler Dennis, Chief of Operations, PGA TOUR.

    First, through normal wear and tear it has become not uncommon for conforming driver faces to “creep” over the allowable limit for Characteristic Time (CT, otherwise known as spring-like effect) and thus become non-conforming.

    Second, the players using such equipment are not in a position to know it.

    “We want to stress this issue is not about the players,” Dennis said. “They wouldn’t know they were using a club that’s gone over the limit just by normal use of that club; it’s a very technical thing that can’t really be deduced by the naked eye.”

    In practical terms, here’s how the new program works:

    Starting with the first tournament of the new season at The Greenbrier, the TOUR will notify players upon arrival if their equipment has been selected for testing. This will happen only on practice days, and will be unannounced. Previously, only driver heads from equipment trailers were tested at various times throughout the season.

    The driver face will be tested, and while CT numbers won’t be given, drivers will get a stoplight grade – green means go, yellow means it’s pushing the acceptable limits, red and the club is non-conforming. Only the player and a representative of the manufacturer will be notified of the results. Players will be returned only green and yellow drivers, while the manufacturer’s rep will get the red ones.

    The TOUR will also perform the testing on request on a voluntary, first-come, first-serve basis.

    Players were sent a memo detailing the changes Wednesday, with additional education on the topic available at The Greenbrier next week as well as the Farmers Insurance Open in early 2020.

    “This is an additional enhancement to what we’ve been doing,” Dennis said, “to continue our confidence in the high level of conformity on the PGA TOUR.”

    Since 2014, the TOUR has regularly collected driver heads from manufacturers at tournament sites, then sent them to the USGA Equipment Standards Team for testing. The TOUR has done the same with golf balls since the late 1990s. The full memo is below:

    Recently, we have become aware that drivers in play on the PGA TOUR may be exhibiting a trait whereby through normal use, the club face “creeps” beyond the allowed CT limit under the Rules, despite having conformed to the CT limit when new. 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.

    Given this phenomenon, beginning with the 2019-20 season the PGA TOUR will be implementing an additional component to its driver testing program which will test drivers in play on the PGA TOUR. The program, which will be supported by the USGA Equipment Standards staff, will work as follows:

    • We will host two informational weeks where the USGA Equipment Standards staff will demonstrate the testing procedure and work with manufacturer representatives on-site to review their own procedures. Additionally, we will test clubs of players on a voluntary, first-come, first-served basis. These sessions will be hosted Monday to Wednesday at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier (September 9-11, 2019) and the Farmers Insurance Open (January 20-22, 2020).

    • At various times throughout the season, and on an unannounced basis, testing will occur at PGA TOUR events. The testing will occur on non-competition days when manufacturer representatives are on-site. If a player has been selected, the player will be notified by a PGA TOUR Rules Official when he arrives at the course and will be asked to provide the driver(s) that the player intends to use in play for that event. The clubs will be taken to the testing location, tested, and returned to the player as soon as possible. Each test will take approximately 15 minutes, be conducted by a member of the USGA Equipment Standards staff and be performed on a pendulum device in accordance with published USGA test protocols.

    • All clubs which are tested will have their serial numbers recorded. Clubs which have test results that are green or yellow will be returned to the player. Clubs which have test results which are red will be returned to the manufacturer representative.

    • Complying with this program will be considered a condition of entry for the tournament.

    • Existing driver head and golf ball testing programs will also continue as in the past.

    While this testing program will test the clubs in use by players on the PGA TOUR out of necessity, it is important to note that the focus of the program is not on the individual player but rather on ensuring conformity level of each club model and type throughout the season. 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. Additionally, we will seek to spread the testing throughout all regular TOUR members over the course of a season.

    Through our experience in testing equipment on the PGA TOUR over many years, we know that PGA TOUR players and the equipment manufacturers who support them go to great lengths to ensure that all equipment in play conforms to the Rules. Therefore, we expect this program to complement our existing programs and provide an additional level of knowledge and assurance to players, manufacturers and other constituents that equipment in play on the PGA TOUR is conforming.