Golf's governing bodies R&A and USGA concerned over latest driving distance data report
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 05/03/18 2:48pm
Golf's governing bodies have admitted that the latest review of driving distance has produced "unusual and concerning" results.
The R&A and the USGA have evaluated distance data on an annual basis since 2015, and last year's report revealed an average increase of over three yards compared to 2016 - a significant rise in the increase of just 0.2 yards per year since 2003.
The latest survey incorporated data from seven main professional tours worldwide, both male and female, and also included findings from the amateur game with almost 300,000 drives being considered over the year.
Many high-profile figures in the sport have expressed their concerns over the distances being achieved with a modern-day golf ball, and 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus recently claimed this was one of the contributing factors to slower play due to courses having to be lengthened to combat the latest equipment technology.
The R&A and the USGA published their report into distance data from 2017 and vowed to conduct a "comprehensive analysis" into the impact of their findings on golf at all levels.
Their joint-press release read: "The 2015 and 2016 editions of the distance report presented the increases in driving distance since 2003 as a slow creep of around 0.2 yards per year. The 2017 data shows a deviation from this trend. The average distance gain across the seven worldwide tours was more than three yards since 2016.
"As noted in previous annual reports, variability in driving distance of four or more yards from season to season on any one tour is not uncommon. However, this level of increase across so many tours in a single season is unusual and concerning and requires closer inspection and monitoring to fully understand the causes and effects.
"As the review of this issue progresses, The R&A and the USGA remain committed to the spirit of the 2002 Joint Statement of Principles which recognise that distance impacts many aspects of golf and that any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable.
"Increases in distance can contribute to demands for longer, tougher and more resource-intensive golf courses at all levels of the game. These trends can impact the costs to operate golf courses and put additional pressures on golf courses in their local environmental landscape.
"The effect of increasing distance on the balance between skill and technology is also a key consideration. Maintaining this balance is paramount to preserving the integrity of golf.
"Building on the extensive research we have undertaken in recent years, we will conduct a thoughtful conversation about the effects of distance prior to making any specific proposals. We remain open-minded and our absolute priority is to ensure that all key stakeholders are involved in an open and inclusive process and that we move forward together in the best interests of golf at all levels.
"There is no fixed timetable, but we will commence this process immediately and endeavor to reach a conclusion as promptly as possible. In conjunction with the publication of the 2017 distance research report, The R&A and USGA are carrying out a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of increased distance on both the playing and overall health of golf.
"Ultimately, The R&A and the USGA remain steadfastly committed to ensuring a sustainable and enjoyable future for golf."
The 2017 Distance Report can be viewed by clicking on the following link: 2017 Distance Report