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Rory McIlroy weighs in on Distance Insights Report

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This week at the Genisis Invitational, the new (and again) world No. 1 golfer Rory McIlroy had a full-length press conference and covered a number of topics from the tournament’s elevated status, to becoming tops in the world again during a week when he didn’t hit a single shot in competition.

It was only a matter of time before someone in the room asked Rory about the newly released USGA Distance Insights Report, and it was Mike James, the Sports Editor for the LA Times, who did so.

Below is the exchange

Mike James – Rory, where do you see the discussion after the distance insight survey evolving and where would you like to see it end up?

Rory McIlroy – How long have you got?

Mike James –  I have lots of time.

Rory McIlroy – You know, I think the biggest thing that came out of the report for me, a lot of the stuff about the ball going too far and technology, it really pertains to 0.1 percent of golfers out there. So look, if they want to try to contain what we do as touring professionals, I’m all for that.

Selfishly, I think that that’s only a good thing for the better players, but for the game in general, I think one of the best things that came out of it was the sustainability aspect and the fact that architects building these golf courses, and not even architects to a degree, but also the people that are giving the architects the money to build these golf courses with this grand ambition of maybe having a Tour event one day. Building these golf courses on these massive pieces of land, having to use so much water, so much fertilizer, pesticides, all the stuff that we really shouldn’t be doing nowadays especially in the climate we live in and everything that’s happening in our world. You look at what happened in Australia, you look at what happens in this state every August, September, October time with fires and global warming.

I think golf has a responsibility to minimize its footprint as much as it possibly can. For me, I think the sustainability aspect of what they’re trying to do is very important and that’s the one thing I would definitely stand behind.

The takeaway

The most interesting comment from Rory was around the idea of continued construction and alteration of golf courses in an attempt to appeal to just having the potential opportunity to host a professional golf event at the highest level. Land-use and its relationship to the growing cost for the average golf consumer is one of the biggest arguments in the golf architectural community.

Building these golf courses on these massive pieces of land, having to use so much water, so much fertilizer, pesticides, all the stuff that we really shouldn’t be doing nowadays especially in the climate we live in and everything that’s happening in our world.

When we consider almost all other professional sports and their historic fields of play, they already take up a designated amount of land. Yes, they are building newer and larger stadiums, but generally in city centers and around public transit, in the name of sustainability (and profitability, yes).

I. like many, believe that at some point growing the footprint of the game has to stop, and that professionals at the highest level ought to be introduced to a potential greater challenge. Rory is one of the most reflective and thoughtful players on tour, and it will be interesting to see if his influence will cause more players to reflect on their positions.

 

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Funkaholic

    Feb 14, 2020 at 9:47 am

    I am 100% against bifurcation, the USGA has managed to make the pros suffer at every US Open, they need to make the courses more challenging not longer. Leave some of the uber wide and long courses just for show but let’s make the pros work for it. Let’s narrow the field so the pro game isn’t dominated by the bomb and gouge crowd an make shot making an art again. Big drives are fun but, I would rather watch a wedge wizard at work and guy who can shape shots into tough pin placements.The game should not be all about the .1%, it is the amateur aspect that has always made golf and everybody should continue to play by the same rules and with the same equipment otherwise, what is the point. I think bifurcation will kill the pro game. As for the slow play aspect, it is a problem for both, how about the marshals start doing their job in both areas of the game, that is how you speed up play.

  2. kevin

    Feb 13, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    If climate change was such a huge problem rory and others wouldn’t simply be looking to cut 30-40 yards off a hole and roll back the ball. they’d be asking to eliminate pesticides, eliminate the use of watering rough, eliminate the fertilizers. they want to pretend they are uber concerned while at the same time not giving up the lush green perfectly manicured fairways.

    augusta had to buy a plot of land and a road to move tees back. so yes, its past time to roll the ball back for pros.

  3. Chill Pill

    Feb 13, 2020 at 7:27 pm

    Climate change………..HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  4. gunmetal

    Feb 13, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    Nailed it. I’ve always wondered why the USGA and R&A are so concerned about distance yet they base their conclusions while only look at the top .01% of players.

    Modern courses are WAY too expansive and long. Climate change is real, but the catastrophic predictions are probably overblown, but 100% agree that courses are too big and long. Way too many resources used to sustain them and many of them don’t even let you walk!

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Podcasts

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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On Spec: Blades vs cavity backs | Classic gear vs. modern equipment

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In this episode, host Ryan talks about a recent experience of playing poor golf and what it took from an equipment perspective to get his game back on track.

The talk is wide-ranging and offers an inside look at what equipment tweaks or experiments might help you play better golf—or get you out of a rut.

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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