The USGA and R&A have released their 2017 Distance Report and it shows a dramatic increase in the average distance gain year-on-year.
The annual report, which compiles stats from seven worldwide professional golf tours—the PGA Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Web.com Tour, PGA Tour Champions, LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour—looks at the driving distances of the world’s leading players and amateur golfers.
First introduced in 2015, and looking at driving distances since 2003, the report covers data from more than 300,000 drives each year. Since 2003, driving distance on the men’s tours has increased by around 2.2 percent, while the gains have been around 0.75 percent on the ladies’ tours.
The more recent results found a marginal increase of 0.2 yards per year in 2015 and 2016, but the latest report covering 2017 has shown a marked increase that will surprise very few.
The 2017 distance report results
In it, the 2017 Distance Report has revealed the average gain since 2016 was three yards and it comes at little surprise with widespread concern growing over the increasing distances tour stars are striking drives.
The report stated: “The largest overall increase in driving distance has taken place on the Web.com Tour, which was more than 10 yards longer in 2017 than it was in 2003. The average driving distance on each of the men’s tours monitored was longer in 2017 than at the end of any previous season.
“The average driving distance of the longest (and shortest) players on the European and PGA Tours closely tracks the respective tour average driving distances, including the season-to-season fluctuations. When viewed as percentages, there is consistency both between tours and seasons. The longest 10 players tend to be about seven percent longer than the tour average, whereas the shortest 10 players tend to be about six to eight percent shorter than the tour average.”
The R&A and USGA—golf’s rule makers—are separately undertaking a comprehensive analysis of the impact increasing driving distances is having on the game, and what it might mean for both the future of the game as well as courses lengths.
USGA Chief Mike Davis is one of those who has expressed concerns over the rising distance golfers are driving the ball in recent months. The technological advances that golf club manufacturers and golf ball producers are implementing in new equipment have made the difference; in addition to this, courses aren’t getting longer at the same rate. That is a major worry for Davis.
A complex issue
Davis told SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio: “We do not think that distance is necessarily good for the game. The issue is complex, it’s important and it’s one that we need to, and we will, face straight on.
“What has happened over the years is that as we’ve innovated equipment, what has transpired over the past 100 years is that golf courses have had to expand. New golf courses require more acreage, not only to build a golf course but to maintain a golf course, to walk a golf course, to play a golf course—it takes more time.
“We look at it and as we look to the future we’re asking ourselves saying, we want the game of golf to be fun, we want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what score you should shoot versus the equipment.
“We acknowledge that this new equipment where it’s easier to play the game, more enjoyable to play the game, is great for golfers and we all want that equipment. Just purely from an enjoyability standpoint we all want to increase distance. (But) we want to make sure that we have a game people can enjoy, we want to make sure that the game is sustainable.”