Driving Distance On Tour...Going To Be Reduced?

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By Chris92009

  • 10 Replies
  1. Chris92009

    Cincinnati, Ohio

    As you may have heard 6 our of the 7 worldwide tours have seen an increase in driving distance...which is becoming an annual repeated phenomena. But, Do you know how it is measured? Is it flawed?? If you are interested read on...I realize this is alot of stuff but I could not believe the details and I think you will be surprised at how distances are measured.

    The average driving distance is typically measured on two holes at each tournament and can result in nearly 40,000 shots being measured over the course of a season on some tours. The vast majority of players on the PGA TOUR (94%) and European Tour (96%) use driver on the holes used for measuring driving distance regardless of their driving distance rank. The driving distance, for the sake of the research conducted, is the total distance measured from the teeing ground to the point where ball comes to rest – regardless of the location (fairway, rough, bunker, putting green, etc.). This data is collected on the major tours using one of two methods: Tournament officials will measure incremental distances from the teeing ground, which are then marked on both edges of the fairway of the hole(s) being used for the collection of data. These distance marks are then used by the player, caddie or volunteer collecting the data to determine the distance for a given drive.

    A combination of GPS and laser measuring equipment is used to directly measure the distance of each drive on a hole.

    Driving distance data typically collected on the two holes is selected taking into account via three criteria: The holes should be oriented in opposing directions (to minimize the impact of the wind on the average distance). The holes should preferably both be selected such that the landing area for the drives is flat. Where this is not feasible, the holes would preferably have opposing topography to minimize the effect of slopes on the average driving distance. The holes should be selected to maximize the potential that the golfers will choose to hit their driver (ensuring that the data most closely reflects the distance hit by players using drivers).

    The PGA TOUR introduced the Shotlink system in 2003, which is used at most of its tournaments. This system measures every shot during a tournament, which means that, in addition to the traditional “measured” driving distance on two holes, data are also available for all other par-4 and par-5 holes. The PGA TOUR, Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR Champions Tour calculate the average driving distance based on all available shots by all players competing in their events. However, only the players who have played a predefined number of qualifying rounds are included for presentation in the end of season summary statistics.

    In recent years a player would typically need to play 50 rounds on the PGA TOUR, 35 rounds on the Web.com Tour or between 35 and 40 rounds on the PGA TOUR Champions Tour for inclusion in the end of season summary statistics. The European Tour only collects data for full members of the tour and subsequently only players who have played 10 or more rounds will be included for presentation in the end of season summary statistics. The Ladies European Tour typically collects data only for full members of the tour, although the data for non-members who fill in a stats card may be included within the raw data. The LPGA reports data only for players who over the course of a season have participated in a minimum of 10 events or 1/3 of the total number of official events, whichever is fewer.

    Further analysis shows a comparison of these major professional tours, both men’s and women’s, indicates that the average driving distance on the men’s tours has increased by approximately 2.2% since 2003 until the end of the 2017 season, with a more modest average increase of 0.75% being observed on the ladies’ tours.

    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 7% longer than the tour average, whereas the shortest 10 players tend to be about 6-8% shorter than the tour average.

    In 2017, the average clubhead speed was 113.9 mph, with an average launch angle of 11.1° and average spin of 2,578 rpm (anyone who has been properly fitted will notice a parallel to these numbers!). The 90th percentile for clubhead speed was 120.1 mph. These values are very close to the test conditions for the Overall Distance Standard (launch angle of 10°, backspin of 2,520 rpm and a clubhead speed of 120mph), which regulates ball distance.

    The PGA TOUR has used a TrackMan RADAR system to measure launch data at tournaments as part of the Shotlink system since 2007. Data is typically collected on one or two par 4 or par 5 holes at each tournament; although these holes are not always the “measured” driving holes (only 19 out of 38 holes on which RADAR data was reported in 2017 were “measured” driving holes). Since the introduction of logging club selection for tee shots in 2012, this launch data is only reported for shots that are hit with a driver. In practical terms this results in the exclusion of approximately 500-600 shots each year (from a population of 12,000-16,000) and as such its believe it has only a very minor effect on the value of the average launch conditions, according to the USGA and R&A research.

    According to the research, the average clubhead speed has increased by 1.5 mph from 2007 to 2017 and ball speed by 3.4 mph. Launch angle in 2017 is 0.3° higher than the 2007 value, while spin is 236 rpm lower in 2017. It is also noteworthy that the launch condition set-up for the Overall Distance Standard is 10° and 2,520 rpm at a clubhead speed of 120 mph.

    Interesting enough, CEO of the PGA of America, Pete Bevacqua was on on Michael Breed's radio show (A New Breed of Golf) and indicated rolling back the golf ball would not be good for the game. Its his belief that the distance issue shouldn't be on the top of the list of priorities for the game. He believes the challenges to golf is time.

    If you want to read more, check out the USGA 2017 Distance Report. www.usga.org/.../2017-distance-report-final.pdf

    So, there you have it...all the details on driving distance to possible to better formulate an opinion on driving distance and the ball...what are your thoughts?

  2. Barry B

    Barry B
    Lake St Louis, MO

    Another interesting take on the subject of this article from golf channel.com which talks about the Titleist/Acushnet response to the distance debate.

  3. Chris,

    You have put together a great collection of data. However, my gripe over all of this conversation is that it is based on the "pro" tours, and Mr. Davis of the USGA is concerned that the "game of golf" will be hurt by this increased distance. My contention is that what the "pros" do does not have a bearing on me. I'm almost 70 yrs old and on a good day I can drive my Titleist about 225-230 yds. I play 45-50 rounds per year and none of them is on a course that holds any kind of pro tournament. As such I could care less if DJ adds 2-3 yds on his drives while playing Pebble Beach or any other top notch course (a concern of Mr. Davis and Mr. Nichlaus). I AM the game of golf, not the top 1-2% of players. If the ruling bodies decide to reign in the ball it will hurt "the game of golf" more for us weekday players than the pros. It will mean that I will take more shots to get to the green since all shots, not just drives, will go shorter. So coming into the green with a 7 iron instead of a 9 iron will mean that I will miss the green more often than I do now and that it will take me longer to play a round. And we all know that pace of play is as much of a concern for the "game" as the "pros" driving distance. My view is that if the USGA and R&A are that worried about distance, then they should shorten the ball for the elite tours and leave the rest of us alone. Bifurcation be damned. Fairways and greens to all.

    Mark F
  4. J.R. F

    J.R. F
    La Porte, IN

    Mark F, I agree with you completely. I am in my mid-50s and I am lucky to carry it 230 yards on 14 holes in a round. I think that they need a different ball for the pros and leave us short hitters alone.
  5. tdogg21

    Chambersburg, PA

    It was interesting to see how the R&A and USGA interpreted the data completely differently than the PGA and PGA Tour. Poulter posted to instagram the letter sent to all of the Tour players. Basically it said that over the past 15 years distances have increased 3 times and decreased 5 times. They also made a point to say the average age has gone down and the average height has gone up.

    When I read the report, I thought the USGA was going to come out and say there was no evidence the ball is going to far and there are many other factors contributing to the slight increase in distance. With all of the advancements in fitness, diet, and club technology, I would've expected a larger jump than 6.6 yards in 15 years!
  6. Rooster

    West Wareham, MA

    This is what I call fuzzy math. The ball has certain limitations by rule. It is a simple thing to point at for this. What about the improvement's in equipment? how about that the average golfer is taller ( longer swing arc) or fitter? What about the course conditions and the improved equipment and varieties of grasses? we can go on and on. Let's be fair with this. Look at all the factors..
  7. Don O

    Don O
    Madison, WI

    Agree whole-heartedly with Mark F. Among the 98% of us that average under 275 (and that average is under 210) yards - what courses is Mr. Davis worried they will need to extend for us? Or is he more concerned about the 0.001% of players that generate the money through the Open that pays his salary? Somewhere in the R&A stats, the average distance in the higher handicaps actually declined. So if 90% of golfers never consistently break 90 - we need balls for the vast majority of golfers to go longer. If the USGA represented ALL golfers.
  8. Thomas K

    Thomas K
    Steamboat Springs, CO

    Once you create a shorter ball that will be used at PGA/USGA tournaments, all seven year olds will have to play that ball. All high school golfers will have to play that ball. All college players will have to play that ball. All the tours that send players forward to the major European and US and Asian tours will require using that shorter ball. All USGA sanctioned tournaments will require using that shorter ball. The Metropolitan Golf Association, the Chicago District Golf Association, the ......Whatever Golf Association will require using that ball. Your local club for events that qualify for USGA participation will require that shorter ball. So, even though the VAST majority of players have no issue with the current ball, all of us will be affected. The USGA is staffed with a lot of very smart people, who, over many years, have made a lot of very bad decisions. The short ball will turn out to have been the worst.
  9. Allen L

    Allen L
    Clarington, OH

    I don't think ball performance is a problem. The pro's are a different lot, compare todays pro's on the PGA tour with those just 20 years ago. The pro's playing today are overall physically conditioned for a powerful golf swing. Today's pro's are adding some excitement to the game with those long drives. USGA and R & A may think there is a problem with ball performance when there really isn't.
  10. Are the balls better today, then 10 years ago? Yes they are, but the telling statistics in the article are, club head speed is up 1.5, launch angle is up, and rpms are down. what does that mean? The ball goes further
    My opinion, dont’ let them use trackman. If you haven’t been able to use one, they are amazing. Besides your swing speed, you can dial in your swing, to improve launch angle and decrease rpm’s. Which in turn, makes the ball go further with he driver. Along with every other club in the game
    These guys and women are more of an athlete now, then they were just 20 years ago. Stronger, bigger, more flexible, that right there, increases club head speed. Like everything else, instead of looking at the big picture, they are looking for a quick fix
  11. Edward K

    Edward K
    Wesley Chapel, FL

    I'm 52 and can carry it 280+. Not bragging, but is that MY fault? Back the driver off, it's less complicated. We're only talking decimal points on the COR. Why are we complicating this issue? That way there is no arguing on the first tee as to whether your ProV1 is a 2017 issue, or the new conforming issue. All this because of a few yards in distance gains, when the truth is, a lot of the measured holes on Tour are 3-wood holes for a lot of guys.....Here's the real bottom line, what % of golfers actually compete in anything sanctioned by the USGA? That number is very small.......

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