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USGA Distance Study: PGA Tour, PGA of America, Titleist respond

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The USGA and R&A’s annual Distance Report hit the golf mediaverse Monday. Now, responses from other industry powers are following in the report’s wake.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan wrote a letter to PGA Tour players offering his thoughts on the USGA’s findings

“Having carefully reviewed the data, we do not believe the trends indicate a significant or abnormal increase in distance since 2003 or from 2016 to 2017,” the commissioner stated.

Monahan pointed to fluctuations between seasons, increases in clubhead speed and bigger, stronger players.

“While this may seem significant when taken in isolation, it has not been uncommon over the past 15 years to see significant gains or losses. Since 2003, there have been three instances where a significant gain was recorded between years, and five instances where the average decreased. … There is a strong correlation between clubhead speed and the total distance gains seen since 2003. We believe this increase in clubhead speed is mostly attributable to a combination of factors, such as increased player athleticism and fitness, physical build of the player, enhancements in equipment fitting and the proliferation of launch-monitoring capabilities. It is interesting to note that since 2003, the average age of a Tour member has gone down and the average height has gone up.”

Titleist, industry leader in the golf ball space, also issued a response.David Maher, CEO and president of Titleist’s parent company, Acushnet, said:

“In any given year there are variables that impact distance, and any movement as in 2017 is not suddenly indicative of a harmful trend. We continue to believe equipment innovation has benefitted golfers at all levels, and our analysis of the 2017 Distance Report affirms that the USGA and R&A have effective regulations in place to ensure the game’s health and sustainability.”

Titleist points out that removing new venues from the equation, distance gains were only 0.5 yards at the 33 events held at the same courses in 2015-2016 and 2017-2018. In fact, Titleist points out, at 15 of the 33 PGA Tour events contested at the same venue the past two season, distance decreased. The company also highlights the outlier of the more than 20-yard increase at U.S. Open venues (Oakmont in 2016, Erin Hills in 2017).

“A closer look into the numbers in the report underscores the complexity of making any meaningful year-to-year comparison. There were several contributing variables in 2017, including course selection and setup, agronomical conditions and weather, which need to be considered when assessing the data.”

Read Titleist’s full response and research here. 

Per Golf Digest PGA of America CEO, Pete Bevacqua also expressed skepticism.

“Having just received the full report last evening, it is difficult for us at the PGA of America to provide meaningful comments on its content at this time. However, given the recent industry discussions and media reports regarding a potential roll back of the golf ball for all players and/or a segment of elite players, our Board of Directors has discussed this topic at length. Based on the information we have seen, we are highly skeptical that rolling back the golf ball in whole or part will be in the best interests of the sport and our collective efforts to grow the game.’

Bevacqua indicated the PGA of America will poll its nearly 29,000 PGA Pros this week to get their feedback before issuing a full response.

We’ll continue to monitor substantial responses as the debate continues.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. G March

    Mar 8, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    Doesn’t Merion prove a point that you don’t have to limit technology to challenge the pro’s? Look at the finishing scores of the 2013 USOpen. Justin Rose won it with a +1. Course design will keep the bombers under control. If they can bomb it down the middle then all the better. But if they miss the fairway then they should not be able to advance it the way they can. Short rough is not enough of a penalty. Merion was considered a short track and the couch coaches all said they were going the shredd the “short” course. Well it didn’t work out that way did it?
    All the best.
    G

  2. Robert Parsons

    Mar 8, 2018 at 1:27 am

    Put restrictions on the players. Nobody under 35 years old. Must be under 5’10”. Players can not take full backswing. And tees must not stick out of the ground more than 1 inch.

  3. Charlie

    Mar 7, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Why not use Iron Byron to test the balls and the equipment at the same courses (3 should suffice) at the same time (not hard since tournaments generally happen at the same time each year). If the balls and clubs make no difference; why do so many people waste their money upgrading so often? Of course, the tour players are better, stronger and have their clubs custom made for their swings. If the ability of the great players is accentuated to the point that the average golfer can’t feel a relationship between the tour players and themselves, that could be the end of a viable golf industry. I am a member of the USGA but am starting to believe that the relationship to the game is more liked that of the NRA; that is they represent the manufacturers more than the average golfer.

  4. HDTVMAN

    Mar 7, 2018 at 11:20 am

    The USGA reminds me of the NCAA…both need to be replaced! Listening to Hank Haney yesterday on his Sirius/XM show, the USGA is so far out of touch with the game of golf it’s not funny! Don’t they test the balls, clubs, and measure the length of putters??? Oh well, gotta get my feathery, hickory sticks, and this brand new sandy wedge this guy Sarazen is using…got a tee time at 1pm.

  5. Tom54

    Mar 7, 2018 at 11:18 am

    If the golf ball and the clubs are already maxed out to their legal limits then there has to be other factors for the ball to be traveling too long. Players are bigger and stronger than ever. Every course for the events are tried to be firm and fast. That obviously means more roll out on tee balls. Until these great players are shooting 59s every week no need for changes. Every golfer alive realizes there are way too many variables that go into a score in golf. Hitting the ball further is just one factor. If ball is restricted the bombers will still be longer than the rest. That’s their skill, no matter what.

  6. Jeffrey Fish

    Mar 7, 2018 at 11:10 am

    The USGA is trying to craft a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

  7. Chris M.

    Mar 7, 2018 at 9:54 am

    It appears that the USGA is searching for a way
    to remain relevant. They have run Erin Hills up the flag pole and have noted the 20 yard increase in driving distance. Yet, it was the USGA and not any new ball that contributed to distance jump. Some players had complained about the difficulty of Erin Hills during the practice rounds. Suddenly, the. USGA orders that acres and acres of high fescue be mowed to create the widest fairways in all of creation. Then they have the audacity to complain about how far everyone is driving the ball. Disgusting!

  8. 1putt

    Mar 6, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    I am looking in the attic for my black & white tv.. this is the result of great junior programs, extensive high school programs, and a collegiate schedule that provides year round as well as world wide experience.

  9. Robert Najarian

    Mar 6, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    How much are the club manufactures paying for these ignorant replies. The last 40 years they’ve ruined the game of golf. Why don’t we go back to persimmon Woods a lot of balls then tell me what the difference is the game I love has become a joke. Even a sport like baseball that allows its players to use drugs outlawed the aluminum bats why doesn’t golf do the same

    • Dr Insight

      Mar 7, 2018 at 6:23 am

      It’s the fault of technology; the world was of course a much better place before the invention of the wheel let alone the jet engine. Coping with change is something that few of us can actually embrace.

  10. Richard Ramon

    Mar 6, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Golf is like any other sport. Players today are bigger stronger and faster. Get over it little men of the USGA, it’s not the ball.

  11. A T Meeks

    Mar 6, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Meant USGA not PGA.
    Sorry

  12. A T Meeks

    Mar 6, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    Pga reminds me of Hollywood. Out of touch with the real world. They think way too much of themselves.
    LEAVE US ALONE

  13. DD

    Mar 6, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    i dont see where the problem is. There are plenty of tournament courses long enough tough enough. The golden bear doesnt have to build every course to host a tournament especially as hundreds of courses are closed each year. im a 2 cap and a long ball hitter. i rarely play tips and never see anyone else playing tips ever. much less clamoring for longer courses. half the courses i play even the nicer ones dont even have tee markers longer than 6500 out even if they are mowing the 6800….what problem are the trying to fix. Rolling back the ball only for tour player will hurt the pga. no one wants pros playing a different ball. no one will be wowed by their distance anymore. no one will be able to compare their drives to the pros(as i like to) no one will be able to compare their ability to the pros. all of that will be over. They will be completely separating the professional league from the consumer. good luck with that.

    • Richard Ramon

      Mar 6, 2018 at 4:15 pm

      Indeed. Why does the LPGA not attract fans like the PGA? Because good players don’t see shots on the LPGA that they couldn’t hit at one point in their life or another. Dustin Johnson having a yap in for eagle on a 421 yard par 4 is incomprehensible. The USGA has outlived their time. I can’t stand the USGA any more. They Ruin the US Open every year with their egos.

  14. Stump

    Mar 6, 2018 at 10:11 am

    The USGA wants to roll the ball back…now they are using stats that support that position. As Mark Twain said: there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

    • DB

      Mar 6, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Exactly. And if they are including outliers that show 20+ yard increases (due to agronomy – I saw those fairways at the US Open and The Open) then the statistics are pretty much flawed.

  15. Dr Troy

    Mar 6, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Thank you….At least weve got someone with common sense. And I dont mean Mike Davis….

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Equipment

Charles Howell III’s winning WITB: 2018 RSM Classic

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Driver: Titleist TS3 (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Blue 65

Fairway woods: Titleist TS2 (15, 21 degrees)
Shafts: Fujikura ATMOS Tour Spec Black 8X, Fujikura ATMOS Tour Spec Black 9X

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB 4-iron, Titleist 718 AP2 (5-7), Titleist 718 CB (8-PW)
Shafts: Project X LZ 6.5 (hard stepped)

Wedges: Vokey SM7 (52, 56, 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: Titleist Pro V1 (proto)

SEA ISLAND, GA – NOVEMBER 17: Charles Howell lll tees off on the eighth hole tee box during the third round of The RSM Classic at the Sea Island Resort Seaside Course on November 17, 2018 in Sea Island, Georgia. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)

RELATED: See what members are saying about CH III’s equipment in the forums.

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Equipment

Danny Willett’s Winning WITB: DP World Tour Championship

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Driver: Callaway Rogue (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana W 60x

3-wood: Callaway Rogue Fairway Wood (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana W 70X

Irons: Callaway X Forged Utility Irons (18, 21, 24 degrees), Callaway X Forged 18 Irons (5-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 Superlite

Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy Forged PW (48 degrees), Callaway Mack Daddy 4 Wedges (54, 58 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold

Putter: Odyssey Prototype (Stroke Lab)

Ball: Chrome Soft X

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Danny Willett spotted with new Odyssey prototype putter, putter shaft

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You may have seen Danny Willett’s name near the top of the leaderboard at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. At 10 under, the Englishman sits one stroke behind fellow countryman Matt Wallace.

You may not have seen, however, that the 2016 Masters champ has a new Odyssey prototype putter in the bag.

(Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

All the company would say

“Willett first put in his new gamer last week at the Nedbank Challenge. Willett’s prototype putter also features a new prototype Odyssey shaft to help improve the consistency of the putting stroke.”

Willet has historically favored his blade-style Odyssey O-Works #1 W. More recently, at the Turkish Airlines Open, we spotted him with an Odyssey Versa Jailbird Black. However, the prototype in question is clearly a heel-shafted mallet with a different insert than the 1 W or the Jailbird. The insert looks to be the White Hot Microhinge. Obviously, the two-tone, potentially multi-material, shaft, and the technology therein, is notable as well. Also apparently two-tone, the putter head, which looks similar in shape to a Tank Cruiser and similarly has a pair of sole weights.

Do we need the TG2 to break down the few photos we have like the Zapruder film? We’ll continue digging, in the meantime, let us know what you think, GolfWRX Members!

 

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