What’s an illegal driver?

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Social golfers can use illegal drivers, but they are banned in official competitions. Different governing bodies have different regulations for illegal drivers, including high COR, shape requirements, and prohibited materials. The goal is to ensure fair competition and prevent unfair advantages. Some associations prohibit drivers with openings or multiple recesses towards the rear of the club face, while others ban drivers with a high COR or certain club face angles, sizes, weights, or volumes. Some groups also prohibit the use of certain materials or composites in the shaft or clubhead core.

For individuals who play golf purely socially, there are very few restrictions on the types of clubs that can be used. In particular, many social golfers purchase golf drivers that are considered illegal for use in certain amateur and professional events. Different governing bodies in the golf world have different regulations for what constitutes an illegal driver and they publish a list of illegal drivers to avoid confusion. Several manufacturers make these illegal drivers available to the public, although the use of the drivers is prohibited in official competitions.

Common factors that render an illegal driver unusable during official competition include a club face that has a high coefficient of restitution (COR), violates certain depth shape requirements, or uses materials in the club face or shaft that have been prohibited. For example, some golf associations prohibit the use of an illegal driver that has any opening to the rear of the club face. The reasoning behind this ruling is that the open design alters the weight and aerodynamics of the club face and provides an unfair advantage to the user. Another variation of this rule, enforced by some associations, states that a club head may not have multiple recesses towards the rear of the club.

Most golf associations are interested in a level playing field which ensures fair competition between amateur and professional golfers. Similar to the stick form requirement, some organizations ban drivers with a high COR. This attribute typically increases the springiness of the club, meaning that when the driver’s face strikes the ball, the reaction is more springy and more force is applied to the ball. The result is an increase in driving distance, which is clearly beneficial to the individual using that particular driver.

Another common factor that makes some golfers illegal is the shape of the front of the club face. Many golf associations have minimum requirements for club face angle. If the face is perfectly flat, a golfer may have an advantage, because his drives will typically be straighter. There are other similar attributes of the club face that could mitigate a golfer’s deficiencies and therefore provide an unfair advantage over the competition. For example, many governing bodies prohibit the use of club-faced drivers over a certain size, weight, or volume.

While less common, another attribute that has resulted in some drivers being placed on an illegal driver list is tree composition. Most manufacturers use steel or graphite shafts, but some groups do not allow the use of other materials or composites. Likewise, some groups do not allow the clubhead core to contain certain materials. Many drivers have titanium, wood or steel cores and some associations do not allow the use of other materials.

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