For the first time, golf’s governing bodies appear poised to allow for significant rules differences between elite players and other golfers as a way to combat the distance gains the sport has seen with the advancement of technology.

Known as “bifurcation,” it would mean the professional tours and elite amateur competitions could require competitors to use equipment that is restricted while allowing everyday players the benefits that those technological gains bring them.

The United States Golf Association and the R&A jointly announced Tuesday that they are proposing equipment standards changes, including a potential local rule for club and ball specifications. They are also proposing changes to club length.

A year ago, the USGA and R&A released their “Distance Insights Project,” in which they stated that the continuing increase in length was “detrimental’ to the game.

On Tuesday, they announced three proposed changes:

  • A limit on the maximum driver length from 48 inches to 46 inches. U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau is one of the high-profile players who has experimented with the longest-shafted driver in order to attain more distance off the tee.
  • Changes to how drivers are tested for distance, which is known as the spring-like effect, and changes to how golf balls are tested by revising the conditions.
  • The driver-length maximum will have a one-month review period, while the other testing proposals will be reviewed over six months.