05 Feb 2020 | Golf Australia | Industry news |

Golf admits it has a distance problem

by Martin Blake

Golf ball image
The golf ball flies too far, according to a report by authorities. Photo: Getty

Golf’s rules authorities have finally acknowledged what has been clear for a while – that the game has a problem with how far the ball flies.

A joint ‘Distance Insights Project’ by the United States Golf Association and the R & A today produced the firmest stance yet on distance, expressing concern about the impact this had on existing courses and the push toward building longer courses.

But it failed to offer up any short-term solutions.

Nevertheless it is a pointer to changes to the rules perhaps in the next year or so.

“(Any) further significant hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable,” the statement read.

The plan is for the two bodies to create a list of research topics on distance-related matters over the next several months, then institute a review over the following nine months where feedback is sought from equipment-makers and other industry figures.

Then they will make a decision.

“The expectation of every generation that they’re going to hit it longer than the previous generation, we think that is taking golf in the wrong direction,” the USGA’s chief executive, Mike Davis, said during a media conference today. “And we do see some really good opportunities to mitigate these pressures.”

The project studied distances over the past 100 years, and found that by the end of last year, the average drive of the 20 longest hitters on the European and PGA tours was 310 yards (284 metres).

USGA president Mark Newell said: “We don’t know what solutions will be arrived at, or what rules changes will come or when they’ll take effect. But three years from now, five years from now, we’d like to see that we were able to bring stakeholders in golf along to accept the importance of looking ahead.

“This is not about taking the game backwards or taking things away from people. It’s about creating options and conditions that are good for golf on today’s courses and yet-to-be courses. If that happens, even if the effects aren’t felt until further in the future, that will be a positive result.”


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