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USGA finds “unusual and concerning” distance increases in annual report

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The USGA and R&A released the whispered-about report expressing concern over the largest increase in driving distance on professional tours in a decade, Monday.

The report is clear about the substantial uptick in distance off the tee in 2017

“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 3 yards since 2016.”

It is also unequivocal about the problems posed by such gains

“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.”

However, per the press release, further review/no immediate action is the order of the day, even though the statement that the organizations “remain committed to the spirit” of the so-called line in the sand (the 2002 Join Statement of Principles), which clearly stipulates action should the distance boom continue.

As Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura points out after a close read of the report, not only are we seeing all-time highs in driving distance across all tours, and a 2.5-yard increase in distance on the PGA Tour since 2016-2017, but the percentage jump from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018 thus far is more than 10 times the average annual uptick in pro golf from 2003 to 2016.

USGA chief Mike Davis and R&A head Martin Slumbers have ramped up the alarmist narrative in recent months, with Davis calling distance increases “horrible” for “all golfers.” Even so, as mentioned, the governing bodies are not currently taking any action.

“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.”

Here is the PDF of the full report  from the governing bodies.

 

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  1. GMatt

    Mar 7, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Again, the USGA is out of touch with 99.99% of the golfers in the world. Why are they concerned with distance of maybe 1,000 touring pros in the world when the distance of millions of normal amateur golfers hasn’t really changed, same as handicaps….

    For an organization that is supposedly around to grow the game, they sure are doing their best to stagnate it a best. What is increasing distance? (not necessarily in order of importance) agronomy-better turf conditions than in years past, better equipment, lower spinning ball, bigger and more athletic players. So I guess in addition to rolling back the ball, the USGA should limit strength and size of us players, they should roll back the care of the course to goat pastures of years past, they should take over the equipment companies and tell them to no longer innovate and improve golf clubs and balls.

    Does this all sound absurdly stupid to you? Perhaps the USGA should listen to the very people they claim to represent and not cater to their own agenda. Both Matt Adams and Michael Breed this morning were extremely outspoken about this very subject

  2. JThunder

    Mar 6, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Instead of rolling back the ball, how about a limit on height and fitness of tour players?

    If you want to protect par, just reduce the par by one on every PGA Tour hole.

  3. JThunder

    Mar 6, 2018 at 11:23 pm

    If they want real numbers, maybe they should be measuring more than two holes per tournament. Seems like a lot can go wrong with that baseline, as I believe the PGA Tour and others are now pointing out.

    Have they genuinely kept track of “driver use” on these holes over the years. Today’s top players seem to hit 3 wood less and less – Dustin, Justin, etc. It doesn’t take much to change a stat by 3 yards (at 300 yd drive ~ 1% gain) if a few pros go from 3wd to driver.

  4. MT

    Mar 6, 2018 at 4:32 am

    Don’t know about you guys, but I hate one sided half the story reporting.

    They state the 3 yards as some huge “Oh No”.
    What they don’t mention is the average swing speed of tour players over the last 10 years.

    To prove their point. They need to show swing speed staying the same while distance is increasing.

    The data is all there and available. Swing speed vs ball speed vs distance.

    • Matt

      Mar 6, 2018 at 10:29 am

      Roll it back!!

      This isn’t about hackers. If you carry it 220 or less off the tee, which something like 90% of golfers do, you won’t even notice a difference. You don’t compress the ball enough for it to matter. These changes will stop the 200 yard 7 irons and 330 yard drives. Bring back some shaping and skill. Shorten courses, so you can walk them, and play in less than 6 hours. The longer the ball goes the further off line it goes. Less time in the woods, less time waiting behind foursomes looking for balls. Etc. etc. etc.

      Roll it back!

      • Matt

        Mar 6, 2018 at 10:30 am

        Didn’t mean to reply to your comment – just a general comment.

  5. Steve

    Mar 5, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    I just took up golf this past summer. I am not very good, but I have learned that eventually I will know the distance for each club. I would think the pros should be much more efficient at that than I am, so who cares what the length of the course is.

  6. DaveT

    Mar 5, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    My position is that the USGA is not interested in protecting golf; they are interested in protecting par. They’d do a lot more for golf if they ignored the 3yd/drive/year increase, and allow the Tour to amaze us viewers even more than they do now. That will sustain interest in the game on TV. I guarantee nobody I play golf with is going to threaten the viability of today’s golf courses. If you make the courses play longer (either by changing the courses, the ball, or the clubs), you’ll anger the vast majority of golfers.

  7. Anthony

    Mar 5, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    3 yards? Better make the golf courses 8000 yards to combat that!
    What a load of the proverbial!!!!

  8. John

    Mar 5, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    For years the PGA and R&A have tried to tackle the distance issue by lengthening courses. Any fool can see that this merely plays into the hands of the bigger hitters. If I had anything to do with it I’d shorten the courses and bring the shorter guys into the picture. Make the course layouts reward skill rather than brute force. The old ‘drive for show, putt for sigh’ maxim still holds true but to a far lesser extent nowadays. Shorter courses might also address the nonsense of six hour rounds. Not by much probably but any reduction would be welcome.

    • John

      Mar 5, 2018 at 3:32 pm

      ‘Drive for show, putt for dough’ obviously. Damn autocorrect!

  9. Alfredo Smith

    Mar 5, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    SHANK! The only thing that needs rolling is a big fat doobie after reading this nonsense.

  10. Patricknorm

    Mar 5, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    I’ve been to many PGA Tour events, and the one that I notice right away is how big most players are. 30 years ago the odd player was over 6’1” but today when you see a Tony Finau or Dustin Johnson even Matt Kuchar, they’re all over 6’3”. 30 years ago before Tiger came along and purses increased, those athletes may have tried other sports like tennis or basketball. Plus, you can’t dismiss the John Daly effect who gave kids permission to “ grip and rip” the ball. Today most players , when they drive the ball, are out of their shoes.
    And then add in technology and better agronomy, well it was bound to happen.

  11. joe

    Mar 5, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    Make the pro’s go back to persimmon, we’ll see who the best golfers really are…

    • Mikele

      Mar 5, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      Let’s go back to Radio Shack 64k RAM computers so we can see who the real computer users are.

      Dumb, dumb, dumb.

      • Dr Troy

        Mar 5, 2018 at 4:18 pm

        Exactly….3 yards is nothing. Everyone needs to go chill out and move on to other world problems in Golf.

  12. george

    Mar 5, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    No need to roll back the ball for us amateurs. Just outlaw the Trackman/Flightscope/GCQuad.

  13. JD

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Yeah I’m sure the cost of extending a par 4 at Augusta is going to trickle down to the muni courses I play.

  14. Rich

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    WOW! Are you kidding me? The players are in better condition,use better methods in training,video usage and the equipment has better materials and technology designs while meeting the rules.. It isn’t the ball it’s the layout of courses .The course should be designed or altered to make it a PLAYER’s course ,MORE RUFF,SAND,TREES,WATER,SHRUBS GREENS that have more shape and contour deeper sand traps. The Tour had decided wrongly that people wanted to see lower scores when in we really want tougher courses .That’s why the British open ,US open are the best matches and watched by more people than the regular tour matches. IT’s ABOUT SHOT SHAPING, DECISION MAKING AND RISK TAKING !!!

  15. Brian

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Maybe fairways shouldn’t be designed to allow a hundred yards of roll out?! Rather than dial back the golf ball, dial back the course set up a little. But this is what the USGA wanted, along with everyone else: to see the likes of DJ ripping the ball further than anyone has ever done before on national tv. Now that everyone is doing it, it’s not cool anymore and by golly we need to fix this “equipment problem”! No one stops to think for a second that with the heyday of the TW era, the youth who grew up watching him physically dominate courses are now in the tour and working out, getting stronger, and more physically dominate than ever before as a whole coupled with course set ups to allow it. But keep telling yourselves it’s the equipment and golf ball’s fault…

  16. juliette

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    I get it about distance. As someone more or less in the lowest percentile of distance compared to the mostly men who comment on golf wrx I should be the most opposed to changes limiting my distance. But I see Mike Davis’ point about resource utilization in an era where most of us agree that something is going on here with this Earth and this extreme weather. Needing more land for golf courses, more water, more fertilizer more more more more more is not the time to start being blind to this and caring only about how far your 6 iron goes.

    • Murv

      Mar 5, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Yeah, we need to reduce golf ball distance to save the world from global warming.

      • Bub

        Mar 5, 2018 at 1:24 pm

        Good plan, that way anyone that doesn’t want to ‘roll back’ the golf ball can be accused of hating the planet and children.

    • Mikele

      Mar 5, 2018 at 2:29 pm

      Juliette – You aere wasting your time with that argument on this website. Your sincere concern will be deemed political by the cretin crowd here. You don’t really think they bothered to read the report, do you? That would put it into context and god forbid they should go beyond the headline or blurb.

      • youraway

        Mar 5, 2018 at 5:56 pm

        Perfect – absolutely perfect response.

    • Wyomick

      Mar 6, 2018 at 7:39 am

      Anybody want to bring up Hitler? I’m sure the long ball hitters that want to destroy the planet are related or st least guilty of his nefarious intentions. Good grief. Go away, far away from golf please.

      • dvers

        Mar 6, 2018 at 10:57 am

        Is this GolfWRX or CPAC? For a group that alludes to the “snowflakes” of the opposing ideology, commentators on many of these articles get irrationally defensive about a political claim that often doesn’t even exist. Golf isn’t exclusively for men with Rs after their names. Lighten up and/or take it to the Breitbart forums please.

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Marty Jertson, Ping’s Director of Product Development, qualified for the PGA Championship

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The top 20 professionals from the PGA Professional Championship–contested last weekend at Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Courses in Seaside, California–are heading to the PGA Championship later this year.

Perhaps you saw Ryan Vermeer, at 5 under, was the medalist. What you may not have seen however, is something particularly cool for golf equipment geeks: Ping’s Director of Product Development, Marty Jertson, qualified–and he did so in spectacular fashion: the 37-year-old birdied the last three holes to finish T9.

Not bad for an engineer!

Also noteworthy: Ping confirmed Jertson played the company’s yet-to-be announced i500 irons in his 3, 4, and 5-irons, which will reportedly be available mid-summer. Yes, they confirmed that the rumors are true; Ping’s new iron will be called i500.

Related: We did a podcast with Jertson at the PGA Show, we also interviewed him back in 2017.

 

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Reddit AMA alert: Anthony Taranto, Callaway’s wedge art maestro, on his favorite designs, WITB

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If you’ve been around GolfWRX for any period of time, you’ve seen Anthony Taranto’s work. The Callaway wedge specialist is tasked with designing some of the coolest wedge decorations in the game.

Taranto did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) yesterday, and The Wedge Art Wizard (as he introduced himself) didn’t disappoint.

Here are a few highlights (edited for spelling)

Remoolg asked: How did you start working at Callaway and get into this specific position?

AT: Back in 1999 Callaway had a job fair for their new golf ball plant Mr. Callaway was opening. I made it though many layoffs and reorganization. I was good at building clubs and I was placed in the pro tour department about 12 years ago. About 4 1/2 years ago I discovered this technique for sandblasting art onto wedges and now here we are.

Loudshorts asked: What’s the most odd art request you’ve put on a wedge and what’s the most common?

AT: Most odd: Probably Michelle Wie’s Harry Potter-themed wedges

I didn’t know anything about Harry Potter at the time so I had to do some research. Accio birdies!
Most common would just be old fashioned stamping of players initials.

Bunny said: Billy Idol, never pictured him as a golfer. What kind of design did he want on his clubs?

AT: He asked for his logo, which is this cool crown with a lightning bolt:

Iamrobert_paulson asked: What wedges are in your bag? Can we see pics?

AT: I’m gaming MD4’s: 45° (46 bent to 45), 50°, 55° (54 bent to 55), and 60°. Design wise: Skull & Crossbones and lots of stars.

Dr. Troutman asked: What is your favorite custom set you’ve ever done?

AT: Putting me on the spot! It might be these that I just recently made. Figured out how to evolve the sand blasting technique and start doing layers. Really happy with how these came out:

You can check out the full AMA here.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: McIlroy going back to 2010 swing? | Jacklin blasts USGA I Baba Booeyism

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Good morning, GolfWRX members. As most of you are signed up for our newsletters, you likely already know that I’ve been sending this little Morning 9 roundup of nine items of note.

In case you’ve missed it, or you prefer to read on site rather than in your email, we’re including it here. Check out today’s Morning 9 below.

If you’re not signed up for our newsletters, you can subscribe here.

By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

 

Good Friday morning, golf fans. The days only get shorter from here, so get out there and play some golf. And if you’re in the NYC area and looking for a fourth, well, consider dropping a line to the email above!
1. A bounceback for Spieth, McIlroy (who’s going back to 2010)
As you may have seen, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, both of whom missed the cut at the U.S. Open, started the Travelers Championship strong. Spieth was tied for the lead a 7 under, and McIlroy was a stroke back at the end of round one.
Most interestingly, however, is this tidbit from McIlroy (h/t Geoff Shackelford via a Reuters report)
  • “I’m trying to get back to the way I swung in 2010, 2011 and it’s sort of hard because my body’s changed quite a bit since then,” the 29-year-old, whose muscular frame now is a far cry from the scrawny teenager of days gone by, told reporters.
  • “The feeling I have now is the feeling I had in the middle of 2009…That’s basically what I did over the weekend. I got a feeling that really resonated and brought me back to a time when I was swinging really well, and sort of went with that feeling.”
2. Another assault on the USGA
This time, it’s Tony Jacklin taking the USGA to task (via bunkered)
  • “Shinnecock Hills has always been a great test over the years, but the USGA have messed it up again..This kind of thing seems to be becoming a habit for them, as the way the course was set-up on Saturday was just ludicrous. It seems like they end up with egg on their face every time and most of the players were disgusted.”
  • “If I’d have been playing and seen the course set-up the way it was, I would have been angry. It was madness. It wasn’t a fair test of golf and the element of luck played a big role in costing some people dearly.”
  • “The whole thing turned into a joke on Saturday and you just hate to see it at that level of the game with a major championship up for grabs. I’m sure the USGA will make their excuses but I just don’t understand it at all.”
3. Baba Booey for Life!
A contentious forum thread turned hot front page article is built around these remark from GolfWRX member Stickner.
  • “For those that think noise while a player hits shouldn’t be allowed, you must also believe that fans should NEVER make noise…A player with a large gallery jars a 70 footer for eagle to take the lead. The crowd erupts! This should not be allowed.
  • “Why you ask? There are other golfers well within earshot of the noise. This could disrupt their game. Why does the nearby player you can see deserve the “courtesy of quiet” but the one 400 yards away that you can’t see doesn’t?
  • “We have all seen players back off because the crowd erupted on another hole. What happens when that eruption happens in the backswing right before the player is about to transition to the downswing? Those boisterous hooligans need to keep their traps shut as this is a gentleman’s game right?
  • “Being quiet while someone plays golf is silly. My guess is that the elitist snobs that played this game a century ago needed a scapegoat when hitting a bad shot and noise became their scapegoat.”
4. Sympathy for the putt-raker?
Luke Kerr-Dineen writes that, while purists, traditionalists, and the media have raked Phil Mickelson over the coals, many average golfers have to sympathize with Lefty’s putt-raking.
  • “Well, isn’t that just a variation of something stupid we’ve all done. Snapped a club or thrown a club or taken your ball and marched home. As much as we love this silly game and all the beautiful moments within, it’s at times completely and utterly infuriating. Often you can laugh it off. Sometimes it drives you a bit mad.”
  • “In light of Mickelson’s apology, it seems more and more like he simply momentarily snapped. In that, it was an act so many people can relate to on a human level. It’s why, when most fans look back on this in the future, it won’t be with disdain. It’ll be with a grin and a shake of the head. We’ve all been there, and we know how it feels. And so does Phil.”
5. Pro golf as a team sport
Ed Myers looks at the supporting casts around top players and asks the chicken vs. egg question.
  • “Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.”
  • “I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”
6. Why don’t you just get on Twitter then?
But really, Michael Bamberger’s occasional roundup of the things he’d have tweeted had he been on Twitter is good stuff.
Here are a couple
  • “Amy had it exactly correct on Father’s Day: Phil had a bad day in the office. Too bad he didn’t acknowledge that after playing on Saturday.”
  • “I miss the old stern USGA. Mike Davis is a truly knowledgeable and caring golf person. He had nothing to apologize for Saturday night. Courses change with the wind, literally and figuratively.”

More of ’em.

7. The curse of Shinnecock Hills
Bruce Buschel of the East Hampton Star files a piece from perspective of, you now, the tribe whose name, likeness, and land the U.S. Open featured.
A taste…
  • “The golf course logo is a different matter. It’s insulting – it’s a cartoon Indian with a big hook nose wearing a war bonnet festooned with an arrow and a putter. Like a kindergarten coloring book circa 1955. So the tribe requested a redesign or a flat-out removal. They got neither. Shinnecocks don’t have much luck when negotiating with the white man, not here, there, or anywhere.”
  • “Many Shinnecock do not appreciate being called Native Americans. They were here long before America was discovered by Leif Erikson, by Christopher Columbus, and by Amerigo Vespucci. First Nation would be more accurate. Indigenous people would suffice. Even Indian is preferable to Native American.”
  • “The Shinnecocks take no glee in the public disasters that have befallen Shinnecock Hills since the tribe was excommunicated, since the indigenous people were removed as caretakers of their own land….No one talks about karma. And no one talks about the Curse of Shinnecock Hills…Someone should.”
8. Well…
If curiosity is getting the better of you, a few shots from Greg Norman’s spread in ESPN’s upcoming body issue are circulating.
9. ESPY voting
Speaking of the Worldwide Leader, ESPN has announced the candidates for best male and female golfer–to be revealed at the July 18 awards show.
And the nominees are…
  • Male...Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed
  • Female...Shanshan Feng, Inbee Park, Ariya Jutanugarn, Sung-Hyun Park
You can vote here and here.
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