The PGA Tour's new driver-testing regime, in which clubs players intend to use in competition are tested for legality, has already turned up a handful of non-conforming clubs.
According to a Reuters report, five drivers failed the in-play testing for characteristic time conducted at the Safeway Open last week. A source told Golf Channel they weren't sure the exact figure of drivers that failed the testing done Monday and Tuesday in Napa, Calif. on site at Silverado Resort.
Reuters singled out the drivers of Corey Conners, Robert Streb, Jason Dufner, Michael Thompson and Mark Hubbard as those failing the testing. Multiple manufacturers, including TaylorMade, Titleist and Cobra would be affected in the testing of 30 drivers selected.
The PGA Tour instituted expanded driver testing with the start of the 2019-2020 season. The tests, which are unannounced and conducted by the USGA, check if drivers are conforming by testing characteristic time, which is a measure of how long the driver face and golf ball remain in contact at impact. The USGA and R&A legal limit for characteristic time is 239 microseconds (millionths of a second), with an 18 microsecond measurement tolerance to a limit of 257 microseconds. Any driver recording higher than 257 microseconds is deemed non-conforming and cannot be used in competition.
The new tour system prompts randomly selected players to supply the driver they intend to use during the tournament for testing. A representative of the player's driver manufacturer should be on site to act as liaison between the testers and the player. The testing is conducted, and a player is notified of the results based on a traffic-light system:
- Green light: A driver is conforming and is in not in danger of becoming non-conforming soon
- Yellow light:A driver is conforming but is not in danger of becoming non-conforming soon
- Red light: A driver is non-conforming, cannot be used in competition and is not to be returned to the player
Non-conforming drivers do not necessarily translate to substantially higher ball speeds and distance.
The PGA Tour does not conduct testing during tournament days, meaning the players are on an honor system to not use non-conforming equipment.
The driver testing changes were implemented as part of a reaction to driver testing conducted by the R&A ahead of this summer's British Open Championship, during which several drivers were deemed non-conforming, including that of Xander Schauffele. Several manufacturers' drivers failed the testing.
However, manufacturers are aware of the possibility of what's been dubbed "CT creep," which is when a driver face -- already as thinned out as possible -- becomes even springier with as little as 30 center strikes. The club face eventually becomes non-conforming and longer than allowed by the rules.