In its role as the governing body of the game of golf in the country, the United States Golf Association annually tests more than 2,000 articles of equipment each year, including golf clubs, club components, tees, balls and even golf gloves. Equipment must conform to USGA regulations to be permitted for use in competition.
Standard driver length
The length of a golf club is measured from the tip of the grip to where the clubhead meets the ground. The standard length for a men's driver is in the 43-inch to 45-inch range; graphite clubs are often an inch longer, or 45 to 46 inches, since steel shafts weigh more and the length of the graphite shaft balances the shaft. Players can be custom-fit at a golf shop for the proper length of their club shafts.
Legal driver length
Under the Rules of Golf, the maximum length of a club is 48 inches. Clubs must be at least 18 inches long and cannot exceed the 48 inches. Lengths of putters is now a concern due to the proliferation of long putters in golf; however, the 48-inch limit of shafts in the Rules of Golf does not apply to putters.
Too long drivers
In their attempts to sell golf clubs and satisfy the recreational player's thirst for length off the tee, several companies have manufactured drivers in excess of the 48-inch limit. One company brags that its 6-foot-long driver will allow tee shots of 400 yards and even offers a 12-foot driver. Trick-shot artists often use drivers with shafts of 65 inches or longer. However, these clubs do not conform to the 48-inch limit in the Rules of Golf and cannot be used in official tournaments.
Long and legal
Even long-driving competitions, which customarily included competitors who used drivers with lengths of 52 to 60 inches long – clubs that provided wide swing bases and allowed for prodigious drives – have now tightened their rules to meet the 48-inch limit. The search for more length has shifted from shaft lengths to driver head composition and loft, as well as matching drivers to a type of ball.