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Nearly 10 percent of Japanese golfers are playing with non-conforming equipment

March 20, 2015

Non-conforming equipment may already have been used in tournament play by amateur golfers in Japan. That's part of a statement provided to Golf Digest by the Japan Golf Goods Association. The organization announced last month its support of the manufacture and distribution of non-conforming equipment in the Japanese marketplace.

The JGGA says there is "an increasing number" of non-conforming clubs being distributed in the Japanese market "because there is a demand for them among golfers." Its research says that 8.7 percent of golfers in Japan were using non-conforming equipment, and that the demand for non-conforming equipment is even higher in South Korea.

The JGGA says the intent with last month's announcement was not to recommend non-conforming equipment but to clarify its place in the market. "Even now there is a concern that non-conforming clubs are being used by amateur golfers in local tournaments as they or the tournament organizers do not recognize those clubs as such. Our press release intends to improve the current situation to the extent practicable."

The JGGA says it wants to guide manufacturers "to provide consumers with a clear indication and appropriate explanation when they sell those products to avoid any confusion by consumers."

Though it took nearly six weeks for the organization to respond to a series of questions sent by Golf Digest via email, the JGGA also reiterated its position that non-conforming equipment strengthens interest in golf. The responses can read somewhat convoluted, but the ultimate direction is clear. The JGGA says, "There is a clear desire or preference among amateur golfers in general for more distance from a driver shot or more back spin from an iron shot that makes a ball stop or come back on a green as professional players do. JGGA believes that it will contribute in the healthy growth and revitalization of the Japanese golf market to create an environment in which each golfer may choose and use golf equipment that matches his or her unique goal and needs."

The JGGA says it offered a proposal to the R&A to regulate non-conforming equipment but the "R&A did not accept our proposal." The JGGA says it is concerned that without any clear distinctions in the marketplace about non-conforming equipment "it could result in the further unregulated, disorganized expansion of the non-conforming golf club market."

In fact, the JGGA is stopping short of endorsing equipment that fundamentally alters the playing of the game, preferring instead that non-conforming equipment remain within the range of clubs that "were previously considered as conforming but became non-conforming only due to the tightening of the equipment rules over the past decade or so."

The R&A, USGA and several U.S. golf manufacturers have not commented on the JGGA's statements.