Joint Statement of Principles
As the governing authorities for the Rules of
Golf including equipment Rules, The R&A in St. Andrews, Scotland and the United
States Golf Association (USGA) have continued to monitor closely the effects of
advancing equipment technology on the playing of the game. The R&A and the USGA
are also aware that this subject has attracted wide-ranging comment and a number
of conflicting views. History has proved that it is impossible to foresee the developments
in golf equipment that advancing technology will deliver. It is of the greatest
importance to golf's continuing appeal that such advances are judged against a clear
and broadly accepted series of principles.
The purpose of this statement is to set out the joint views of the R&A and the
USGA, together with the framework of key principles and policies which guide their
In a historical context, the game has seen progressive developments in the clubs
and balls available to golfers who, through almost six centuries, have sought to
improve their playing performance and enjoyment.
While generally welcoming this progress, the R&A and the USGA will remain vigilant
when considering equipment Rules. The purpose of the Rules is to protect golf's
best traditions, to prevent an over-reliance on technological advances rather than
skill, and to ensure that skill is the dominant element of success throughout the
The R&A and the USGA continue to believe that the retention of a single set
of rules for all players of the game, irrespective of ability, is one of golf's
greatest strengths. The R&A and the USGA regard the prospect of having permanent
separate rules for elite competition as undesirable and have no current plans to
create separate equipment rules for highly skilled players.
Golf balls used by the vast majority of highly skilled players today have largely
reached the performance limits for initial velocity and overall distance which have
been part of the Rules since 1976. The governing bodies believe that golf balls,
when hit by highly skilled golfers, should not of themselves fly significantly further
than they do today. In the current circumstances, the R&A and the USGA are not
advocating that the Rules relating to golf ball specifications be changed other
than to modernize test methods.
The R&A and the USGA believe, however, that any further significant increases
in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable. Whether these increases
in distance emanate from advancing equipment technology, greater athleticism of
players, improved player coaching, golf course conditioning or a combination of
these or other factors, they will have the impact of seriously reducing the challenge
of the game. The consequential lengthening or toughening of courses would be costly
or impossible and would have a negative effect on increasingly important environmental
and ecological issues. Pace of play would be slowed and playing costs would increase.
The R&A and the USGA will consider all of these factors contributing to distance
on a regular basis. Should such a situation of meaningful increases in distances
arise, the R&A and the USGA would feel it immediately necessary to seek ways
of protecting the game.
In determining any future amendments to the Rules, or to associated procedures that
may from time to time prove necessary, the R&A and the USGA will continue their
respective policies of consultation with interested parties, including the use of
notice and comment procedures, and will take account of the views expressed. The
achievement and maintenance of worldwide uniformity in equipment rules through close
coordination between the R&A and the USGA is a clear priority.
The R&A and the USGA are concerned that, on an increasing number of occasions,
new products are being developed and marketed which potentially run counter to the
principles expressed in this statement. These product launches, without prior consultation
with the governing bodies, can lead to considerable difficulties in formulating
appropriate equipment rules and to undesirable conflicts between manufacturers and
rule makers. The R&A and the USGA intend to bring forward proposals designed
to improve procedures for the approval of new products.
The R&A and the USGA believe that the principles stated in this document will,
when carefully applied, serve the best interests of the game of golf.