The USGA dictates that a golf driver can be no larger than 460cc (cubic centimeters)
According to the USGA Rules for 2019, “The volume of the clubhead must not exceed 460 cubic centimetres (28.06 cubic inches), plus a tolerance of 10 cubic centimetres (0.61 cubic inches)” (Page 49). Ok cool, now what does that mean and why should the average golfer care?
The volume of a golf club can be broken down to mean the amount of space that the club head occupies. Unfortunately, for many people that definition is not much clearer. Luckily though, we can break this down even further. In our day to day lives, one of the few things measured in volume is liquids. For example, soda is commonly sold in 2-Liter bottles. The “Liter” is a unit of measurement of volume and is defined as 1,000 cubic centimeters (cc). Therefore, the USGA is saying that the maximum size of a golf driver head must not exceed roughly ¼ the size of a 2-Liter bottle of soda. So great, a driver head can’t be bigger than ¼ the size of a soda bottle. How do they measure that though? I assure you, Titleist is not shoving TS2 drivers into soda bottles to see if they are compliant with USGA rules.
The measuring process is actually very simple and uses the Archimedes Principle. I assume everyone is familiar with Archimedes of Syracuse. We all know his work along with his colleagues Diocles and Apollonius from the end of the 3rd century BC and the beginning of the 2nd century BC, do we not? Ok, I’ll quit pretending we all paid attention in high school history class. I for one, was busy trying to get the cute girl sitting behind me to like me. So how does this old Greek guy pertain to golf? He was good with water. He figured out how to calculate buoyancy and water displacement. Sounds scary, but pretty much it just means if you submerge a 460cc golf driver in 1000cc of water, the water level will rise to 1460cc. Same reason if you climb into a bathtub, the water level rises. The USGA official test is a bit more exact but it is the same principle.
Now why don’t companies just make club heads with holes in them to let the water flow into the club to decrease the water displacement? That one is pretty simple. The USGA said they can’t do that. The club head must be fully enclosed and divots or cavities with a collective volume greater than 15cc must be filled in with waterproof clay for the measuring process. That means that those old Nike Covert and Vapor drivers had to account for the volume that Nike “cut out” on the sole.
What does all this mean though? Why does it matter that a club head can only be 460cc? Think about the clubs in your bag. Your hybrids go further than your irons, your fairway woods hit the ball further than the hybrids, and your driver hits the ball the farthest of everything (or it should if you have a decent driver). The larger the club head, the more energy is going into the ball, and the further the ball is traveling. The USGA is simply trying to limit how far drivers can hit the ball. They don’t want people out on the course swinging bowling ball size drivers.
Authored by Taylor Morton