So the powers that be that govern our great game of golf have recently released a distance report. The report filed and submitted by the USGA and the R&A have determined that gains in length has and will continue to be detrimental to the game of golf. If you’re anything like me, I would have like to have been warned before such a shocking epiphany and observation was made.
Below is a summary of the key findings of the report.
- There is a 100-year trend of hitting distance increases in golf, as well as a corresponding increase in the length of golf courses, across the game globally the USGA and The R&A believe this continuing cycle is detrimental to the game’s long-term future.
- The inherent strategic challenge presented by many golf courses can be compromised, especially when those courses have not or cannot become long enough to keep up with increases in the hitting distances of the golfers who play from their longest tees. This can lead to a risk of many courses becoming less challenging, or obsolete.
- Increased hitting distance can begin to undermine the core principle that the challenge of golf is about needing to demonstrate a broad range of skills to be successful.
- If courses continue to lengthen, it is at odds with growing societal concerns about the use of water, chemicals and other resources.
- Longer distances and courses, longer tees and longer times to play are taking golf in the wrong direction and are not necessary for a challenging, enjoyable and sustainable game.
- A concern has been identified that many recreational golfers are playing from longer tees than is necessary relative to their hitting distances, and, in particular that the forward tees on many golf courses are very long for many of the golfers who play from them.
With these key findings, it further led to discussions about equipment rollbacks and discussions about agronomy. I’ll be honest. I’m almost shocked that it took a panel from these two organizations to figure this out. In a way, for them to actually have to put something like this together tells me that “they” were almost out of touch with the game. You couldn’t see this coming before it happened? Life in “Ivory Towers”.
I have long said over social media that the ongoing “distance crisis” is multi-pronged. Everything is a factor but they all have one word in common with one another. Technology. Technology as far as golf equipment, golf balls, agronomy, R&D as far as technology and how golfers are trained and the beat goes on. The issue does not really revolve strictly around golf equipment and golf balls.
But as far as equipment goes, does the massive increase in distances really apply to the recreational golfer? You know, the golfer like yourself reading this article. The consumer that walks into your average golf retailer and purchases the equipment, balls, apparel, and more? While some golfers have noted some gains in improving the distance that they hit a golf ball the majority of golfers have not. Moreover, for all of these golfers have their respective handicaps plummeted from a 15 to a 5 like a magical bean bought from a farmer?
The ongoing distance debate and discussion of “rolling back” of the golf ball has been so tiring. It’s gotten old and yet here we are. Here I am talking about it.
The notion of golf courses becoming too long and obsolete only applies to the Top 1% golfers of the Top 1% in the world. The issue really surrounds itself around TOUR players and most notably the “guys”. Research that I conducted of the LPGA Tour (as far as driving distance goes) showed an increase of 22 yards between 1999 and 2019. Anne Van Dam led the way in 2019 at 283 yards. Anybody know who the leader was in 1999? Jean Bartholomew.
Not once, have I heard while working in a pro shop during my time working in the golf industry a golfer come in and state that he’s hitting the golf ball too far. At this point, to roll golf balls or golf clubs back for the other 99% would be both counterintuitive and counterproductive. It doesn’t apply to them. It makes a ton of sense doesn’t it to have these golfers hit the golf ball shorter distances when all of the marketing types from the majority of golf manufacturers have been touting their “longest, most forgiving ever” for years.
Dear R&A and USGA:
If you want to roll equipment and balls back… fine. But only for the elite golfers playing professional tour golf, collegiate and/or amateur golf at the highest of levels. For the rest of the golfers just leave it the way it is. Yes, recreational golfers have a certain duty and obligation to play the approrpiate tees for their skill level/distance. Nobody, wants to hit the golf ball shorter.
As far as golf courses being rendered obsolete. I hate to sound like a broken record withon my own pages but let the superintendents at these professional events have fun. Let them protect “their” golf course. Grow the rough out, narrow the fairways, water the daylights out of the fairways, and firm up the greens and let them be like lightning week in and week out.
Recreational players, you too have a duty and obligation. Play the appropriate tees for your skill level and distance that you hit your clubs.
Until The Next Tee!!