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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio

Professional golfers are hitting the ball such long distances that courses can't keep up. Now, golf's governing bodies appear ready to act.

Driving the news: The USGA and the R&A (Europe) jointly announced Tuesday that they will explore four potential changes intended to curb distance gains:

  • Changing the specifications of equipment
  • Changing how manufacturers test equipment
  • Limiting the maximum club length to 46 inches
  • Allowing tournament organizers to implement equipment standards

What they're saying:

"Golfers need to understand that this every-generation-hits-the-ball-farther is affecting the game negatively. ... We're just trying to fit the game of golf back on golf courses."
— USGA CEO Mike Davis, via Golfweek

The backdrop: Three key factors in determining hitting distance have undergone significant advancements this century: the swing, the club and the ball.

  • It's put the game at a crossroads: Should courses expand to keep up with the modern golfer, or should equipment be altered to reduce distance?
  • A year ago, the USGA and R&A stated that the continuing increase in length was "detrimental" to the game.

By the numbers: In 1990, the average PGA Tour driving distance was 262.8 yards. In 2020, it was 296.4 yards — an increase of nearly 13%.

  • Bernhard Langer, who plays on the PGA's senior circuit, drives the ball farther at age 63 (273.5 yards) than he did in his prime (269.7 yards in 1985).

The big picture: If distance-related changes are made at the professional level, it could lead to a bifurcation of rules like we have in baseball.

  • Just as metal bats are used at every level below the majors and minors, certain golf equipment could be permitted for everyday players, but not pros.

What's next: There's no timeline for when the proposed changes, if adopted, would be implemented.

  • But it likely won't be for at least another year, as the USGA and R&A gather research alongside manufacturers and other stakeholders.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Shooting at Michigan high school leaves 3 dead, 8 wounded

Police cars restrict access to Oxford High School following the shooting in Oxford, Michigan, on Tuesday. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

A 15-year-old sophomore was arrested after a shooting at a Michigan high school that left three people dead and eight others wounded Wednesday, according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

The latest: Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a briefing Tuesday night that the suspect's father had on Friday bought the 9mm Sig Sauer pistol investigators believe was used in the shooting at Oxford High School. Authorities released the names of the victims late Tuesday.

City Council member Andre Dickens wins Atlanta mayoral race

Atlanta Mayor-elect Andre Dickens in Atlanta, Georgia, late Tuesday. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

City Council member Andre Dickens won a runoff election Tuesday to become Atlanta's next mayor, soundly beating the council's president Felicia Moore.

The big picture: Dickens was just a few months ago considered to have an outside chance of replacing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced in May that she wouldn't seek a second term.

UN report: Pandemic set to cost global tourism $2 trillion in 2021

A tourist in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Nov. 25. Photo:Chesnot/Getty Images

A new United Nations report warns that global tourism will see only modest revenue gains in 2021 after last year's historic losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: Tourism revenues in 2020 fell by more than half from the previous year — a significant blow to the global economy, according to analysis by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).