USGA and R&A Release Distance Insights Report

The much awaited (by some) Distance Insights Report from the United States Golf Association and the R&A has finally been published.

The two leading golf associations say they reached back a full century to compile data for the report, leaning on stakeholder research, to come up with their perspectives and how they feel the distance the golf ball travels could impact the future of the game over the long-term.

You can find the full report at this link.

Now that the report has been released the associations say they will identify related topics of research once they receive feedback from equipment manufacturers and other stakeholders. They plan to publish those topics in the next 45 days.

The bodies both profess certain problems that have arisen from the increase in hitting distance over the last century, but offer no “solutions” to this perceived issue at this point.

At the same time they have identified that many recreational players are playing the courses from overall yardages beyond their abilities, which makes for quite a juxtaposition. The report indicates that while amateurs have gained hitting distance over the last century, the gains have begun to plateau in the last two decades, unlike the pros.

“This is not about the last few years or the next few years but rather about the long-term future of the game,” said Mike Davis, chief executive officer of the USGA. “This report clearly shows a consistent increase in hitting distance and golf course lengths over the last 100-plus years. These increases have had a profound impact on costs to build, modify and operate golf courses and they have impacted golfers at all levels. We believe this problem will continue unless this cycle is brought to an end. With collaboration from the entire golf community, we have an opportunity to stem this tide and help ensure golf remains sustainable and enjoyable for generations to come.”

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said, “We believe we have reached a pivotal moment in golf. The publication of this report is highly significant. The impact of long-term hitting distance increases on some of golf’s essential elements are now clear – including changing the strategic challenge of the sport, altering the balance of skills needed to be successful and risking courses being less challenging or obsolete. Our objective as governing bodies is to work with the key stakeholders in golf to address this issue in a way that brings the sport together and which ensures it continues to thrive for many years to come.”

Both bodies say they will now search for solutions, including a “broad review” of both clubs and balls and also mention the possibilities of Local Rules related to the use of “reduced-distance equipment.”

This is a deep topic that is not going away any time soon.

How it continues to play out will be something to watch for everyone who administers and plays the game.