OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — The USGA’s announcement to implement a local rule limiting driver shafts to 46 inches earlier this week was met by polarizing reactions in the men’s game. Some, like Phil Mickelson, lamented the change, while others, like Rory McIlroy, met the announcement with ambivalence.
In the world of women’s golf, the change has been met with a gentler response — one that can largely be characterized as indifferent. The Korda sisters, Nelly and Jessica, might have summed up the reaction best during their press conference ahead of the Aramco Team Series.
“No drama,” Jessica said of the change.
“It doesn’t affect us,” Nelly added.
That’s a common sentiment among the top women’s golfers in the world. While the men’s game has been embroiled in a distance arms race, that thirst for distance hasn’t consumed the women’s game in the same way. With many of the best women players still finding success with finesse, tricked-up driver setups have not been embraced nearly as much.
According to the USGA, only 3 percent of professional players use clubs longer than 46 inches, and that number is surely smaller in the women’s game.
“I would only see something like that as a problem if 90 percent of the field played with something like that,” said Anne van Dam, who ranks 1st on the LPGA Tour in driving distance. “I don’t really see it as a big point. You can do way more with other things — limiting driver heads or balls, stuff like that. I don’t think this rule will change much, especially in the women’s game.”
Illustrating the minute impact the change will have on the women’s game, many of the pros approached for comments on the matter at Glen Oaks Club Thursday afternoon had very little knowledge of the impending change, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. Gabi Ruffels told GOLF.com she wasn’t even aware of the rule change, while Angel Yin said she only knew because she’d seen Mickelson’s critical tweets.
Even among those that are in the know on the specifics of the new rule, the news did not cause much agita.
“I don’t care, because I don’t have a driver that’s longer than 46 inches,” said 2020 Women’s Open champion Sophia Popov. “I know I heard some criticism on the men’s side, but for us, the shorter the driver is, the harder you can hit it. I don’t think it’s that big a deal. … It’s something I just watch from afar and watch on Twitter and laugh about.”