Golf pros on the PGA Tour are swinging faster on average while launching the ball higher into the air with less backspin than in 2007. So says the joint 2017 Distance Report released Monday by the U. S. Golf Association and the R&A. Those modern launch conditions can be a recipe for increased length off the tee.
The governing bodies expressed concern in the report that professionals on the seven tours used to gather data are driving the ball too far. The governing bodies did not specify any plans to roll back distance, or that they planned anything more than increased scrutiny of distance to examine causes and effects. The Distance Report stated that pros on the seven tours saw an average increase of 3 yards in distance off the tee in 2017, a much greater gain than in previous years since the USGA and the R&A started tracking the stats in 2003.
One thing that stood out from the report is the improved launch conditions for PGA Tour players. Tour players in 2017 swung 1.5 mph faster than in 2003 and launched shots 0.3 degrees higher with 236 fewer rpm of backspin.
Golfers normally gain anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 yards of distance per mph of clubhead speed gained, assuming a solid strike. And for highly skilled and powerful players, decreases in backspin combined with a higher launch further boost carry and total distance. (On the flip side, many recreational players gain distance as spin increases, because the spin helps keep the ball in the air longer.)
The average PGA Tour driving distance on two measured holes per round increased 6.6 yards, to 292.5 yards average total distance, since 2003.
Below are the gains in launch condition seen on the PGA Tour since 2007: