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USGA/R&A Distance Insights Project (Updated Feb. 2021)


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I feel the crux of the matter is that we amateur golfers love knowing we can own and play (oftentimes poorly) with the same gear and supplies used by the touring pros.  With bifurcation, especially of the ball, I can see this scenario:  In an alley between the clubhouse and the caddie shack... "Pssst!  Over here.  Mr. DeChambeau. Lay low.  I've got some amateur golf balls I can sell you.  They really fly!"

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I have a few thoughts on the distance debate in golf. Except for the first, they're in no particular order. I'll try to be brief, but we all know how that tends to go… 1. I don't care about the 0

This right here, all my opinion. It's based on what I believe to be true, based on some relevant facts, and it's said with full understanding that none of us can truly know what would happen, so any o

I took the time to expand a little on my stance on distance on another forum, and thought I might post it here as well. I would say, in that vastly different scenario, that the courses should b

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Didn't we just read that the average golfer hasn't really gained any distance. Yes, the tour guys hit it further. Yes, they can make a golf course much easier.  And yes, they are the top .001 per cent of all the golfers in the world.  The gap between the average golfer and a tour pro has never been wider than it is now. Equipment? Physical conditioning? Technology? Yes to all of those.  It seems to me if you want make it tougher, grow the rough up to a ridiculous length about 300-325 off the tee and punish them for hitting into it.  Maybe it's not that simple? This debate will continue after any "rollbacks".  Sometimes...we just evolve. Been happing for thousands of years.

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12 hours ago, Vinsk said:

Distance is a skill. And the farther you hit the ball the bigger risk of being farther off target. Hitting it 325 is harder than hitting it 250 straight.

Yes, that's true. But I think they should make being off target a bigger risk.

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5 minutes ago, Bucki1968 said:

Didn't we just read that the average golfer hasn't really gained any distance.

I didn’t think so, no. They have.

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Where is the PGA on this?

For years they have picked venues that encouraged"bomb and gouge"... that is part of the reason we are where we are...

More importantly have they considered their constituency?  If USGA/R&A starts clamping down on equipment that may have financial implications for tour players. Is it any coincidence that this "research areas proposal" comes out and private equity puts TaylorMade up for sale? 

All equipment companies can sell is "hope"... no hope, no sales. No sales, falling stock price. Margins were bad when Nike got out, and margins will not get better. Further limits on equipment innovation will have an impact on sales. Marketing can only do so much when I player can stand in a launch monitor at Dicks and learn that he hits his 2019 M5 just as good as than 2023 SIM4... why drop $500?

If equipment sales suffer so do endorsements, PING, TM, Callaway, etc going to be paying money in advertisement they can't recoup? 

Also if sales suffer companies may be more inclined to sell non-conforming equipment. Callaway had the ERC (Arnie liked it) and Krank is selling non conforming equipment now. If more and more players ignore the USGA/R&A may have unintentionally created bifurcation and at worst will be ignored by the vast majority of the golfing public who decide - be unlimited... its more fun. 

Baseball/Softball limited bat COR and other equipment for SAFETY... there is no safety argument to be made. If equipment lets me hit distances I hit as a 23 year old player at 48... great. I still have to hit where I am aiming. Thankfully there are no trees left, fairways are manicured and bunkers are soft pillows.

Golf is a game... it's meant to be fun. The world evolves...  

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Listened to 20 minutes of the No Laying Up podcast while picking up lunch today. My takeaway is that this really impacts elite / tour pro players more than the average player. I guess the things being changed / looked benefit fast swingers much more than the typical golfer.  If they can do that without bifurcation I think it's a good thing.

Also as @iacassaid, seems to be more of a drawing of the line than a walking back.

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5 minutes ago, gbogey said:

Listened to 20 minutes of the No Laying Up podcast while picking up lunch today. My takeaway is that this really impacts elite / tour pro players more than the average player. I guess the things being changed / looked benefit fast swingers much more than the typical golfer.  If they can do that without bifurcation I think it's a good thing.

They aren't the most knowledgeable people (not saying I am the ultimate expert here either), nor do they ever really seem to want to see the other side of the argument.

They've never really had a discussion with a guest who is fully on the other side of this than they are, either, so they go largely unchallenged.

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23 minutes ago, iacas said:

They've never really had a discussion with a guest who is fully on the other side of this than they are, either, so they go largely unchallenged.

I wish they would have someone on to debunk some of the stuff they claim. I enjoy the NLU product, but I look at it as more of an opinion/entertainment product, rather than real analysis.

I think it's funny that on one side, NLU is sponsored by Callaway, and their ad reads evangelize about the performance attributes of the Chromesoft balls and new Callaway clubs they all use, but then on the other side, NLU has picked this weird hill to die on by entrenching so deep in their argument for bifurcation and equipment changes to roll back distance.

I had a faint hope when Soly interviewed Keith Mitchell because he sort of disagreed with Soly on the distance issue, but toward the end of the conversation, they were making their points in parallel and there wasn't any interesting discourse.

I haven't heard any argument from NLU with any fact-based substance supporting their stance. And I think (but am not sure), that Soly is completely wrong when he says that tour players get more benefit  than average golfers from modern balls due to their swing speeds, but he keeps coming back to this as a cornerstone of a lot of his pro-bifurcation stances.

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45 minutes ago, Darkfrog said:

I wish they would have someone on to debunk some of the stuff they claim. I enjoy the NLU product, but I look at it as more of an opinion/entertainment product, rather than real analysis.

Yeah, it's entertainment. But it's influential on some level, so…

45 minutes ago, Darkfrog said:

I think it's funny that on one side, NLU is sponsored by Callaway, and their ad reads evangelize about the performance attributes of the Chromesoft balls and new Callaway clubs they all use, but then on the other side, NLU has picked this weird hill to die on by entrenching so deep in their argument for bifurcation and equipment changes to roll back distance.

Sure, but on some level, you can respect them more by not caving just because they're sponsored by Callaway.

45 minutes ago, Darkfrog said:

I had a faint hope when Soly interviewed Keith Mitchell because he sort of disagreed with Soly on the distance issue, but toward the end of the conversation, they were making their points in parallel and there wasn't any interesting discourse.

Keith's "side" was pretty shallow, too.

45 minutes ago, Darkfrog said:

I haven't heard any argument from NLU with any fact-based substance supporting their stance. And I think (but am not sure), that Soly is completely wrong when he says that tour players get more benefit  than average golfers from modern balls due to their swing speeds, but he keeps coming back to this as a cornerstone of a lot of his pro-bifurcation stances.

Yeah. Sure, they optimize, but like I've said: if you made drivers 350cc, that's gonna hurt a 10 handicapper more than a PGA Tour player.

His point boils down to that PGA Tour players are better, period. So of course they can "take advantage" more. They can dial in a ball or shaft to spin at 2200 RPM every time instead of getting one hit that's 2150, the next one at 2700, the next at 1700 because the pop it up a bit, etc.

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Here is Rory's take on all of this:

“So I think the authorities, the R&A and USGA, are looking at the game through such a tiny little lens, that what they're trying to do is change something that pertains to 0.1 percent of the golfing community, while 99.9 percent of the people play this game play for enjoyment, for entertainment,” McIlroy said. “They don't need to be told what ball or clubs to use.

“We have to make the game as easy and approachable as possible for the majority of golfers. Honestly, I think this distance insight report has been a huge waste of time and money, because that money that it's cost to do this report could have been way better distributed to getting people into the game, introducing young kids to the game, introducing minorities to the game. I heard [USGA CEO] Mike Davis say something about we're trying to protect the game for the next hundred years.

 

“This isn't how you do it. This is so small and inconsequential compared to the other things happening in the game. It's the grassroots. It's getting more people engaged in golf. That's where they should be spending their money, not spending it on the distance insight report.”

McIlroy was asked if he would be in favor of professionals playing by different rules, to which McIlroy responded in the affirmative.

“Yeah, I would be all for that. If they want to try to make the game more difficult for us or more -- try to incorporate more skill to the game, yeah, I would be all for that, because I think it only benefits the better play, which I feel like I am.”

McIlroy finished by stating golf is “way bigger than the professional game.”

“It's the other stuff that really matters, and that's the stuff they need to concentrate on,” he said.

 

Edited by MiuraMan
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42 minutes ago, iacas said:

But it's influential on some level, so…

Agree, I think NLU has quite a bit of influence. That's why I think it would be cool for them to have a conversation about distance with someone who provides thoughtful opposing arguments to their position. Usually when they discuss distance, the podcast becomes a bit of an echo chamber for their views since they mostly seem to share the same opinion on it. I think I agree with their takes on architecture and course setup as it relates to distance, but then again, they seem to only have the President's Cup at Royal Melbourne as a good example of this, and I'm not sure how practical this example is for the rest of professional golf. I definitely disagree with their takes on equipment changes, especially ball performance, being a solution.

46 minutes ago, iacas said:

Sure, but on some level, you can respect them more by not caving just because they're sponsored by Callaway.

Yes, and it's nice that the sponsor relationship doesn't influence their irreverent style and opinions on certain matters. As far as their insight into the recreational and professional game, they all know a lot more than I do, so I respect them holding their ground in spite of being sponsored by a major equipment maker.

48 minutes ago, iacas said:

Keith's "side" was pretty shallow, too.

It wasn't a strong take by Keith. Seemed like he was saying that the driver clubheads should be smaller, but also agreed and disagreed with Soly on various concepts they talked about, so hard to make full sense of what he was getting at. Maybe he mentioned something about fairway width and deeper rough too, the content all blends together. I've come to tune out the distance stuff on the NLU pod since the takes are mostly recycled.

51 minutes ago, iacas said:

but like I've said: if you made drivers 350cc, that's gonna hurt a 10 handicapper more than a PGA Tour player.

Yes, I would like to keep my 460cc driver, and I'm not even a 10 index.

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Initially, I really like this first step.

I just always find the average driver distance so low to me. I cant think of one 30 year old in my playing groups who is below 230. Have they ever shown an age breakdown of that driver distance?

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7 hours ago, iacas said:

There is a mild safety argument to be made.

And the PGA ≠ PGA Tour.

@iacas
Appreciate the correction... typing so fast I left off Tour. So what is the PGA Tour stance?

What is the safety argument?

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12 minutes ago, BaggerVM said:

What is the safety argument?

Ranges have had to add higher fences. Players hitting the ball farther can hit the ball farther offline, so some courses built in the 40s or something are very compact, and golf balls flying toward another green or fairway on another hole are dangerous. Or into people's yards.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

Ranges have had to add higher fences. Players hitting the ball farther can hit the ball farther offline, so some courses built in the 40s or something are very compact, and golf balls flying toward another green or fairway on another hole are dangerous. Or into people's yards.

Appreciate  the response but this isn't the strongest of arguments

Ranges already use reduced distance balls... I managed more than one in my time. If a range does not have the land space to safely accommodate play it is incumbent on the owner to address the issue. The insurance company will require that.
No regulation proposed will prevent the banana ball. I have met some very fine people in Myrtle Beach and Ocean City Maryland apologizing for hitting a ball in their yard... to which they replied "I'm the one that chose to live on a golf course."

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1 minute ago, BaggerVM said:

Appreciate  the response but this isn't the strongest of arguments

It's not my argument, but it's a valid argument.

2 minutes ago, BaggerVM said:

If a range does not have the land space to safely accommodate play it is incumbent on the owner to address the issue. The insurance company will require that.

And a range that "had" enough distance in 1980 but which now has players flying the fence at the end and into home is dealing with a "safety" issue.

2 minutes ago, BaggerVM said:

No regulation proposed will prevent the banana ball.

Banana balls that go farther also go farther offline. The "potential landing area" for a ball that goes 200 yards is much smaller than the potential landing area for a ball that goes 275.


One of the courses that I grew up playing would occasionally have someone on the 16th green get hit or nearly hit by a ball from the second tee. Ditto players on the first green off the 17th tee.

Now it's far, far more common.

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