The USGA and R&A, golf’s governing bodies, have released their research on driving distance and scoring averages in professional golf through the 2016 season.
As with the 2016 report, distances are described as increasing at a “slow creep” and scoring averages remain basically stagnant. For this research, data was drawn from the seven major professional tours, including the PGA, European, Japan Golf, Web.com, Champions, LPGA and Ladies European tours, and goes back as far as 1968 in some instances, and only 2003 in others.
Driving distance is calculated using GPS technology on two holes during competitive rounds that are:
- Oriented in opposing directions.
- Have flat landing areas.
- Are selected based on the likelihood of players hitting driver.
An excerpt from the report may explain why distances are gaining at such a slow creep, rather taking any drastic leaps or bounds.
As the governing authorities for the Rules of Golf including equipment rules, R&A Rules Ltd (the “R&A”) and the United States Golf Association (the “USGA”) have continued to monitor closely the effects of advancing equipment technology on the playing of the game. Furthermore, new equipment rules have been introduced throughout this period, when appropriate, including restrictions on the performance and dimensions of clubs and refinement of the testing methodology utilized for testing golf balls to ensure that it is representative of the equipment used by and performance of elite golfers.
Below, we’ve selected what we deem to be the most significant charts presented in the report, and we’ve also highlighted the most significant data presented. We do, however, encourage everyone to read the report in its entirety to get the full impact of what’s being presented.
Driving Distance Since 1980
Driving Distance Since 2003
Scoring Average since 1980
- The average driving distance including the PGA, European, Web.com, Champions and LPGA tours has increased approximately 1.2 percent since 2003 through the 2016 season, which equates to 0.2 yards per year.
- From 2003 to 2016, the PGA Tour driving distance has increased from 285.9 to 290.0 yards, a 4.1-yard increase. The European Tour saw just an 1.8-yard increase over the same time period, while the Champions Tour saw the largest differential with a 4.8-yard increase.
- Since 1980, scoring average has dropped across all seven major Tours by an average of 0.04 strokes per year.