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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

Police officers' immunity from lawsuits is getting a fresh look

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly a year after the death of George Floyd, advocates of changes in police practices are launching new moves to limit or eliminate legal liability protections for officers accused of excessive force.

Why it matters: Revising or eliminating qualified immunity — the shield police officers have now — could force officers accused of excessive force to personally face civil penalties in addition to their departments. But such a change could intensify a nationwide police officer shortage, critics say. 

The U.S. coronavirus vaccines aren't all the same

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The U.S. now has three COVID-19 vaccines, and public health officials are quick — and careful — to say there’s no bad option. But their effectiveness, manufacturing and distribution vary.

Why it matters: Any of the authorized vaccines are much better than no vaccine, especially for people at high risk of severe coronavirus infections. But their differences may fuel perceptions of inequity, and raise legitimate questions about the best way to use each one.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The future of workplace benefits

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The pandemic exposed how workplaces across America are inhospitable to parents. But it could also spur companies to make changes.

The big picture: Well over a million parents have left their jobs due to child care responsibilities during the pandemic. Now, companies — large and small — are attempting to reimagine workplace benefits and add flexibility to help those parents come back.