Rapid increase in driving distance is ‘concerning’

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire April 9, 2018 12:10

An annual review of the driving distances by The R&A and the USGA has found that the average drive in 2017 was three yards longer than in 2016 – when usually there is a growth of just 0.2 yards per year.

The organisations analysed nearly 300,000 drives from seven of the major worldwide professional golf tours in 2017. The report, which includes data from studies of male and female amateur golfers, is ‘concerning’, they state.

“The 2015 and 2016 editions of the distance report presented the increases in driving distance since 2003 as a slow creep of around 0.2 yards per year,” state The R&A and the USGA in a joint statement.

“The 2017 data shows a deviation from this trend. The average distance gain across the seven worldwide tours was more than three yards since 2016.

“As noted in previous annual reports, variability in driving distance of four or more yards from season to season on any one tour is not uncommon. However, this level of increase across so many tours in a single season is unusual and concerning and requires closer inspection and monitoring to fully understand the causes and effects.”

Image (Nicolas Colsaerts) courtesy of the NBO Oman Open

The R&A and the USGA state they recognise that distance impacts many aspects of golf and that any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level “are undesirable”.

“Increases in distance can contribute to demands for longer, tougher and more resource-intensive golf courses at all levels of the game.

“These trends can impact the costs to operate golf courses and put additional pressures on golf courses in their local environmental landscape. The effect of increasing distance on the balance between skill and technology is also a key consideration. Maintaining this balance is paramount to preserving the integrity of golf,” adds the statement.

“Building on the extensive research we have undertaken in recent years, we will conduct a thoughtful conversation about the effects of distance prior to making any specific proposals. We remain open-minded and our absolute priority is to ensure that all key stakeholders are involved in an open and inclusive process and that we move forward together in the best interests of golf at all levels. There is no fixed timetable, but we will commence this process immediately and endeavour to reach a conclusion as promptly as possible.”


Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire April 9, 2018 12:10
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1 Comment

  1. Doug April 12, 16:16

    Given that very few courses in the world are used by the professional tours, this is really irrelevant to most ‘normal’ courses. It would be more interesting to see the changes in the driving distances of the scratch and bogey amateur players (if any).

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