USGA and R&A release update on Distance Insights Project

SOUTHAMPTON, NY - JUNE 15: An American flag and USGA flags blow in the breeze during the second round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 15, 2018 in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

USGA and R&A release update on Distance Insights Project

Equipment

USGA and R&A release update on Distance Insights Project

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The U.S. Golf Association and R&A jointly released an update to the much-anticipated Distance Insights Project on Thursday morning, and while the two-page release does not include any game-changing announcements, it does give the golf world a better idea of how the game’s governing bodies plan to use all the information and feedback they gathered about distance in 2018.

The goal of the Distance Insights Project is to reveal the key contributors to distance, learn what the impact of distance is now and what it might be in the future. It also aims to discover what distance means to stakeholders such as golfers, course operators, course designers, teaching professionals and manufacturers.

According to the release, the USGA and R&A are finished collecting data and opinions, and more fact-finding work may be done to improve the thoroughness of the final report.

A large portion of the gathered data came from an online survey conducted in 10 languages for the USGA and R&A by SMS, Inc. More than 65,000 responses were collected from 115 countries.

That data, as well as information gathered in meetings and interviews with stakeholders throughout 2018, has been broken into six areas by the USGA and R&A:

  • Historical research: Encompassing more than 100 years of data on course length, par, architectural design, golf participation, equipment evolution and trend data from the game worldwide.
  • Playing research: Including data related to distance, accuracy, scoring, skill, training and the golfer experience, such as pace of play and the cost to play.
  • Equipment: Studying changes to golf equipment and equipment standards over time to include loft and length, clubhead speed, launch conditions, annual driving distance data and rules changes; also including analysis of players and the evolution of biomechanics and fitting.
  • Golf courses and sustainability: Including golf course financial analysis; course closures; changes in physical, environmental and economic footprint; and the evolution of agronomic and maintenance practices.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Including global survey data on current perspectives of distance in golf, as well as in-person and online interviews across multiple stakeholder groups.
  • Playing rules: Assessing historical changes in the game, and the role of the playing rules through time, including terms of competition and local rules.

The update does not state whether one specific area of study will be emphasized more than another, and on several occasions, USGA and R&A officials have stressed that the Distance Insights Project will focus on more than just the rising distance trend at the professional level. As Golfweek reported Jan. 29, the most recent USGA and R&A Distance Report revealed that global driving distance increased by 1.7 yards in 2018 after increasing more than 3 yards in 2017.

While the USGA and R&A are expected to release more updates on their progress, golf’s governing bodies said it will take several months to analyze data that has been collected and that the final Distance Insights Project will not be released until late 2019.

The USGA and R&A have stated that after the project concludes, they will evaluate the findings and decide what actions, if any, need to be made with regard to distance.

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