That’s the conclusion of the USGA and R&A’s annual distance report which was released overnight amid rumours the governing bodies were preparing to act on driving distance increases at the top levels of the game.
No immediate action was announced though the statement reiterated the intention of the two bodies to act if they believed technology was overtaking skill at the elite levels of the game.
“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.” Press release accompanying the report said.
“The 2017 data shows a deviation from this trend. The average distance gain across the seven worldwide tours was more than 3 yards since 2016.
“As noted in previous annual reports, variability in driving distance of 4 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.”
The debate about distance has ramped up in recent weeks after Jack Nicklaus announced at the Honda Classic he had been in talks with the USGA on the issue.
The 18-time major winner reiterated his long held positon that the golf ball flies too far for the elite player and said he had been asked by USGA Executive Director Mike Davis to help sell the message to the golf public.
Titleist’s recently retired CEO Wally Uihlein, who has been retained by parent company Acushnet to advise and consult on equipment regulation, publicly hit back at Nicklaus’ comments.
“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein told Canadian website SCOREGolf.
“There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive.
“Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology.
“The game’s every day player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”
Former Titleist boss Wally Uihlein (right) with his son, PGA Tour player Peter Uihlein.
While not announcing any intention to roll back the ball or other equipment the USGA and R&A reiterated their position that they are prepared to act swiftly if it is deemed necessary.
“The R&A and the USGA will consider all of these factors contributing to distance on a regular basis,” the report said.
“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.”
The full report can be found here
The press release accompanying the report is below:
The R&A and the USGA have completed the annual review of driving distance in golf, producing a research report that documents and evaluates important findings from the 2017 season.
Introduced in 2015, the annual report examines driving distance data from seven of the major worldwide professional golf tours, based on nearly 300,000 drives per year. The data from studies of male and female amateur golfers is also included.
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. The 2017 data shows a deviation from this trend. The average distance gain across the seven worldwide tours was more than 3 yards since 2016.
As noted in previous annual reports, variability in driving distance of 4 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.
As the review of this issue progresses, the USGA and The R&A remain committed to the spirit of the 2002 Joint Statement of Principles which recognize 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.
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 endeavor to reach a conclusion as promptly as possible.
In conjunction with the publication of the 2017 distance research report, The R&A and USGA are carrying out a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of increased distance on both the playing and overall health of golf.
The USGA and The R&A intend to consolidate previous work conducted by the two organizations, as well as others in the golf industry, regarding the effect of distance on the footprint and playing of the game, conduct new research on these same topics to augment the current state of knowledge of the issues, and, most importantly, in the coming months, engage with stakeholders throughout the golf industry to develop a comprehensive understanding of perspectives on distance. Additional information on this stakeholder engagement will be made available in due course.
Ultimately, The R&A and the USGA remain steadfastly committed to ensuring a sustainable and enjoyable future for golf.
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