By Brian Keogh
Bryson DeChambeau. Photo by Golffile
Ireland's leading clubmaker believes proposals by golf's governing bodies to roll back distance gains will have "zero effect" on the game's biggest hitters.
The R&A and USGA last week announced three specific proposed changes to equipment rules and testing standards, including local rules limiting maximum shaft length as well as possible tweaks to how drivers are tested for spring-like effect and how golf balls are tested for distance.
Rory McIlroy favours bifurcation when it comes to equipment rules for club golfers as opposed to elite amateurs and professionals. But he gave a damning assessment of last week's proposals, describing the Distance Insights project as "a waste of time and money."
His views have now been echoed by the former World Clubmaker of the Year, Derek Murray from ForeGolf.ie at Killeen Castle, who custom builds clubs for amateurs but has also helped many of Ireland's biggest stars, including McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington and Seamus Power.
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"Even if you can do something to limit the ball or the clubface, the lads who hit the ball far will still hit the ball far," Murray said. "At tour level, the effect this will have is literally zero.
"For the guys at the top end of driving distance — the Mathew Wolffs, the Luke Lists, the Dustin Johnsons, the Rorys, the Bryson DeChambeaus — this is a technique and body conditioning situation, not a club issue per se."
"I don't know if it's good for the game, but I'd rather have all my customers and all my amateur golfers looking to hit the ball 400 yards," he said. "It drives people to want to play and it makes the game easier. Murray does not dispute the fact that driving distances have increased radically over the past 20 years. But he believes it's what the public wants to see and remains a key factor in driving golf's growing popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I want fast clubfaces and wedges that spin like crazy and drivers that are really forgiving because that's what attracts people to the game.
"If you want to limit the pros, fine. But the athletic guys will still work it out and hit the ball just as far. Bryson might spend two years doing it, but I guarantee you he will work it out.
"I think the horse has bolted. It started 25 years ago with John Daly and then Tiger Woods, and we all thought it was great. We were all entertained and we loved it."
He added: “This whole rules debate for the amateur golfer is just a disaster. Having any kind of equipment rules for amateur golfers is a disaster, full stop. It should be armageddon - a free for all. There should be literally no rules for equipment.”
Amateurs love to play the same gear used by the tour professionals but the reality is that they have never used the same clubs.
“Yes, they want to play the same clubs the pros play but the reality is that they can’t,” Murray explained. “Someone can ring me up and say, ‘I want the same driver DJ is hitting’. I say okay, but the shaft he’s using is extremely stiff. And they say that’s okay. And I say it’s designed for the way DJ hits the ball. And they say, ’I know I know, but he hits it really long’. I tell them that’s technique more than the club.
“It’s a bit like you ringing up Mercedes saying, ‘Here, I want Lewis Hamilton’s car because it’s so cool and so efficient and so quick’. But you’re only going to get milk in Centra. You wouldn’t even be able to get into that car, never might take the corners.
“A lot of the equipment the lads are using is not like what’s out there in the marketplace anyway. It’s dialled in or finely tuned. Tiger’s driver is specially made for him. The heads are a lot more refined too. They might check 25 or 30 drivers and pick the ones that are the exact right loft and face thickness and mark those and say, ‘Okay, those are Dustin’s ones, those are Rory’s’. They filter them through, I would imagine.”