Various stakeholders in the game of golf are weighing in on the joint U.S. Golf Association and R&A 2017 Distance Report, and several key players – Titleist among them – have urged the governing bodies not to rush to judgment.
The USGA and R&A released their 2017 Distance Report on Monday, stating that professional golfers on the seven measured tours around the world averaged 3 more yards off the tee. The governing bodies said in the report that they would work with the game’s stakeholders to study distance gains in recent years.
Titleist, the leading provider of golf balls to players on the PGA Tour and other tours, wrote in response that one year’s data should not be enough to change equipment regulations after more than a decade of small, incremental distance gains. Titleist also said, “our findings continue to support the fact that equipment regulations have been effective. …
“There were several contributing variables in 2017, including course selection and set-up, agronomical conditions and weather, which need to be considered when assessing the data,” Titleist continued.
Titleist isn’t alone in urging caution. PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan also expressed reservations about any attempts to roll back equipment or make other changes.
“Having carefully reviewed the data, we do not believe the trends indicate a significant or abnormal increase in distance since 2003 or from 2016 to 2017,” Monahan wrote to his players. “Rest assured, we will continue to collaborate and share data with the USGA and the R&A – along with other industry stakeholders – in monitoring these trends, as we have since 2003, and are hopeful our perspectives will align.”
Callaway Golf declined to comment and the report, and an e-mail to TaylorMade Golf drew no response.
Below is Titleist’s complete statement about the Distance Report:
Distance Study 2017: Equipment Regulations Remain Effective
As a proud stakeholder in the game, Acushnet Company is deeply committed to golf’s future health. Following today’s publication of the 2017 Distance Report by the USGA and The R&A, it is important to ensure this topic is considered with balance and through a wide lens.
“As a leader in the golf equipment industry, our team is conditioned to evaluate data to best understand contributing factors and root causes,” said David Maher, CEO and President of Acushnet Company. “It is with this intent that we analyzed the 2017 Distance Report, and our findings continue to support the fact that equipment regulations have been effective.
“A closer look into the numbers in the Report underscores the complexity of making any meaningful year-to-year comparisons,” continued Maher. “There were several contributing variables in 2017, including course selection and set-up, agronomical conditions and weather, which need to be considered when assessing the data.”
Below is a sampling of key findings from our research that impacted distance results in 2017:
• At the 33 PGA Tour events conducted at the same venue in 2016 and 2017, where data was collected, the average driving distance increased +0.5 yards. At the eight events held at new venues in 2017, the average distance increased +8.0 yards.
• Of these 33 PGA Tour events conducted at the same venue, 15 tournaments had a decline in average driving distance with one event flat to prior year. This highlights the year to year variability in distance.
• The major championships conducted at new venues represented one-third of the total average driving distance gained in 2017: U.S. Open (Erin Hills vs. Oakmont +20.4 yards), Open Championship (Royal Birkdale vs. Royal Troon +8.1 yards) and PGA Championship (Quail Hollow vs. Baltusrol +7.0 yards).
• The 2017 Masters average driving distance declined -0.4 yards.
• Of the 25 Web.com graduates in 2016, 24 had shorter average driving distance on the 2017 PGA Tour, with an average decrease of -6.6 yards. For the years 2015 to 2017, 74 of the 75 graduates had shorter average driving distance on the PGA Tour the following year. This can be attributed to course set-up.
“In any given year there are variables that impact distance, and any movement as in 2017 is not suddenly indicative of a harmful trend,” said Maher. “We continue to believe equipment innovation has benefitted golfers at all levels, and our analysis of the 2017 Distance Report affirms that the USGA and The R&A have effective regulations in place to ensure the game’s health and sustainability. We look forward to continued dialogue with the governing bodies and stakeholders as we seek to position the great game of golf for future success.”