Peter Dawson: The Olympics and driving distances

Emma Williams
By Emma Williams November 13, 2011 16:50

Peter Dawson: The Olympics and driving distances

Sitting in the Copenhagen Conference Centre in late 2009, at the 121st Session of The International Olympic Committee, and hearing IOC president Jacque Rogge announce that golf will again be part of the summer Olympic games is an abiding memory for me. The IOC members had voted in golf’s favour 63 to 27 when many commentators had predicted a closer result and a simple majority was all that was required.

The R&A took a leading role in creating the International Golf Federation’s Olympic Committee that with unprecedented player support won back our rightful place in the games from 2016. Earlier, at the same IOC session, Rio de Janeiro claimed the prize of Olympic host city and we predict around 30 countries will be eligible to send national representative teams to Brazil, including team GB and team Ireland.

The competition format proposed is a 72-hole individual stroke play for both men and women. The requirement to achieve a medal order means that in the case of a tie for first, second or third place, a tiebreaker will be required and a three-hole playoff is the likely format.

At this stage, an Olympic field of 60 players in both men’s and women’s competition is envisaged, using the Official World Golf Rankings as the method of determining eligibility. The top-15 world-ranked players would be eligible for the Olympics, regardless of the number of players from a given country.

Beyond the top 15, players would be eligible based on the world rankings, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top 15.

It will be a slow burn but golf, as one of the elite group of 28 sports in a competition on the world’s greatest sporting stage, will be helped to grow at every level.

Elsewhere, looking at published PGA Tour ShotLink data, players’ driving distance continues to plateau. Indeed, in over 1.4 million tee shots measured in the period 2003 to 2009, the average driving distance is static; around 286 yards. Our own research in the UK amateur game, at club level, reveals increased confidence in playing drivers, with 90 per cent choosing the club from the tee in 2009. However, average driving distance has fallen from 219 yards in 2003 to 212 yards last year.

These simple statistics are growing into a body of evidence that in our regulation of golf equipment we are striking the right balance between technology and playing skill in the game.

Peter Dawson is chief executive of The R&A

Emma Williams
By Emma Williams November 13, 2011 16:50
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