USGA Boss Mike Whan Talks Equipment

by | Jun 12, 2024 | News

While no definitive driver rules change proposals to drivers are on the horizon from the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews,  Scotland, USGA CEO Mike Whan reiterated that while shelved for now, driver technology remains a relevant issue.

“We shelved it for now because we thought it was time to make a decision and put it on there, but we didn’t retire the idea,’’ Whan said on Wednesday on the eve of the first round of the U.S. Open on Pinehurst No. 2. “We just didn’t, quite frankly, have an idea that we believed was worthy of going to the market yet. But I would just put a ‘yet’ on that statement.’’

Whan said that and Martin Slumbers, CEO of the R & A, each has a “real interest’’ in figuring out a way to provide a difference as it relates to the driver, as as the ruling bodies have done with the proposed rollback on golf ball distance that is scheduled to occur in 2028.

“To date, in terms of the five-year process we went through, we didn’t really come up with something that wouldn’t have a much more negative effect on the recreational game,’’ Whan said. “In fact, like what we did on the golf ball will have much more impact at this level than at the average level. When we started talking about changes in the driver or driving equipment, it was just the opposite. Much more significant impact across the board than just at the elite level.

In fact, what we did on the golf ball will have much more impact at this level than at the average level.

“When we started talking about driver or driving equipment changes, it was just the opposite. Much more significant impact across the board than just at the elite level.’’

On the ball side, Whan defended the USGA/R&A decision to implement the “Modern Local Rule, ” which is intended for use in elite competitions, despite opposition from the PGA Tour, PGA of America, and at least one major golf ball company.

“Follow my actions more than my words,’’ Whan said. “Our actions were, we came out and were pretty strong in the idea of an MLR, an individual ball that we play at a higher level and nothing at the recreational level.

“I always say we lead in a huddle. We try to bring the industry together and hear everybody’s points of view. But at the end of the day, somebody has got to call a play, and that’s our job, so we call a play.

“But in that huddle, we heard loud and clear that the idea of a bifurcated product line was really concerning to (the PGA Tour and PGA of America), and concerning enough that I’m not really sure that the PGA Tour and other tours would have implemented it.’’

Whan stressed the golf ball rollback decision was never what he termed a “paper exercise.’’

“We didn’t want to do something, check it off our to-do list, and then it never really affects the game long-term. Our decision to go back to an across-the-board regulation, which admittedly by going across the board we had to give it more time, so longer to implement, and lessen the impacts, so that the impact of the recreational game was minimal at best, we all outcomes of those.
“I don’t think those were our probably choice No. 1, but the right choice if you’re actually leading in a huddle versus leading in a silo. Yeah, I think not only do we respect their opinions, but their opinions fundamentally shaped the final outcome.’’

Photo courtesy USGA


About the Author

<a href="" target="_self">Steve Pike</a>

Steve Pike

Steve “Spike” Pike is a lifelong journalist whose career covers Major League Baseball, the NFL, and college basketball. For the past 26 years, Spike has been one of the more respected voices in the golf and travel industries, working for such publications as Golfweek, Golf World, and Golf Digest for The New York Times Magazine Group. In 1998, Spike helped launch the website for the PGA of America. As a freelance travel and golf writer, Spike’s travels have taken him around the world. He has played golf from Pebble Beach to St. Andrews, walked the Great Wall of China, climbed an active volcano in the Canary Islands, been on safari in South Africa, and dived with sharks off Guadalupe, Baja California.