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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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Everything former Nike rep Ben Giunta said about working with Tiger Woods

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Ben Giunta, a former Nike Tour Rep and now owner of the TheTourVan.com, joined host Johnny Wunder and TXG’s Ian Fraser for the most recent installment of the Gear Dive podcast.

While you’ll want to hear everything Giunta has to say, his remarks about working with Tiger Woods are particularly notable, and we wanted to present them here for those of you who may be more textually inclined.

On Tiger Woods’ preferences for club testing

“He always does his testing at home. 99 percent of the time. Whenever Tiger showed up to an event he was ready to go. There was no tinkering with equipment at Tour events. All of the work we did with him, we would do a week prior.”

“Rick Nichols, who was my boss when I was at Nike…he was Tiger’s right-hand guy. He worked with him on pretty much everything. We would prep everything. Rick would go and work with him at home…at that time it was in Orlando. They would tweak and do everything they needed there. Then when he showed up to the tournaments, I could probably count on one hand the number of times he came into the trailer to get work done.”

“He was built different. He came to do his homework on the golf course and prepare for the tournament. He was not tinkering around with equipment when it came to tournament time.”

“Any time he would test anything during the week…it was for a backup. He was constantly searching for backup drivers and…woods. So if something happened…he already had done all of his work.”

On Tiger’s driver preferences

“We were always tinkering with different CGs. Obviously, there was a lot of special stuff made for him. He didn’t use an adjustable driver…until Nike got out of the equipment business. We were always making sure the center of gravity was perfect. He was very specific on face angles and how much loft he wanted to look at. And he always wanted the face angle to be pretty much the same.”

“We had to have different iterations with different lofts based on where his golf swing was…obviously, his golf swing changes a lot based on all of his injuries and swing changes…There were certainly times where he was swinging a driver that spec’d out at a true eight-degree head, then he’d be all the way up to 11 or 12 degrees sometimes.”

On Tiger’s consistency in iron preferences

“The only thing that ever really changed with Tiger’s irons…was the lie angle. But lofts…they have been the same since he played golf…It’s been the same specs for his entire professional and amateur career. Those specs haven’t changed but the lie angles have. As far as I know, he has never experimented with different iron shafts [True Temper Dynamic Gold X100]. They’ve always been the same…with wooden dowels down in the tips of the shafts.”

“He always had the mindset that he was going to manipulate the club to get the ball to do what he wanted it to do.

On the consistency of Woods’ wedge setup

“He’s evolved with different grinds depending on his delivery or what he’s trying to do technique-wise, he’s modified his soles a little bit over time…but he’s always kind of reverted back to your traditional dual sole.”

In addition to talking Tiger, Giunta discusses how he got a job on Tour, working with Rory McIlroy, tinkerers vs non-tinkerers, and what he’s doing now (and more) in the rest of the podcast.

You can listen below.

RELATED: Tiger Woods WITB 2018

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Tour News

WATCH: Tiger Woods on Facebook Live with Bridgestone Golf

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Tiger Woods just appeared in a Bridgestone Golf Facebook Live video. While the audio isn’t the greatest (sounds like there’s some mowers rolling by), we’ve got to pass it along.

Check out the video below.

Woods initially discusses his wedges, before moving on to sharing some insights about how he hits his patented stinger–covering the ball, starting it farther right, and keeping his follow through short.

On his ball, the Bridgestone Tour B XS, which he presents as a softer ball well-suited to his swing, Woods says

“I need spin. I don’t spin the ball a lot. My swing has never produced a lot of spin. I’ve always been able to take spin off the golf ball–I grew up in an era where we played balata. What separated a lot of guys was the ability to take spin off the golf ball…to keep it below the tree line. There was a lot more movement in the golf ball.”

“My swing has naturally evolved. I’ve had different swings throughout the years, but each swing didn’t spin the ball a lot. So, when I get up to my long irons with a harder ball that most people would launch…I don’t. It falls out of the sky because it has so little spin.”

Woods mentioned that he hasn’t played Shinnecock since the course’s pre-U.S. Open makeover, but that he expects the course will be particularly difficult: an old-school U.S. Open with minimal graduated rough where it will be difficult to shoot under par.

Responding to comments, Woods sings Hazeltine’s praises and mentions he’d love to be able to wear shorts during PGA Tour events

“We play some of the hottest places on the planets and it would be nice to wear shorts…even with my little chicken legs,” Woods says.

Woods tells amateurs looking for more spin around the greens that they need a soft golf ball, mentioning that solid contact, maintaining loft, and allowing to club to do its job are key. Woods mentions that he has “a couple extra shots around the greens” thanks to the softness of his golf ball.”

We’ll next see the 14-time major champion in action at next week’s Memorial Tournament (which he discusses to wrap up the video).

 

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10 interesting photos from Tuesday at the Fort Worth Invitational

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GolfWRX is on the ground at Marvin Leonard’s famed pet project, Colonial Country Club, peeking into players bags and taking in the action on the driving range.

While you’ll want to take a trip through the buffet line, we’ve made you a plate of some of the tastiest morsels.

Absolutely savage new putter cover for Jon “Rahmbo” Rahm. Just killer.

Prettier than a new penny.

Spotted: Aldila Rogue Silver 130 MSI

Everything here is excellent. Just excellent.

More like Garsen Murray. Am I right?

If you were Aaron Wise standing over the winning putt at last week’s Byron Nelson, this is what it’d have looked like (of course, you’d have had a ball and the putter would be soled on the green, but you get the point…)

Abraham Ancer’s new Artisan wedges are simply incredible… All of this: Artisan star stellar stuff.

Rickie Fowler has gone grape.

You can’t fool me. You’re not Adam Hadwin, you’re a golf bag.

Is Patrick Cantlay considering a switch to a Cameron Napa?

Check out all our photos from the 2018 Forth Worth Invitational below.

Tuesday’s Photos

Special Galleries

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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