R&A CEO on distance issue: 'A serious discussion is now needed'

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R&A CEO on distance issue: 'A serious discussion is now needed'

Professional

R&A CEO on distance issue: 'A serious discussion is now needed'

KINGSBARNS, Scotland – R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers gave a strong hint Monday that the governing bodies are about to take action on hitting distances in professional golf.

Since taking office in 2014, Slumbers has consistently said distance wasn’t an issue. He’s had a massive change of heart.

The R&A and USGA will produce a distance report next month. Slumbers wouldn’t go into detail, but said the governing bodies will take action based on data in that report.

“Hitting distance is very important to focus in on,” Slumbers said. “It’s not just about the ball, it’s about the hitting distance, and this balance between how much skill and how much technology is available. There’s no doubt in my mind that the technology has made this quite difficult game just a little bit easier, and at a time when we want more people to play the game, I think that’s a good thing. But we do also think that golf is a game of skill and should be reflective of skill.”

USGA head Mike Davis made similar comments last week. “We do not think that distance is necessarily good for the game,” Davis said.

Slumbers says a line in the sand has been crossed.

“There has been a significant move up across all tours,” Slumbers said. “We’re looking at the longest on record average driving distance. It’s caused us as well as our colleagues at the USGA serious concern.

“We had talked for a number of years about slow creep. This is a little bit more than slow creep. It’s actually quite a big jump.

“Our 2002 joint statement of principles put a line in the sand, or purported to put a line in the sand. Our view is when you start to look at this data now, that we have probably crossed that line in the sand and that a serious discussion is now needed.”

Slumbers wouldn’t say what the governing bodies are planning, but they’re intent on reducing distance.

“There are a lot of options. There’s a lot of work still to be done with a lot of people, and engaging with not just the game but the equipment manufacturers and all sorts of things, but that work we now feel needs to be done.”

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