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USGA/R&A publish research on driving distance gains on PGA Tour

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It seems that everyone, from media critics to former players, has a solution for the problem of distance gains in golf today, whether it’s to dial back the golf ball, change regulations on equipment or to continue to lengthen golf courses. Even Jack Nicklaus offered his advice: “Change the friggin’ golf ball.

On Thursday, the USGA and R&A published research from a joint study on driver distance that may put those concerns to rest for the near future.

The study looked at data on driver distance across seven major professional golf tours — the PGA, European, Japan Golf, Web.com, Champions, LPGA and Ladies European. As presented in the research, distance gains are at a “slow creep,” as opposed to what some critics have suggested.

Click here to read the full study. 

The chart below was used in the research study, showing yearly driving distance averages across the seven major tours — data for the PGA Tour dates back to 1980.

DistanceUSGARA

Also included is a look at yearly scoring averages, which the report also refers to as a “slow creep” downward.

Scoringaverages

Important takeaways, according to the study

  • From 2003 to 2015, average driving distance on the PGA, European, Web.com and Champions tours increased about 1 percent, while the other three tours decreased about 1 percent, over the same period.
  • Average launch conditions (club head speed, launch angle, ball speed and spin rate) have remained “relatively stable” since 2007 on the PGA Tour.
  • Scoring averages have dropped approximately 0.04 strokes per year across the seven major tours.

So, what does this mean going forward in terms of rules and regulations from the USGA and R&A? From the report:

The R&A and the USGA believe, however, that any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable. Whether these increases in distance emanate from advancing equipment technology, greater athleticism of players, improved player coaching, golf course conditioning or a combination of these or other factors, they will have the impact of seriously reducing the challenge of the game… The R&A and the USGA will consider all of these factors contributing to distance on a regular basis. Should such a situation of meaningful increases in distances arise, the R&A and the USGA would feel it immediately necessary to seek ways of protecting the game.

From the presentation of information granted in the research study, it does not appear that the USGA or R&A have any immediate plans to make drastic changes to the rules and regulations in professional golf. The joint statement does, however, reiterate that both parties have golf’s best interest in mind.

The purpose of the Rules is to protect golf’s best traditions, to prevent an over-reliance on technological advances rather than skill, and to ensure that skill is the dominant element of success throughout the game.

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

69 Comments

69 Comments

  1. matt_bear

    Jun 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    my take away is that the first real leap was titanium/oversize club technology, and then the golf ball change away from wound finished the job. It also says that if you’re playing a pro v1 and any club built in the last 5-10 years you’re fine.

  2. Jamie

    Jun 4, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    George Brdlik no way sadlowski has qualified…… final stage of qualifying isn’t until 6th July…. He has just got through local.

    • Dub

      Jun 5, 2016 at 3:52 pm

      Final stage is after the us open??
      Or is this for 2017??

      • Joseph Dreitler

        Jun 5, 2016 at 8:28 pm

        Sectional qualifiers are tomorrow, Monday June 6.

  3. Dave

    Jun 4, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Who cares how far they hit it.. These men and women and top jrs are very talented golfers, they are trained by the best play the best equipment play at very elite schools . On the weekends I can’t wait to watch these guys and gals play great golf it’s their living and only a talented few ever make it. Me I’ll go out and smash it around and enjoy it with my pals all talking about the golf we watched on the tube.

  4. NiftyWilly

    Jun 3, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    Interesting that the biggest gains across all tours were in 2000 to 2002 with the end of the wound ball.
    Interesting that the results report of incremental increases uses 2003 to 2015 data.
    There is no doubt in the mind of the average amateur that something is amiss with the professional game. Distance and score are manipulated to make money.
    What happened to par being a great score? Now, everyone out there has to shoot 65’s to contend.
    I say make every tournament at least as tough as every major and let the boys deal with what every one else has to every day.

  5. retired04

    Jun 3, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    Distance averages by tour? How about the averages of the top 10 players in the OWG rankings, the top 10 distance players on each tour and the top 10 scoring leaders on each tour-all compared to the same groups and same time periods from the past. My bet is the strongest, most physically fit would wind up way ahead (same as always) and most everyone else would be slightly longer, but not outrageous (same as always). Still have to get it in play and in the hole.

  6. Bob Castelline

    Jun 3, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    I’m going to approach this solely from the standpoint of amateurs because the truth is that amateur golfers are what make the big-money pros possible. If we didn’t support the game by purchasing all this high-tech, high-dollar equipment … or watch them on TV … or buy the stuff advertised on said TV … well, they’d have no income. And on the PGA Tour, I don’t care what the equipment is … they all have a level of control in their games that I’ll never approach. Frankly, they can do what they want.

    That being said, as a decent amateur (about a 5 handicap at age 56), I hate the new equipment. Hate it. Forget distance. That’s not where the game has gotten unfair. Everybody hits it farther, including me. It’s how big a swing you can take and get away with it. In other words, the key change in the game of golf is forgiveness — both in the clubs and the balls.

    The forgiveness of today’s equipment has blurred the lines between good players and average players, and that makes it hard for guys like me to compete. Dudes with half my skill can shoot what I shoot, mostly because they can swing as hard as they want with little penalty. I’d love to see one of them take their wild swings with the Hogan persimmons and Titelist balata balls I played for years and years. I guarantee you, in 1980, nobody ever thought there would ever be a ball that would spin less than 1,500 off a driver with a 120-mph swing. Everything spun. The key was which direction it spun. The best drives started low and appeared to rise — that meant you hit it with backspin and not sidespin. Now if you’re not ballooning your driver 130 feet in the air, you’re just not hitting it very far. Today’s amateurs are taking huge swings that they never could have gotten away with in the 80s.

    Consistently hitting great shots with the old equipment took a ton of skill, which created a distinct difference between better players and average players. You needed a complete game to be a better player. Now you just need to be able to hit it far and lob it into the green. Missed the fairway? No worries. That same ball that spins 1,500 off your driver — it ALSO spins 8,000 off your wedge.

    Again, I’m not talking tour pros here, who SHOULD be able to control their games. I’m talking about amateurs. If amateurs are able to get by on a single attribute — their length, fueled by huge technology-enabled swings — then competitive golf stops being fun. At least for me. The game I love is leaving me behind.

    • dg7936

      Jun 10, 2016 at 11:22 am

      Absloutely positively 100% correct. The game’s attempts to reach new players every year ( which actually means “customers” not players) has broadened golf’s exposure but cheapened it at the same time. The big golf companies cannot stay afloat appealing to the dedicated golfer. They need to reach the average player and have built their equipment to accommodate (and deceive) that customer base. Lots of new oversized gear is designed to mask faults, not improve ballstriking. I still play the old Hogans I’ve had for years. I’ll take what I shoot as representative of my ability or lack thereof. Anytime I see a guy with a bag of shovel–sized irons I know he’s not a golfer, most likely just a hitter.,…and most likely incapable of anything requiring finesse or making the ball work with a draw or a fade if needed. And the obverse is true; when I see a guy with standard sized clubs, maybe using a 3 wood off the tee for position, you know he’s a player. Pretty rare nowadays on most public courses.

  7. J Zilla

    Jun 3, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Ignoring the PED aspect, there’s been creep in most sports over the past 30-40 years. Pitchers are throwing it harder. Sprinters continuously break 100m world records. And pro golfers hit it longer. The USGA can lock in the COR and stop ball tech dead and you’ll still see distance creep until a golfer comes along who hits the human limit of what is possible.

    That being said, if the USGA/PGA wants keep courses from becoming pitch and putts and keep equipment sponsors happy then they’ll have to adjust their courses: harsher roughs, slower fairways, more difficult greens, etc.

    Even with all that there will still be longer accurate hitters and shorter accurate hitters so there’s really no way to change that dynamic unless place a premium on other aspects of the game.

    On a sidenote would something like not having the fairway extend all the way to the green force longer hitters to use less club off the tee and negate some of the distance? Especially if the in between rough was spin prohibitive?

    • Steve

      Jun 4, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      I would take issue with the reference to MLB pitchers throwing harder…NO ONE can throw over 100 miles per hour for more then 3 or 4 innings….If Pitching was keeping up with hitting there would be a few out there throwing over a 110 mph. Like drives have increased very little in the Pro Ranks MLB pitchers have been maxed out since Nolan Ryan and Ryan Duran in late 60’s, early 70″s. Think about it if you could toss the baseball at 110 mph or more NO ONE could hit it without figuring in a few lucky swings….

    • Dave

      Jun 7, 2016 at 8:28 am

      Well stated.

  8. OldTimer

    Jun 3, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    Nicklaus has been complaining about the new golf ball for around 20 years, about the time Tiger came along and Nike introduced one of the first non-balata tour level balls. (I’m not a historian, but it’s the first one I remember being used successfully on tour that was truly more solid than the balata. I know Norman played the Tour Edition that wasn’t true balata, but that sucker spun like a damn top. I’m sure there were others). And I personally believe he’s 100% correct. The driver distance advancement never happens without the monumental shift in golf ball construction and spin control. You used to have to choose whether you wanted distance or spin. I can distinctly remember going to the driving range in college and having to ignore the distances I was carrying my irons, because those Top Flites were a club to two clubs further than my Tour Balata that I was playing. You’d play in a scramble, and pull out the Pinnacle that you got in the gift bag on the long drive hole. The difference is real. The lengthening of courses over the last 15 years are a direct result of the gains in distance that were triggered by the new non-balata ball. The scoring average on tour discussion is moot, because they aren’t playing the same layout now that they played 20 years ago, even if it’s the same golf course.

    Now – is all of this ‘bad’ for the game? That’s the question.

    • stephenf

      Jun 4, 2016 at 1:25 am

      Not to mention that the improvement in scoring average is minimal to begin with.

  9. Scooter McGavin

    Jun 3, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    I’m torn. As an equipment junkie, I like bigger and better. Maybe I just like to spend money…

    But at the same time, I like the purity of the game that comes along with people using more basic, simple equipment. I think about sports like baseball, where they use a regulation ball and solid wood bats; basketball with its regulation balls; football’s regulation ball. There is something appealing about removing the equipment from the equation and focusing the game more on the skill and athleticism of the players. I think that’s why sports like that have a broader appeal for other people to not only watch, but to play… Because unlike golf, cycling, tennis, etc. people don’t feel like they are missing out on the experience if they can’t afford expensive equipment.

    Imagine if in golf you could only use 2 clubs (solid steel heads, no cavities allowed, steel shafts only): a putter and another to hit the ball in the air (iron probably). Players can choose whatever loft that works best for them. No tees. Also, there is a uniform, regulation ball, like with baseball, football, basketball, hockey, etc. You could then shorten courses, which takes up fewer resources, you’d have to be more creative getting the ball onto the green, you have to find other ways to hit the ball different distances (softer swing, choke up), etc.

  10. LA Billyboy

    Jun 3, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    The only piece of equipment they need to use is the lawnmower… that is where technology has changed most. Tour fairways are like the greens most of us play and their greens are like pool tables versus the lumps and bumps on your local muni. Watch how hard Nicklaus, Hogan, Palmer used to stroke putts, there were no greens running at 14 back then they didn’t have the agronomy nor the mowing technology, they would have killed the greens trying to get them that fast. If they want to stop long hitters, just stop mowing the fairways 300 yards out… hit it 301 and you are in 10″ of fine Zoysia… but then we have guys hitting 200 yard 6 irons… so OK the ball is juicier too… How many 59’s are getting shot? Maybe there isn’t a problem after all.

    • birdy

      Jun 3, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      so you want to effectively limit the advantage that long hitters have over others. hitting the ball far is a skill. your solution is as dumb as it gets. want to take 10% off distance i’m all for it, because long hitters still have the advantage. but simply ending a fairway at certain distance…..you haven’t put much thought into this have you

    • Tl

      Jun 5, 2016 at 2:49 am

      Actually, Billyboy, it’s not the mowing that makes greens faster, it’s the ROLLING of them. They only used to cut them back in the day, until somebody figured a way to quickly roll them flat and hard with a machine.

  11. Steve Buchanan

    Jun 3, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Have you seen the roll out on some of these drives on the pro golf tours? The fairways are sometimes rock hard and the ball rolls forever, sometimes 50 or more yards. It’s crazy. Golfer’s today are much fitter, and today’s equipment with clubs and balls is so much better than in the 50’s and 60’s. The production quality overall is better for everyone. It’s hard to buy a bad set of clubs. In the past it was a crapshoot.

    I believe the study. There has been a gradual increase in distance overall, but it’s due to a multitude of factors, not just the ball. The balls are more consistent overall, true, but simple physics shows that mass plus speed, and the ball will go no matter. While it’s true you can’t hit yesteryears balls with today’s clubs or vice versa, when the 90-100 compression balata ball was matched with a good golfer swinging a persimmon driver, you would still get good results.

    The point is, good players adjust to the equipment of the era, it’s the skill of the swing and ability that results in low scores, not just the equipment. Put the best players today with the equipment of decades ago, and they would adjust and still be good players. Same with the best of any era, put today’s equipment in their hands at their prime and they would be good today too. But they wouldn’t be hitting their drivers 400 yards. No way. That’s just a stupid comment, sorry.

  12. GAC

    Jun 3, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    I’m not buying this. There is obviously a distortion in the way driving distance is calculated by the tour.

    There is zero doubt that there are multiple players hitting 6 or 7 iron 200 yards, when in the late 80’s and 90’s, great players and big hitters like Couples were hitting 6 iron 180 – 185.

    If you hitting a club from the middle of the set 15 or 20 yards longer in carry people are clearly hitting it farther.

    I think the pursuit of fitness and strength is the biggest factor. Some of these guys are ripped to shreds.

    • birdy

      Jun 3, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      better check those lofts

      • Scott

        Jun 3, 2016 at 2:54 pm

        +1. A 6 or 7 iron can be any loft that you want to make it

    • Grizz01

      Jun 3, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      My old 5 iron length and loft compared to the newest Taylor Made is their 7 iron. Not a whole lot has change except changing the number on the club.

    • Tl

      Jun 5, 2016 at 2:51 am

      GAC. Do you even follow WRX? What about length of shaft, weight of shaft, flex, how tall is the player, how much reach does he have, how fast does he swing, how much momentum is he drilling into the ball???? You’re still only allowed 14 clubs. The number written on the club is just a number.

  13. stage1350

    Jun 3, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    They don’t take into account one other technological marvel of the last 10 years: The launch monitor

    Absolute optimization of all facets of the driver has allowed fitters to give everyone up to another 20-30 yards by maximizing spin and rollout.

  14. Nick

    Jun 3, 2016 at 9:54 am

    It’s pretty clear that most of the people commenting didn’t take the time to read the report at all.

    Club selection on driving measurements was monitored and controlled.
    The distance slow creep the talk about is in regards to the last several years after the USGA controls were put into place.
    The report contains very detailed data looking at all factors.
    I think this study really puts the manufacturers into a bad place as it shows no statistically significant performance improvement has come out of driver tech in several years despite what ever claims they make in their marketing campaigns.

    • STEVE deJesus

      Jun 3, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      The equipment manufacturers are selling snake oil to gullible marks. Much like woman’s cosmetics and weight loss outfits.

  15. Johnny

    Jun 3, 2016 at 2:07 am

    I totally get where the USGA is coming from. I haven’t been playing as much golf as I used to because golf is just too easy for me now. I am hitting the ball too far and my scores are simply too low to have any fun. Any time I hit my ProV1X over 300 yards I just SMH and think “Change the friggin golf ball”. Golf just isn’t challenging like it used to be. I make too many birdies, and I know it is not me it is my G30 driver. I just want golf to be miserable again.

  16. Johny Thunder

    Jun 2, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    When you look at overall “driving distance” stats like these, remember, the shorter hitters have as much drag effect as the long hitters have pull. I’d bet money that the longest hitters haven’t improved nearly as much as the shortest, and that’s more training and fitting than “THE BALL”, or any other tech at the tour level. Fitting has improved dramatically – exponentially – since every tour player had a 43″ Dynamic shaft in their persimmon driver. Every tour player has optimal launch characteristics, and is getting the most out of their swing (their best swings are most rewarded, their worst swings get better results than in the past).

    The guy who wins the tournament is still the one who has at least one stroke lower than everyone else. It isn’t always the longest driver, in fact accuracy, GIR and putting are usually the more likely factor. Fans of the game want to see long drives, eagles on par 4s, the occasional driven par 4, etc. It’s only egotists like Golfwrx weirdos and Nicklaus who want driving distances dialed back – oh, and the super-elite memberships of a few country clubs who want to “protect par” at their precious exclusive links. In other words, for most of the people who matter, the rules and limits are just fine where they are. Hopefully the USGA and R&A will head off anything new and ridiculous that comes down the pipe from the manufacturers.

    What you can’t limit – and what guys like Nicklaus are afraid to admit – is the conditioning and training of these *actual athletes* playing the modern game. Rory would mop the floor with “Nicklaus in his prime” in any physical test. These guys spend their time at the gym and juice bar, not the bar and cheeseburger grill like Jack and the rest.

    • Duncan Castles

      Jun 3, 2016 at 2:40 am

      Very good point about fitting optimising driver performance and driving up the average from the bottom end of the curve.
      Rich Hunt has done some excellent statistical analysis on which parts of the game have the strongest correlation to scoring average on the PGA Tour for several years now. He finds that driving, long iron play and putting are the three most important correlates, in that order.

    • Ballz

      Jun 3, 2016 at 3:00 am

      Johnny, you can’t be farther from the facts.
      Go grab a ball from, say, 1989, if you can find one. Hit that with your typical old persimmon driver.
      Then hit the same ball with a modern driver. See how far that goes.
      Now, hit the latest ball from 2016 with the persimmon driver. You’ll notice the massive difference.
      Then hit the ball with a 2016 driver tuned to your swing, launch angle, spin and speed. Voila.
      The ball is so amazingly technologically advanced. But the new driver heads also add quite a bit. But the ball really is what’s doing it. You can do the same test with a typical old muscle back with a new muscle back, just make sure the loft and length of the clubs are all the same.
      Those old balls just don’t do it.

      • birdy

        Jun 3, 2016 at 1:01 pm

        greg norman did exactly this. his old driver with old ball went 260. his new driver new ball went just shy of 300.

        throw out all the stats. all you have to do is grab a player and have him hit yesterdays equipment next to todays to see the difference.

        • Johny Thunder

          Jun 3, 2016 at 10:54 pm

          Greg Norman has almost always had a stake in golf club and ball manufacturing companies. Do you think any manufacturer will allow its players to be involved in an actual test like this? Do you think Jason Day will be on YouTube PROVING that he gained 17 yards with each new TaylorMade driver he’s played???

          A scratch player I know took out a persimmon driver and balata ball and hit it about 10 yds short of the combo he plays every day. It curved a bit more and flew a bit shorter and rolled more.

          • Bz

            Jun 4, 2016 at 11:20 am

            He only hit his new stuff 10 yards more than the old stuff because he doesn’t know how to hit the new stuff with proper efficiency. He probably hits down, still, with the new stuff.

    • Shallowface

      Jun 3, 2016 at 11:07 am

      Johny, Nicklaus, Palmer and Snead would have hit it 400 yards with this equipment. The only thing that is better about the modern players is the hype they receive from the media.

      I’m guessing you weren’t around “back then.” If that guess is true, trust me, you have no idea what it was like.

      • Johny Thunder

        Jun 3, 2016 at 10:51 pm

        If you think those guys generated more clubhead speed than Day and Dustin, and Tiger in his prime, you’re delusional. These guys swing the club harder and better than the old guys in their heyday – LOTS of factors; club length, weight, athleticism, training, slow-mo cameras, trackman, it ALL adds up to more distance.

        But by all means, everyone keep jerking off over the golf ball, and your aging heroes who were better than anyone ever will be again. Meanwhile, they can change the ball all they want. The reigned in grooves – TWICE – and it made little difference. They abolished the anchored putter – didn’t adversely affect the majority of those who used it.

        How about rolling the ball back so Dustin and Day only hit it 250 off the tee?? AWESOME! Luke Donald will still be way behind them at 200, they all be hitting long irons into par 4s (Luke will be hitting driver off the deck), and laying up on par 5s – AND you can all buy Jack Nicklaus a bottle of bourbon at the bar and celebrate the further decline of viewership and participation.

        Maybe Jack and the rest of you Sneedites should join a Hickory Stick league?

        • Bz

          Jun 4, 2016 at 11:21 am

          Actually, Sam Snead and Jack and were known to hit 300 yards and more with the old equipment. It’s all been measured. 345 yard Par 4 reached, pin high, and such. All written down in records. So you’re wrong.

          • Golfshapeforelife

            Jun 5, 2016 at 3:32 am

            The 300yd+ drives in those days were with very advantageous conditions (wind, dry fairway).. a normal drive for Hogan was 240-250ish, Nicklaus 270-280..

            • Joseph Dreitler

              Jun 5, 2016 at 8:45 pm

              Sorry, you are just wrong. I’m 65, I live in Columbus and have seen Jack play since I was a young child. He could hit it 300 but it surely didn’t carry 300 in the air. In the mid ’80’s Jack built his courses based in his own model and the doglegs turned and the bunkers came in at 265 almost on every course because carrying that was not going to happen regularly. Maybe it would have if the top Pro’s played TopFlite balls then, but they played wound balatas (still have several dozen in the basement). When the Titleist became a TopFlite lots of great courses became obsolete for pros.

              • Golfshapeforelife

                Jun 6, 2016 at 10:06 am

                Fair enough if you have seen the man play, I will take your word for it. FWIW I think Jack would sit atop of the driving distance ranking if he was in his prime today. The footage of him 1960-1966 shows a very powerful guy. Also don’t apologize if you think I am wrong, everyone is entitled to voice their opinion.

  17. Mike

    Jun 2, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    I’d like to know what exactly they’re trying to fix? Professional golf is entertainment and I find it hard to believe that viewership will go up if they roll back the ball. They’re trying to solve a non-problem and they should just leave it alone.

    I’m still pissed about the groove rule. They royally screwed that up – had no impact on the game and created a lot of problems for equipment manufacturers. I still remember Cleveland begging people to buy their old wedges with ‘the year of the wedge’ marketing slogan.

  18. JS

    Jun 2, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    No mention of players being in better physical shape these days?

    • Johny Thunder

      Jun 2, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      Guys like Jack will never admit that. It has a huge impact on all these stats, but ego will prevent its mention.

  19. gdb99

    Jun 2, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Raise the mower decks!

    • spazo

      Jun 2, 2016 at 11:33 pm

      why does no one ever talk about this? it’s very easy to make a TOUR course play shorter…don’t roll the fairways, and put some water on ’em. Bingo–15 yards shorter drives.

      • birdy

        Jun 3, 2016 at 1:03 pm

        this would benefit long hitters who carry the ball farther even more!

        short hitters need the roll. and majority of the roll comes from low spin todays drivers can create.

        • Scott

          Jun 3, 2016 at 2:59 pm

          @birdy Length is a skill and should be celebrated, not cancelled out. How about the best putters in the game have to move every put 4 feet back from the hole on every putt. Dustin Johnson would have won a few majors by now.

  20. James

    Jun 2, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    50 yards of driving distance in 35 years does not seem like a slow creep, unless the average driving distance of PGA players in the 50’s was less than 200 yards, which I highly doubt! Seems like it might be time to reign in the equipment a bit.
    I imagine a lot of the difference isn’t 100% due to equipment, but that’s probably the easiest thing for the R&A/USGA to control. I’d love to see how golfers today do on the same courses with close to the same equipment as the golfers of 50 years ago. Maybe they’d still do better, but I’d like to see how Rory, Jason, and Jordan would do with 250cc drivers and spinnier golf balls at Augusta.
    Besides, if the average score of amateur players hasn’t changed measurably over time then us weekend warriors will still post about the same scores as we did before, no matter what driver or golf ball it is that we’re using.

    • Johny Thunder

      Jun 2, 2016 at 9:19 pm

      Very few golf fans would find interest in such an experiment. You might make Jack and some Golfwrx goofballs happy for a while, but you’d lose a huge amount or sponsorship money, attendance and viewing. Think about it – Tiger brought huge numbers to golf, and his distance was a huge factor in that equation. John Daly as well. The Genie parades around in pink underwear and see-through scarves; who wants to put her back in the bottle?

    • Milo

      Jun 2, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      Why does everyone want to make everything more boring, i mean football is starting to become 2 hand touch. Baseball was exciting while guys were using PEDs. I want excitement!!! It doesn’t help that the fairways I’m tourneys are faster than the greens i play on.

      • Shallowface

        Jun 3, 2016 at 11:09 am

        It is painfully boring now. The 200 yard 2 iron shot into a Par 4 was anything but boring.

        • ski_co

          Jun 3, 2016 at 11:30 am

          You are right – now it is a 200 yard 6 iron.

    • Joseph Dreitler

      Jun 5, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      You are correct. The athlete argument just doesn’t explain it. Baseball players have been athletes for 30 years. Only when they juiced did ballparks seem smaller and homers go throu the roof. Look at the number of home runs today, look at the distance they go and compare that with the home run hitters of the late ’60’s and ’70’s. They hit just as many, they hit some 600 feet and the ballparks were the same size then as now. But the ball and bat have not changed. The golf ball surely has as has the clubs.

  21. Ed

    Jun 2, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    We are talking about athletes at the highest level. Us weekend warriors, maybe a few people can keep up with the pros, the system isn’t broken. The usga and r/a need to do something else like trying to get green fees down or how to speed up play than worrying about how far the ball is going.

    We pay to watch them play at an elite level to hit it far which in turn we want the same equipment that they use to squeeze a few more yards with he newest driver. So it’s the circle of life in golf.

  22. Other Paul

    Jun 2, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    If tour scores are to low then make the rough deeper and make the fairways grass a little taller. That should add a little more variance to the ball flight. Just leave equipment and the ball alone. Scores of average golfers are stable and tour scores barely changing at all is no big deal. We dont need golf to be any more difficult then it is. Also letting the grass be a little deeper is healthier for it anyway and it will need less watering.

    • George

      Jun 3, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Growing the fairway grass a bit is an interesting idea but might be a mixed blessing. Pros who bomb it with optimum trajectory might gain an even bigger advantage than those who depend on ball roll.

      • birdy

        Jun 3, 2016 at 1:11 pm

        this is exactly right. less roll equals larger advantage to long hitters

  23. Steven

    Jun 2, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    This is interesting information. Saying there is a “slow creep” ignores the difference between 1980 and 2014, which is 45 yards. That is more than a 1 yard increase a year, which is slow when looking at smaller increments. The long term had big gains, which drive down scores.

    All that being said, the average golfer still has the same handicap as before huge tech. Pros make the most of every tweak, but most of us can’t. I am not a fan of bifurcation, but this research at least makes me consider it.

    • Johny Thunder

      Jun 2, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      To equate driving distance directly with scoring is a HUGE mistake. How about discussing the lob wedge? Improved putters? Fitting? Training? Iron grooves? Cavity backs? Course conditioning? Better fields worldwide? Jack’s “THE BALL”? If you divide these gains by every factor involved, each one likely gets you a fraction of a year or less than 0.1 stroke.

  24. Greg V

    Jun 2, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    The fact that there has been limited increases in distance in the last few years does not excuse the USGA/R&A for having their collective head in the sand from 1992 to 2002 when the size of the driver head increased significantly, the face of the driver became appreciably “hotter” and the ball was engineered to deliver the goods off the new driver technology.

    By the way, if the longest hitters hit driver more often (they don’t, because they don’t have to), the average driving distance would be even more significantly higher.

    • Duncan Castles

      Jun 2, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Two good points. Though the longest hitters not using driver as often demonstrates that they believe there is a trade-off between distance and accuracy.
      One thing the Tours could do to constrain long hitters is to grow the rough longer ahead of events. Too many PGA Tour courses are set up to encourage low scores with minimal penalties for missing the fairway. That plus the overuse of lift, clean and place brings scoring averages down.

      • Greg V

        Jun 2, 2016 at 2:05 pm

        Duncan, that is one approach. But my approach would be to bifurcate the rules: shrink the size of the driver head and roll back the COR for elite players (Tour pros and US Am contestants, and those who would want to play that equipment). That would have the effect of lengthening golf courses, and it would make the skill of long, straight driving more important in the overall scheme of playing the game. In other words, the players who could hit it long and straight with smaller driver heads would be rewarded for that skill.

      • mctrees02

        Jun 2, 2016 at 4:20 pm

        Making the courses tougher on a weekly basis goes against the PGA Tour’s #1 goal…to make as much money as possible for itself and its participants. You get more eyeballs on TV screens and people showing up at tournaments to watch guys pour in birdies and eagles on a weekly basis. That makes the doses of medicine that get at the US Open and a few other places worth stomaching.

        If every week you tuned into a tour event to see the leader is at -4 and only 9 of 70 guys who made the cut finished below par, you would stop watching.

        • Matto

          Jun 2, 2016 at 9:29 pm

          I enjoy watching pro’s hitting it long and shooting low scores! But, you know, I think a lot of people may have to try and keep it in perspective. Nobody’s hitting it 350+ every drive, then shooting 58’s. Golfers have been shooting in the 60’s for more than the past 35 years.

          • Johny Thunder

            Jun 3, 2016 at 10:58 pm

            AND Jack Nicklaus hit it over 300 plenty in his day. But they played a more “conservative” game back then – just watch the old tournaments.

        • Johny Thunder

          Jun 2, 2016 at 9:30 pm

          Whatever you make the COR and however you dial back the ball and driver, the longer hitters will still be the longer hitters, and will still have an advantage. Lengthening courses makes it easier for longer hitters to win. Growing rough penalizes crookedness – not all long hitters are crooked. “Tricking Up” a golf course does not make it a fair test, it just penalizes the golfer whose weakness you expose. A fair golf course doesn’t penalize only one type of weakness. You can make a golf course as goofy as you want to “protect par” (a misguided and foolish ego-driven concept), just know that most golfer and most fans will dislike that approach. As long as you’re prepared to lose fans and participation for your ego, then have at it, I guess.

        • birdy

          Jun 3, 2016 at 1:13 pm

          relationship to par has zero affect on whether i tune in or not.

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GolfWRX was on site for the final regular season (that’s pre-FedEx Cup Playoffs) event, the Wyndham Championship.

On the ground in Greensboro, we have eight general galleries for you dig into, WITBs for 10 players — including Jooyhung Kim — and a look at some new putters from Odyssey/Toulon.

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GolfWRX is live from our backyard PGA Tour event: the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club.

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GolfWRX headed across the pond this week for the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club.

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