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(or obvious) agenda. As a result, the USGA gets to hear about where it has made mistakes but doesn’t take the opportunity to explain itself or to persuade either the manufacturers or the golfing public. The notice and comment process is sound and essential in good governance, but if the proposal presented is going to be adopted anyway, then why go through the process just for slight alterations? In the COR example,

the Executive Commit- tee never made a formal proposal about adopting a standard. (I’m sorry if it seems that I keep harp-

The USGA’s mechanical golfer used in equipment testing.

ing on the COR situation, but it’s the best example of how the process can break down and has had the most far-reaching implications of any equipment-rules deci- sion since the acceptance of the Haskell ball.) The manufacturers knew that their clubs had a springlike effect after the USGA told them and gave them test data. I tried to persuade the committee to enforce the rule as written—no spring- like effect—but to provide a generous grace period in which the average golfer could keep using such clubs, because the manufacturers had not violated the rule

intentionally and we hadn’t noticed it right away either. This was rejected, because it was viewed as potentially leading to another lawsuit. Rather than inviting the manufacturers into the process, the USGA viewed them as a potential adver- sary, one it was unwilling to fight. A century of concern about the ball going too far was trumped by fear of the consequences of regulating clubs that would propel the ball farther than ever. As bad as this stance

was, the R&A’s position may have been worse. That body did not want to set any COR standard at all, preferring a delay tactic that had frequently worked in the past—“We are not sure of the extent of the problem and it will eventually work itself out so we don’t have to deal with it now.” This lack of action emboldened manufacturers to take advantage of the situation and make clubs for the world market with a COR of .860+ that exceeded the USGA .830 limit. That was the state of things in early 2002 when the chairman of the USGA’s I&B committee set out to achieve worldwide uni- formity in the COR rules at last. He negotiated the following proposal with the R&A: The R&A would adopt a COR standard of .860, which was close to the maximum for most of the drivers in its jurisdiction; it would give golfers a grace period of six years, until January 2008, to use their clubs in everyday play but would adopt the USGA’s

.830 standard for its cham- pionships beginning in January 2003. The USGA would raise its own standard to .860 for nonchampion- ship play, beginning in 2003, while keeping the .830 limit for elite golfers in its championships—and then in 2008, both organi- zations would pull all clubs back to the .830 level. The end result would be a uni- form standard worldwide, but the road to it would be a chaotic mess. This proposal would

have accomplished two remarkable things: It would have given the average American golfer the chance to buy a new, “hotter” club with the understanding that it would be illegal in six years; and it would have put a formal bifurcation of equipment standards into the rules for the first time. It would have done so at nearly the exact moment that the USGA and R&A were adopting a Joint Statement of Principles expressing their opposition to bifurcation of the rules. It was not the I&B chairman’s finest hour. Fortunately, those who

reviewed the proposal reacted as one would hope. It was withdrawn, and the R&A did finally adopt the .830 standard for 2008 for the average golfer. I have no hard information regarding how many golfers under the R&A’s jurisdic- tion have given up their .860 clubs. We hope golfers will be honorable, but we also hope the governing bodies will exercise some common sense in making the rules.

For more information, visit FALL 2012 / NCGA.ORG / 53

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