How much farther could you hit a golf ball with an illegal driver?

April 16, 2020

For a moment, let’s ignore the realities of driver limitations and think about a world of unrestricted driver technology. How much farther would the average golfer hit the ball with a maxed-out driver in 2020?

First, let’s establish a baseline of what the rules actually are at the moment.

In 1998, the USGA implemented COR (coefficient of restitution) limitations on golf clubs. According to the rules, COR could not exceed 0.822 with a tolerance of 0.08, meaning any driver measuring over 0.830 was deemed illegal. The test for COR is accurate but time-consuming, and the USGA later switched to a CT test in 2004. The CT tests are essentially — without getting too far into the woods on this — an approximation of COR tests, but using a quicker system. All that is to say that while the USGA limits are in terms of CT now, the COR limitations basically have not changed.

Tom Olsavsky, a longtime golf club engineer in the industry and current VP of R&D at Cobra, recently helped us imagine a world without the COR limit.

“Well, every tenth of a point of the COR number — think from .822 to .832 — for a Tour player that’s probably worth about 2-3 yards, maybe 4 yards nowadays with their swing speeds,” Olsavsky explained on our Fully Equipped podcast. “So, if we think about the average consumer taking an .860 driver versus an .822, it should be 8-12 yards longer. That’s where we could certainly be. If you add another 8-12 yards on top of that, if we get to 0.880 or 0.890, there could be 20-something yards of distance from an unlimited COR driver.”

So, let’s assume that the driver you are using right now measures 0.822 on the COR scale. Let’s also assume you hit the ball, say, 240 yards on average. In a world where COR limitations did not exist, and driver manufacturers maxed out current technology, you would hit the ball 260-plus yards on average, instead of 240 yards.

Of course, using drivers that are fully maxed out with no limitations would turn the equipment industry upside down and change the way golfers play the game. Some would relish the opportunity to hit their longest drives ever, while traditionalists would be furious. Social media would certainly explode, but, it’s fun to think about.

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