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USGA/R&A Distance Insights Project

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Greetings,

As some of you may be aware, today at 11 a.m. ET, the USGA and R&A will jointly release the Distance Insights Report as well as an accompanying paper with conclusions based on our findings. You and all of our USGA members are central to our organization, and we wanted to take this opportunity to tell you directly what we have done and what we have planned going forward.

As part of our mission to champion and advance the game, we are determined to lead the way in addressing the key challenges facing golf so that it may continue to thrive for future generations. Recognizing that increasing hitting distance is one of those challenges, the Distance Insights project was launched in 2018 as a joint initiative of the USGA and R&A. The report we are now publishing provides the most comprehensive research and analysis on the past, present and future impacts of distance in golf.

It’s clear from our research that for more than 100 years there has been a cycle of increased hitting distance at all levels of the game and, correspondingly, increases in the length of golf courses. We believe this continuing trend is not in the best interests of the game in the long term and it needs to be addressed.

As we stated at the project’s onset, we are not proposing any solutions in connection with this report. As described in the accompanying paper (Conclusions from the Distance Insights Project: Implications of Hitting Distance in Golf), we will now begin to work on developing and assessing potential solutions. We intend to continue being deliberate and thoughtful during this next phase while inviting participation from across the industry.

I encourage you to visit the Distance Insights homepage if you would like to learn more about the report and conclusions. Thank you for your continued support of our mission.

Best,
Mark Newell, President of the USGA
Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA

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Apparently the full report heavily hints at bifurcation via Local Rule?

Thing is, I don't foresee the PGA Tour adopting such a Local Rule.

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Ugh, I really hope the solution isn’t bifurcation via a local rule. Close to a 0% chance the PGA Tour adopts that rule, and then the whole thing is a waste of time. 

Why are we letting a “problem” that is only a problem for the top 1% of golfers be something that changes the game for everybody?

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12 minutes ago, iacas said:

Thing is, I don't foresee the PGA Tour adopting such a Local Rule.

I agree.  I wonder how the US Open and Open Championship will be affected.  If they decide to adopt the local rule, would the top players opt out? If it turns out to be a simple 5% ball reduction, they could do the calculation like playing at elevation.

I keep thinking about would they do this or that.  At the end of the day, these rules still only effect 1% of players.  Everybody else isn't going to have 2 sets of anything in case where they go has the "local rule" in effect.

Maybe they'll ban drivers all together 😅🤢 keeps everything else the same...  

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In summary, we believe that golf will best thrive over the next decades and beyond if this continuing cycle of ever-increasing hitting distances and golf course lengths is brought to an end. Longer distances, longer courses, playing from longer tees and longer times to play are taking golf in the wrong direction and are not necessary to make golf challenging, enjoyable or sustainable in the future.

If they feel that the equipment has maxed out, though, will the cycle truly continue, or has it already come to an end?

What you can't control is how fast people are able to swing. That might continue to increase. Tough to legislate that, though.

Quote

1. We will assess the potential use of a Local Rule option that would specify use of clubs and/or balls intended to result in shorter hitting distances. The concept is that equipment meeting a particular set of reduced-distance specifications – for example, a ball that does not travel as far or a club that will not hit a ball as far – might be a defined subset of the overall category of conforming equipment. This could allow committees that conduct golf competitions or oversee individual courses to choose, by Local Rule authorized under the Rules of Golf, whether and when to require that such equipment be used. Such a Local Rule option could be available for use at all levels of play, and golfers playing outside of a competition could also have the option to make this choice for themselves.

Hmmmm. Again, I'm not sure I see the PGA Tour saying "Yeah, people will love watching Bubba hit it 265!"

The timeline is a few years in the making:

Quote

This paper provides notice to equipment manufacturers of this overall area of interest under the Equipment Rulemaking Procedures. This means that we are identifying research topics that have the potential to lead to an Equipment Rule change but that no proposals are being made today. We invite input from manufacturers and other stakeholders in the golf community concerning potential equipment-based options to help achieve the objectives identified above. To facilitate that input, within 45 days we will publish a more specific set of research topics. It is anticipated that this important step of gathering input will take at least 9-12 months. After the research is completed and comments are evaluated, if we then decide to propose any rule changes, manufacturers will receive notice of these proposed changes (including a proposed implementation plan) and an opportunity to comment under the Equipment Rulemaking Procedures. The time allotted for this step in the process leading up to a final decision on any proposed rule change would depend on the nature of the proposal.

Then they talk about the "skill" in golf:

Quote

The unifying principle is that success should depend on a golfer’s skill and judgment in choosing among 14 different clubs for tee shots, long and short approach shots, bunker shots, pitching, chipping, putting and a wide variety of recovery shots. This involves many elements of skill, such as hitting distance, distance control, accuracy, shape of shot, trajectory, spin, bounce and roll, and how to play from all types of lies. The player needs to use his or her imagination and judgment in making constant strategic choices about which type of shot to play among many options that differ in style, difficulty and risk/reward potential. Being challenged to display this wide range of skills is part of golf’s essential character, giving players of very different sets of abilities and relative strengths and weaknesses a chance to compete and succeed.

I don't know how that's different now. Some guys will still be longer than others, and speed is a skill.

Quote

Increasing distance can ultimately have a serious effect on where golf is played in elite male competitions, and the game is already seeing this begin to play out. It is unfortunate that courses that once held the highest-level competitions are no longer doing so because they are not considered long enough. More pressing for the future, many more of the most renowned golf courses around the world face a similar risk because it may not be practical for them to get much longer. Such courses may try to retain their challenge by adjusting other course conditions, but this can only go so far given a course’s nature and design integrity and, in any event, such changes eventually can still be outmatched by increasing hitting distance.

Emphasis added, and… like what courses? Name them. The list is very short, and even if it was long, you're talking about a tiny fraction of a percentage of golfers.

7 minutes ago, DeadMan said:

Ugh, I really hope the solution isn’t bifurcation via a local rule. Close to a 0% chance the PGA Tour adopts that rule, and then the whole thing is a waste of time. 

Why are we letting a “problem” that is only a problem for the top 1% of golfers be something that changes the game for everybody?

Yep. And not even 1%. Fractions of a percentage.

1 minute ago, phillyk said:

I agree.  I wonder how the US Open and Open Championship will be affected.  If they decide to adopt the local rule, would the top players opt out? If it turns out to be a simple 5% ball reduction, they could do the calculation like playing at elevation.  

And yet, because they're having to do something "different" than what they normally do, we still wouldn't be seeing everyone playing at their best. It takes a long time for players to adjust to new equipment. Guys will work for months over the winter learning a new ball. A U.S. Open conducted with equipment players part-time messed around with for a few weeks would not be one conducted at the peak of player skill.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

What you can't control is how fast people are able to swing. That might continue to increase. Tough to legislate that, though.

So are they going to make players smoke cigarettes and only eat from Waffle House and KFC to reduce athleticism? No more gym training?

Silly.

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The report is out. Not sure how to get the graph here, but on page 11 of the actual report, there is a graph showing the relationship between average driver distance and rules changes as well as a graph for average driver distance and major equipment changes.  When MOI limits, mulit-layered balls, and spring effects came out, distance didn't really change until 2016.  No equipment and rules changes happened then. I think golfers realized that hitting it as far as possible was advantageous. So distance jumped about 5yds 2016-2017, but has since not really changed. 

They start their conclusions with, well 100 years ago they didn't do this. DUH!  I don't know, it sounds to me like they are creating solutions for non-existent problems. They said that golfers are moving away from courses that max at 6000-6500yds, not because they like to play the tips, but because it doesn't have the "prestige" of being a bombers course.  I don't see it. If that is a reason to choose a place to play, it's likely very low on the list.

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4 minutes ago, boogielicious said:

So are they going to make players smoke cigarettes and only eat from Waffle House and KFC to reduce athleticism? No more gym training?

Silly.

New dress code. Plus fours and sport coats 🙄

Hickory shafts.

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9 minutes ago, billchao said:

New dress code. Plus fours and sport coats 🙄

Hickory shafts.

I'll play my persimmons until the day I die! 

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15 minutes ago, phillyk said:

The report is out. Not sure how to get the graph here, but on page 11 of the actual report, there is a graph showing the relationship between average driver distance and rules changes as well as a graph for average driver distance and major equipment changes.  When MOI limits, mulit-layered balls, and spring effects came out, distance didn't really change until 2016.  No equipment and rules changes happened then. I think golfers realized that hitting it as far as possible was advantageous. So distance jumped about 5yds 2016-2017, but has since not really changed. 

They start their conclusions with, well 100 years ago they didn't do this. DUH!  I don't know, it sounds to me like they are creating solutions for non-existent problems. They said that golfers are moving away from courses that max at 6000-6500yds, not because they like to play the tips, but because it doesn't have the "prestige" of being a bombers course.  I don't see it. If that is a reason to choose a place to play, it's likely very low on the list.

They’re really gonna do something about this .01% issue by golly! Action must be taken. Now as far as  the back stopping; they don’t know what you’re talking about.

Edited by Vinsk

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Just now, Vinsk said:

They’re really gonna do something about this .01% issue by golly! Action must be taken. Now as for the back stopping; they don’t know what you’re talking about.

There's really nothing to be done by the USGA or R&A concerning backstopping, the Rules are clear.  Enforcement by the professional tour officials is the issue there.

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Pulled this from the report, and I think it's the most important chart in the whole report:

1206073680_ScreenShot2020-02-04at9_53_15AM.png.bc58a41440c98174df3912b074e04dff.png

Male amateurs have since a 16 yard increase from 1996 to 2019. But note how the increase is mostly at high handicap levels. This chart account for at least 80% of golf played. Maybe more.  I really fail to see the problem here.

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48 minutes ago, phillyk said:

The report is out. Not sure how to get the graph here, but on page 11 of the actual report, there is a graph showing the relationship between average driver distance and rules changes as well as a graph for average driver distance and major equipment changes.  When MOI limits, mulit-layered balls, and spring effects came out, distance didn't really change until 2016.  No equipment and rules changes happened then. I think golfers realized that hitting it as far as possible was advantageous. So distance jumped about 5yds 2016-2017, but has since not really changed. 

Screen Shot 2020-02-04 at 12.37.14 PM.png

What happened after the yellow area, btw? No regulation? So the "stability" went away?

Also, the PGA emailed members:

Over the last two years, the USGA and R&A embarked on a joint distance study in our game.  Below you will find links to the just released results of that study and a summary report for your review.

In the coming weeks, the PGA of America will be asking for your feedback on all aspects of the report.  Until we can collectively review the data and assess the overall implications on the industry, we will refrain from public comments.

We truly appreciate the two years the USGA and R&A have put into this study and look forward to collaborating with industry stakeholders going forward for the good of the game.  We also look forward to hearing from all of you to better serve our purpose to “elevate and advance the member, profession and game.”

Regards,

Suzy & Seth

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5 minutes ago, iacas said:

Screen Shot 2020-02-04 at 12.37.14 PM.png

What happened after the yellow area, btw? No regulation? So the "stability" went away?

I saw the same thing.  You know better than I, when did the strokes gained evaluations become widely accepted?  Could strategies off the tee have changed substantially in a short time frame based on that stuff?  Or was this perhaps a result of improved clubfitting based on better launch monitor technology?  You could argue that the "age of stability" ended a couple of years earlier, maybe 2014.

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2 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

I saw the same thing.  You know better than I, when did the strokes gained evaluations become widely accepted?  Could strategies off the tee have changed substantially in a short time frame based on that stuff?  Or was this perhaps a result of improved clubfitting based on better launch monitor technology?  You could argue that the "age of stability" ended a couple of years earlier, maybe 2014.

I think the idea that GamePlanning changes took effect around 2015/2016 has a lot of merit, yeah.

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I've said it before, I'll say it again.   make Tour Players go back to wound golf balls.   just having reduced distance golf balls is less fun. That would make the game more boring. keep the distance as is.   Just make the risk/reward a lot more risky if you're trying to swing with everything you've got on every swing.   

You can't control players' swing speeds.  but, you can force a much more spinny ball on them.   Let's see Dustin Johnson go out there and play that power slice with a wound ball.   He'd have to aim 2 fairways to the left just to keep it on this planet.   Per Dean Snell, under standard ball testing a titleist tour balata would spin at about 4,000 rpm off the tee whereas a Titleist ProV1 is spinning at about 2,700.    That's a 48% increase.    

who wouldn't want to see 48% more movement on professional tee shots, now that we have shot tracer?  Bubba golf would be all over the place.   

 

Edited by lastings

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