November 2009

Why Only 460cc?

Ever wonder why the USGA decided to put a limit on the size of the driver? I did, so I thought you might as well.

I’m pretty sure every sport that has professionals, has a governing body to keep things fair, or at least attempt to do so. Golf has the USGA, which probably has more rules than most - with good reason!

Sorry to disappoint those who were thinking there was some scientific algorithm or calculation between the average person’s swing speed times the average height of a male in the U.S. divided by the torque differential, etc. In speaking with Dick Rugge, Senior Technical for the USGA, the primary reason why the head of the driver is capped out at 460cc is rather straightforward. Basically, the USGA ruled that “that’s big enough”. Thank you again Dick for your time and continued support of the game.

Here is what they say:
“Two equipment proposals have been adopted as part of the Rules for 2004. A size limit of 460cc, plus 10cc for measurement tolerance, will be placed on clubheads, along with two dimensional controls. The first control limits the length between the heel and toe of the clubhead to 5.0 inches, while the second control places a 2.8-inch limit on the height between the sole and crown of the clubhead. There is also a limit of 48 inches on all club lengths, with the exception of putters.”

Source: USGA.org

Simply put, other sports have size limits on equipment and other criteria that level the playing field so to speak. Golf is no different. In placing a limit of 460cc, the USGA is limiting what the equipment can do, and placing the onus of the player to perfect their swing.

I also found this list of NON conforming drivers from the USGA very interesting, even though almost no retailer would ever sell one.
(Please note that Rankmark only tests clubs that conform to USGA standards)

Now you know the reason behind the infamous “460”. It’s really simple and while the overall size (and shaft length) may be capped, there is still quite a variety of driver shapes on the market. The overall club weight can also vary significantly.

Unfortunately they are telling us that the size of the club isn’t going to really help us play better, everyone has the same chance to score.

In our most recent driver test, the shape and size variances were quite apparent. Testers had a number of different options to choose from. The test included drivers that were 460cc as well as 440cc. One manufacturer even filled the space in the head with gas!

Colors and graphics appear not to be limited by the USGA. You can only imagine the plethora of color facing testers. There was also a multitude of head shapes including traditional, pear-shaped, square, rear pointed, shallow and deep faced.

Although it’s called a driver and it needs to be 460cc or under, there are a lot of choices out there. We hope this test helps you find your next driver. There are certainly a number of very interesting options for you to consider.

Thanks for reading,
Andrew Birnbaum

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