New research document examines modern driving distances

New research document examines modern driving distances
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

A new research document from the United States Golf Association (USGA) and The R&A has examined driving distances in modern professional golf.

The document has been created using data from seven Tours, including PGA Tour data dating back to 1968.

The latest research has found that between 2003 and the end of the 2015 season, the average driving distance on four of the seven Tours increased by 1 per cent, or 0.2 yards per year. The average driving distance on the other three Tours in the same period decreased by around 1 per cent.

The research found an equal split of players being both ‘long’ and short’ when driving, indicating no major shift towards distance hitting.

There has also been a level of stability in terms of the average launch conditions on the PGA Tour, with regards to clubhead speed, launch angle, ball speed and ball backspin.

In 2002, the USGA and The R&A confirmed their respective commitment to the notion that skill rather than technology should be the primary determinant to golfing success – something iterated in the co-authored Joint Statement of Principles document. Since then, the USGA and The R&A have monitored the effect of equipment technology, while considering other factors such as course set-up, athleticism and coaching.

In certain situations, new rules have been introduced after discussions with equipment manufacturers and stakeholders. This is in accordance with the Equipment Rule-making Procedures that were produced in 2011.

“Hitting distance is, and has long been, a constant subject of healthy and spirited debate in golf,” said Mike Davis, executive director/CEO of the USGA. “We want everyone in the game to have access to the facts, to better understand the decision-making process and the research we use to ensure that our game is both enjoyable and sustainable for future generations.”

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said: “I believe it is important in terms of good governance and healthy for the sport to achieve greater transparency on key issues such as driving distance. We have decided to publish this report on distance data and will do so each year in the future. This is clearly a frequently debated topic in golf which elicits strong views. By publishing the data we can help to inform the debate and ensure reliable information is available.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

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