Originally Posted by iacas
If you (anyone) think distance is a problem, then the ball is likely the easiest way to attack it. BUT you first have to prove that distance is a problem.
We can all crunch the numbers. The point remains anyone who advocates "less distance" needs to prove that distance is a problem.
Designers have long tried to counter scoring with distance. Perhaps better designers should have been more creative.
Agreed, on all points.
You know how I love stats. Numbers are objective. Interpretation is subjective. But when someone complains that long drives are making the game too easy on the PGA Tour, the stats should show a direct correlation over time between driving distance and scoring averages, among other things. Granted, there are other variables that come into play like the fact that course designers have increased the length of courses and added penalizing hazards to compensate for players hitting the ball farther, so it's still subjective.
I couldn't find these numbers presented in the way I wanted, so I crunched them myself taking stats directly from the PGA Tour website.
I took three years into consideration: 1985, 2000, and 2012. I looked at three different stats sheets: Driving Distance, Driving Accuracy, and Scoring Average. On each sheet, I took the top 100 players listed and calculated a simple average (arithmetic mean). My theory (assuming that Jack was correct) was that I would see an increase in average driving distance, a decrease in driving accuracy, but an improvement in scoring average. This was based on the theory that distance usually comes at a sacrifice of accuracy, but that even with the decreased accuracy, player scoring should still be improving because (as many have complained) the rough isn't bad enough to prohibit players from hitting decent approach shots. After all, isn't this the complaint that Jack and others are making?
So here's what I found:
Driving Distance for 100 Longest Hitters
1985 - 17,330 drives went 4,585,670 yards for an average of 264.61 yards per drive.
2000 - 16,930 drives went 4,715,165 yards for an average of 278.51 yards per drive.
2012 - 14,918 drives went 4,415,755 yards for an average of 296.00 yards per drive.
A 11% reduction in the ball would bring today's driving average back to that of 1985. This is why I'd be opposed to a 20% reduction even IF someone can prove it's needed.
So did driving accuracy decrease as I expected? This wasn't a critical piece of the argument, but I just wanted to see if accuracy was being affected in any way by the distance increase.
Driving Accuracy for 100 Most Accurate Hitters
(NOTE: This includes all golf clubs used from the tee, not just drivers)
1985 - 82,686 fairways hit out of 121,523 possible for an accuracy of 68.04%
2000 - 87,360 fairways hit out of 121,164 possible for an accuracy of 72.10%
2012 - 67,861 fairways hit out of 105,000 possible for an accuracy of 64.63%
Not really seeing a huge correlation between distance and accuracy for these three years.
But scoring average should be better, right? I mean, if Jack is saying that the courses are too "easy" for long hitters, then an increase in distance should mean an improvement in scoring.
Scoring Average for 100 Top Scorers
1985 - 636,037 strokes over 8900 rounds for an average of 71.46
2000 - 631,929 strokes over 8950 rounds for an average of 70.61
2012 - 559,758 strokes over 7926 rounds for an average of 70.62
So, since 1985 driving distance has increased 11.8% and scoring average has improved by less than a stroke.
I'm not gonna scroll back and call anyone out, but someone said something about how bad it is now that tournaments were being won by ridiculous scores because the scoring has improved so much with the increase in driving distance. I don't see it. I've seen some awesome scores (like Keegan Bradley's 10-under round at the BN) but it's not happening consistently.
I gotta say, I've tried everything I could to support Jack in a rollback, but I'm with Erik in that there's little evidence that it's a problem. I honestly think TV coverage has just improved a lot and THAT's why we see more guys bombing long drives. We have way more cameras on the course than we did when I started watching/playing back in the early 80s. Add to that the fact that long drives are a hot topic (thanks to guys like Jack) and you get a formula that encourages the networks to show every guy who bombs one, no matter how well they're playing that day. There is a PERCEIVED problem by some, but maybe the media is just guilty of helping make it look worse than it really is.
Golfers are clearly hitting the ball farther because of increased clubhead speed (as shown previously) but it's not making golf significantly easier for them as far as I can see. Part of this, I believe, is because golf course design has evolved to match the game over the years.
As much as some of us hate to see historic courses change their architecture in order to accommodate longer hitters, I feel it's a necessary evil. When given a choice between adding hazards, narrowing fairways, and increasing the "roughness" of the rough vs. hand-cuffing technology by handicapping the golf ball or restricting driver length/shaft weights, I'd rather see the courses change to fit the game (as they have been doing for decades) rather than changing the game to fit the courses.
Maybe fairway bunkers should be a little more difficult, too. It's not much of a "hazard" if you can still reach the green on your 150-yard approach from a fairway bunker. It's also not very "rough" if you can reach the green from a spot 20 yards off the fairway, in my opinion. Leave those conditions for the municipal courses...not the ones on the Tour. But that's really a different subject entirely. There are solutions to the problem. But as Erik has said there is little evidence that there is a problem to begin with.