Tiger Woods warns of reduced enjoyment risk in golf's distance debate
"The game has evolved, but we're running out of property. We're trying to design golf courses that are between 7,800 to 8,000 yards long from the back tees."
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 12/02/20 2:45pm
Tiger Woods has weighed into the distance debate in golf and fears the game could become less enjoyable for amateurs and youngsters if equipment is changed.
Woods appeared divided with his opinions on the findings of the Distance Insight Project Report published by the R&A and USGA on Tuesday, in which they concluded that further increases in average hitting distances would be "undesirable" and "detrimental" to the game's future.
Phil Mickelson insisted last week that distance increases were more a result of players becoming better athletes, rather than the advances in equipment technology during his long professional career.
Woods conceded that player fitness was a factor, but he admitted that golf courses were "running out of property" when trying to extend to accommodate the modern-day big-hitter, although he also warned of the need to keep the game "enjoyable" at grass roots level.
"The game of golf is fluid, it's moving, and the golf ball is certainly going a lot further now than the old balata days," said Woods ahead of this week's Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, a rare tournament that he has never won.
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"We've changed from using a tree to using high-tech metal, and we've come a long way in this game. It's crazy to think that I've been a part of all that. When I first started out, I beat Davis Love III in a play-off, and he was using a persimmon-headed driver.
"To see the technology advance as fast as it has … when I first came out on Tour the average carry with a driver was 270 yards, and it took a lot of trouble out of play. Now guys are hitting hybrids and five-woods 270 in the air.
"So the game has evolved, but we're running out of property. We're trying to design golf courses that are between 7,800 to 8,000 yards long from the back tees.
"It's difficult, but we also want to keep the game enjoyable and get more participation. Having the larger clubheads and more forgiving clubs adds to the enjoyment of the game. So there's a very delicate balancing act for where we're trying to keep the game at.
"But we've all recognised that the players have changed over the years too. It used to be just Vijay and myself in the gyms, now it seems like everyone has their own trainer and physio, and the guys have got bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic, just like in all sports."
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Woods believes bifurcation (different rules for professionals and amateurs) is a possibility but added: "It's certainly a discussion that's on the table, whether we bifurcate or not, but it's probably going to be long after my playing days before we figure that out."
The 15-time major champion also revealed he has been approached to compete in the proposed Premier Golf League, but he gave little away when asked if he would commit to such a format.
"I've been personally approached, yes, and my team has been aware of it and have delved into the details a little bit to try and figure it all out, just like everyone else," he said.
"We've been down this road before with the World Golf Championship, and other Tours trying to start and evolve. There's a lot of information that we are still looking at, and whether it's realistic or not, so we're looking into it.
"Just like all events, you're trying to get all the top players to play more collectively, and it's one of the reasons why we instituted the World Golf Championships, because we were only getting the top players together five times a year - the four majors and The Players.
"We wanted to showcase the world's top players on more than just those occasions, so we came up with the World Golf Championships to meet more often.
"So things like this are a natural evolution, and ideas like this are going to happen going forward, whether it's now or any other time in the future."