USGA, R&A seek insights, opinions about distance gains in golf

USGA, R&A seek insights, opinions about distance gains in golf

Equipment

USGA, R&A seek insights, opinions about distance gains in golf

The U.S. Golf Association and R&A are ready to listen to a wide range of insights and opinions about the effects of distance increases in golf.

Coming on the heels of a March report on distance changes in professional golf, the game’s governing bodies on Tuesday morning jointly announced the start of a project that will analyze distance and its effects. It will include input from recreational golfers.

The announcement of the Distance Insights program did not include any plans to roll back distance or curtail distance gains.

In the announcement, the governing bodies stated, “The Distance Insights project will examine distance through a multi-pronged approach that includes global stakeholder engagement, third-party data review and primary research.”

In the March report, it was revealed that the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, PGA Tour Champions and Web.com Tour saw an average increase in driving distance of more than three yards last year. The average driving distance on the PGA Tour last season was 292.5 yards, up 6.6 yards since 2003, while the average on the WEB.com Tour was 302.9, which was 10.6 yards more than the average in 2003.

The initiation of the Distance Insights project is not a surprise, as the USGA and R&A said in March that they would gather as much data on distance’s effects on the game and the golf industry as possible, from as many sources as possible, throughout 2018.

“We believe that now is the time to examine this topic through a very wide and long lens, knowing it is critical to the future of the game,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA, in a press release. “We look forward to delving deeply into this topic and learning more, led by doing right by golf, first and foremost.”

Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA (Getty Images/Sam Greenwood)

The USGA and R&A have spoken with several professional golfers, equipment makers and other individuals in the golf industry, and many more stakeholders will be given a chance to provide their thoughts and ideas. Golf course owners, operators, architects and superintendents will have a chance to tell the USGA and R&A how they see distance affecting things such as pace of play, course construction and maintenance practices, player enjoyment and participation.

Recreational golfers and anyone with a view on distance also can voice an opinion by going to usga.org/distanceinsights or randa.org/distanceinsights.

While some golf fans and pundits have said equipment needs to be rolled back and distance decreased, the USGA and R&A did not state specific plans to curtail distance in their March report about last season’s gains but did state that “any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable.”

“It is important that we collate all of the relevant data and hear the many different perspectives on this issue that exist in the international golf community,” said Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, “We intend to conduct this process openly, comprehensively and promptly and will work with all of the key stakeholders to ensure we have a fully rounded view of distance and its implications.”

The USGA and R&A plan to release their next joint report on distance in 2019, along with the findings of the Distance Insights project.

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