Following Bryson DeChambeau's driver gains, R&A chief stresses need to curb distance

July 13, 2020

Ron Jenkins

Bryson DeChambeau has staged quite the show in golf’s post-pandemic return. A show the R&A has been carefully watching.

Lest one forgets—and given the amount that’s happened this year, any loss of memory is forgiven—the R&A and USGA released their long-awaited Distance Insights report in Feburary. The two-year study of how far the golf ball is flying was resoundingly clear on one specific conclusion: Distance must be stopped.

So it doesn’t take much imagination to guess what the sport’s ruling bodies think about Bryson’s bomb barrage.

Speaking with the Daily Mail, R&A chief Martin Slumbers said that while he’s personally fascinated with DeChambeau’s transformation, he and his organization feel the need to restrain increasing distance gains.

“It's a topic I feel very strongly about,” Slumbers said. “It's our responsibility, as a governing body, to have a view on the broad implications of your question. … We published our report, along with the USGA, in February, and it said we needed to put a line in the sand and come back—because we think it's gone too far.

“My view is very much that golf is a game of skill. It's important to have a balance of skill and technology.”

A second part of the Distance Insights project was supposed to be released this spring, but it has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Slumbers said the release will still happen once the golf industry, and world, has a chance to stabilize.

“It's all been put on hold because the world has a lot more to worry about. And we were conscious of the golf industry having the time to recover,” Slumbers said. "But we will bring that topic back—because it does need to be discussed.

“Once we feel that the industry is stable again, which isn't going to be tomorrow, because we don't know what's going to happen over autumn and winter, we will be coming back to that issue in great seriousness.”

Slumbers reiterated he’s been intrigued by DeChambeau and his accomplishments. However, DeChambeau’s performance has only strengthened Slumbers’ resolve to curb distance.

“I'm not sure I can remember another sportsman, in any sport, so fundamentally changing their physical shape,” Slumbers said of DeChambeau. “I can't think of anyone. I'm thinking of some boxers because I love boxing.

“But what is extraordinary is that Bryson isn't the first one to put on muscle in golf. How he's able to control the ball, with that extra power, is extraordinary. All credit to him, he's a true athlete.

“But I still come back to the belief that golf is a game of skill. And we believe we need to get this balance of skill and technology right.”

Due to the postponement of this year’s Open Championship, DeChambeau won’t get the chance to showcase his talent to the R&A up close. The 26-year-old, who has finished no worse than T-8 in his last seven starts, is in this week’s Memorial field.