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USGA Seeking Feedback on Distance "Issue"

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Update (9-19-18): https://www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=153511775654 <---- Visit that URL and complete the survey, please!


http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/advancing-the-game/distance-insights.html

Many of you have shared their feedback here (the topic below), but the USGA is courting it at the URL above:

Have at it!


The USGA and The R&A Launch Golf's Global Distance Insights Project

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. USA AND ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (May 15, 2018) - The United States Golf Association (USGA) and The R&A have launched a comprehensive project to analyze distance in golf and gather perspectives from the worldwide golf community.  

The Distance Insights project will examine distance through a multi-pronged approach that includes global stakeholder engagement, third-party data review and primary research. Focus groups and discussion forums will play an important role in the project, to secure a broad range of perspectives throughout golf.

Beginning today, anyone interested in the topic can provide feedback by visiting usga.org/distanceinsights or randa.org/distanceinsights or by emailing either association directly.

“The topic of increased distance and its effects on the game have been discussed for well over a century. We believe that now is the time to examine this topic through a very wide and long lens, knowing it is critical to the future of the game,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. “We look forward to delving deeply into this topic and learning more, led by doing right by golf, first and foremost.”

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “Distance in golf is a complex issue which is widely debated at all levels of the sport. It is important that we collate all of the relevant data and hear the many different perspectives on this issue that exist in the international golf community. We intend to conduct this process openly, comprehensively and promptly and will work with all of the key stakeholders to ensure we have a fully rounded view of distance and its implications.”   

Stakeholder groups invited to participate in the project include amateur and professional golfers, worldwide professional golf tours, golf course owners and operators, golf equipment manufacturers, golf course architects, golf course superintendents and others. 

Among the many topics to be explored, the organizations will seek distance-related data on pace of play, golf course construction and maintenance practices, the evolution of equipment, golf course design and player enjoyment and participation.

The USGA and The R&A will engage various golf industry stakeholders through 2018, with plans to deliver a report in 2019.

Edited by iacas
Added link to survey

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I posted a comment. The survey is literally one page, so type what you think into that first box.

I don't believe that distance is in need of regulation at this time, nor in the future.

The fact of the matter is that modern-day PGA Tour players are hitting the ball farther. This is due to multiple things:
a) Better athletes playing the game.
b) An understanding that being closer to the hole generally reduces scoring, encouraging players to hit it farther and seek out distance over accuracy in many cases.
c) Longer, lighter, larger clubheads and shafts.
d) Players swinging faster (a combination of a-c).
e) The ball is essentially a controllable mid-90s Pinnacle or Top-Flite - the manufacturers found a way to add short-game spin to the distance the solid-core balls had for decades.

On the amateur side of the game, it's two-fold. First, the average amateur has always and likely will always continue to play "distance balls." In the 1990s they were Pinnacles or Top-Flites - today they're very similar models whether they're the Bridgestone e6 or the Titleist Velocity or whatever.

Better recreational golfers will spend their $27 to $45 on better balls, and yet will often continue to be perfectly content to play courses at 6000 to 6500 yards.

Though I do not think there is even a "distance problem" at all, the "problem" that some people perceive to exist is - at most - a "problem" only for a small percentage of golfers: the game's elite. The PGA Tour players, Web.com Tour players, and some better college players. That's about it. Even the LPGA is still seeing players play at courses that are 6400 to 6600 yards.

I do not support changing the game because some people think that a few PGA Tour players hit the ball too far. I don't support a whole-game "roll-back" of the golf ball, and I would object to bifurcation of the sport even more loudly.

I don't believe that, given the current rules and regulations regarding equipment, that there is any need at all to reduce the distance any class of player is hitting the ball. We're at the physical/scientific limits of what can/should be done within the current regulations: distance has plateaued as it relates to swing speed. We understand modern launch conditions. Marketing aside, ball manufacturers haven't done a thing to find "more distance" in a decade or so (nor have club manufacturers).

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For the most part this distance issue impacts the professionals more than the amateur.

I supposed if left unchecked, ball manufacturers will come up with a ball that will fly 400 yards for longer hitting professional. I am of the belief, that for the most part, all today's golf balls fly the same distance, all things being equal. 

I think today's longer professionals are just in better shape to swing faster than today's shorter hitters on tour. I also think today's technology would have had yesteryear's golfers hitting longer shots than they did back then. 

I might be wrong, but I am of the opinion that the longer hitting pros win more tournament. If true, then dialing the ball back, would bring more competitive value to the pro ranks. We'll never see a +5 pro giving strokes to a +1 professional. 

 Fans love the long ball, and longer would probably be better for the galleries. That promotional part needs to be of some concern. 

My take right now, is leave the distance issue alone. Just tell the manufacturers, no juiced up equipment till further notice. Truth be known, I don't really care what the pros do. 

 

As for the amateur, and ball distance, I can see where longer distances can promote slower play. The longer hitters, waiting for the shorter hitters to get out of the way scenario. That will never change regardless of what they do with equipment. I'm a short hitter. Give me a legal, longer distance ball, and that longer guy is still going to out distance me with the same ball. That's fine with me. I can use the extra distance. 

The only fix I can see, at any level of play, is a limited flight ball, that basically goes the same distance, no matter how fast a swing is put on it. That is just not fair to those players who put in the extra effort as far as swing training. 

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5 minutes ago, Patch said:

As for the amateur, and ball distance, I can see where longer distances can promote slower play. The longer hitters, waiting for the shorter hitters to get out of the way scenario. That will never change regardless of what they do with equipment. I'm a short hitter. Give me a legal, longer distance ball, and that longer guy is still going to out distance me with the same ball. That's fine with me. I can use the extra distance. 

The only fix I can see, at any level of play, is a limited flight ball, that basically goes the same distance, no matter how fast a swing is put on it. That is just not fair to those players who put in the extra effort as far as swing training. 

Thats kind of the way i see it. To me its one of those "no win" situations, whatever the USGA/R&A decide someone ends up being unhappy. Leave it as it is for the moment seeing as bi-furcation isn't an option.

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21 minutes ago, Patch said:

I supposed if left unchecked, ball manufacturers will come up with a ball that will fly 400 yards for longer hitting professional. I am of the belief, that for the most part, all today's golf balls fly the same distance, all things being equal. 

Unless I'm really misunderstanding "if left unchecked," this I don't understand.

The golf ball industry is not "unchecked." The Overall Distance Standard applies. Golf balls aren't unchecked. They go about as far as they can go, and we've been there for a decade or more. As it relates to clubhead speed, golf ball distance has been the same for a long time.

If the regulations were removed, yeah, they could probably create a ball that went 400 with a 115-MPH clubhead… but those regulations are not going to be removed.

21 minutes ago, Patch said:

I might be wrong, but I am of the opinion that the longer hitting pros win more tournament. If true, then dialing the ball back, would bring more competitive value to the pro ranks.

I don't know if that's accurate. The longer hitters will still be the longer hitters.

21 minutes ago, Patch said:

My take right now, is leave the distance issue alone. Just tell the manufacturers, no juiced up equipment till further notice. Truth be known, I don't really care what the pros do.

I agree with the first part, but again… to the second… not sure what you mean. They're all "juiced" as much as the rules and regulations allow now.

21 minutes ago, Patch said:

As for the amateur, and ball distance, I can see where longer distances can promote slower play. The longer hitters, waiting for the shorter hitters to get out of the way scenario. That will never change regardless of what they do with equipment. I'm a short hitter. Give me a legal, longer distance ball, and that longer guy is still going to out distance me with the same ball. That's fine with me. I can use the extra distance. 

The only fix I can see, at any level of play, is a limited flight ball, that basically goes the same distance, no matter how fast a swing is put on it. That is just not fair to those players who put in the extra effort as far as swing training. 

Agreed.

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11 minutes ago, Patch said:

I supposed if left unchecked, ball manufacturers will come up with a ball that will fly 400 yards for longer hitting professional. I am of the belief, that for the most part, all today's golf balls fly the same distance, all things being equal. 

I doubt it. The golf ball speed off the driver is regulated. 

Here is Clubhead Speed (Blue: 2008, Orange: 2007, Gray: 2016, Gold: 2017)
Last year you really saw a jump in the number of golfers who have faster swing speeds. You can see that the graphs are shifting leftward (faster swing speeds).

Clubhead Speed.jpg

The obvious question to ask, are PGA Tour players just hitting driver more often? If they hit it 20% more often, that can boost swing speed.

I think there are more golfers who swing faster. It's just feels like the natural progression golf has taken from when Tiger made golf super popular. All these young kids who idolized Tiger are finally joining the ranks. Instead of going out for other sports they picked golf.

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1 hour ago, Patch said:

The only fix I can see, at any level of play, is a limited flight ball, that basically goes the same distance, no matter how fast a swing is put on it. That is just not fair to those players who put in the extra effort as far as swing training. 

Would be interesting if it were possible to engineer a ball that would artificially compress distance differences between swing speeds but still fly a reasonable distance.  Like, the distance spread is of course compressed for limited flight balls.  But could you even make a limited flight ball that would perform more or less like a regular ball but where a 115mph SS drive would fly 215 but an 85mph SS drive would fly 195?

As a longer amateur, distance is one of my advantages and this would very much hurt my score, so of course I'd be against that :-) But just wondering if it would even be possible, and what kind of effect that would have on the game.

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I must say that I don’t see a massive wave of long hitters overpowering my home course.  Even when there is a college tournament at the course it holds up just fine. And, I’m mainly concerned about my own game, not the pro tour. I’m well into the back 9 of my golfing life when every yard off the tee becomes precious.  Hope they don’t forget about the seniors ...

Edited by easyjay39402

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7 hours ago, easyjay39402 said:

I must say that I don’t see a massive wave of long hitters overpowering my home course. 

I feel very much the same way.

I just don't understand the issue. I know there are some long hitters out there, but I just don't see them on the courses I play. Several times a year I'll play with others who are much younger than I am. I'm just not witnessing many who drive the ball beyond 250 yards. While these folks are more skilled than I am, they'd still get their asses handed to them by playing from the tips at most of the local courses. 

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Hitting the ball long for an amateur can have equally detrimental effects if accuracy isn't increased by the same amount. For the pros I would actually think shortening the courses would prove more beneficial. Then everyone is on a more similar platform.

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I think the whole thing is pretty silly. Sure equipment has gotten better. But that's true for every single piece of equipment. Irons are stronger lofted without sacrificing the ability to get them airborne. Golfers have gotten better. There aren't too many Craig Stadler body types out there. Probably most important to the increase in distance is the pairing of the correct equipment to optimize ball flight. Having proper monitors such as Trackman, etc just about anyone can find the best combo of equipment for them (except me, I can't tame the spin monkey no matter what I do equipment wise, I need to see the swing doctor). 

There are already limits on CT, ball flight, etc. there are so many ways that they can make distance less of an advantage without FURTHER limiting the the ball. Things such as making sure everyone maintains at least a BAC of .15 on each hole (kidding!), or simply narrowing the longer landing areas and adding hazards as appropriate (although it seems like bunkers are hardly even penal for the pros unless they get unlucky and are right up against the lip-they're such good ball strikers that these rarely hold them back). 

Personally I like seeing the pros go low. I could care less if the winning score is -30. Those guys are good. There's a reason why they're paid to play a game that we have to pay to play. Trick out the US Open to try to have a score of around par, but otherwise let them rip and if they all become birdie fests, so much the better. If you can shoot 63 from 7500 yards you deserve to win. Just as long as the other guys aren't shooting 62's. Then they deserve to win. Unless the fairways were asphalt and 100 yards wide I'm not shooting a 63 from that length. I'm also not doing it from 6,000. My best is flirting with par very occasionally from 6k. 

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Just keep moving the black tee's further and further back - problem solved.  The rest of us mere mortals just keep playing as we always have. 

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What was the name of that ball invented by Nicklaus and somebody else that would fly -- what -- half as far?   And that was 40 years ago.   

Problem I see is in golf course economics.   Longer hitters using modern equipment = need for longer championship courses = higher investment in land + higher maintenance costs + more time required for ordinary golfers to play (or navigate) the course.  

We need cheaper-to-build and maintain courses that can be played in a shorter time as a choice/alternative to full length courses.   Not a pitch & putt but a course that can be played with driver and hybrids.    A shorter ball would make such a course playable with all the usual clubs in the bag.   Lower fees, shorter playing time, fewer lost balls, more players per day, at least as much income to the course management with a lower investment (= higher ROI).     

The technology is there, so why aren't we seeing that type of course?    Is it blind conservatism?   Macho pride in claiming to whack a ball 250 yards?   What?  

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3 hours ago, Shanks_McGurk said:

What was the name of that ball invented by Nicklaus and somebody else that would fly -- what -- half as far?   And that was 40 years ago.

The Cayman.

3 hours ago, Shanks_McGurk said:

Problem I see is in golf course economics. Longer hitters using modern equipment = need for longer championship courses = higher investment in land + higher maintenance costs + more time required for ordinary golfers to play (or navigate) the course.

Are you paying for that? No.

And if you are, because you're a member at one of these courses that are lengthening to attract a PGA Tour stop or something… vote against it, or vote with your feet by switching to one of the thousands of clubs that play great for 95% of golfers at 6500 yards.

3 hours ago, Shanks_McGurk said:

We need cheaper-to-build and maintain courses that can be played in a shorter time as a choice/alternative to full length courses.

I think pace of play is over-stated as a reason. Most people drive carts, and even if you have to walk an extra 1000 yards (quite a lot), that's less than 15 minutes added to the round.

3 hours ago, Shanks_McGurk said:

The technology is there, so why aren't we seeing that type of course?    Is it blind conservatism?   Macho pride in claiming to whack a ball 250 yards?   What?  

Bobby Jones could hit a golf ball 250. It's not like we've doubled how far we hit the golf ball in the last 100 years.

And the average player doesn't hit it 285 very often.

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Can't argue that championship courses are okay as they are.    But others ....

My not very big city lost a golf course this year.    The third in 30 years.     This one was a lighted 9 hole short course, so distance pressures were hardly relevant.    But if they had pushed playing a shorter ball as an option, who knows, they might still be in business.     Given the right ball, a 9 hole short course can play like Firestone, and much faster.     Faster because of not only shorter walking/cart distances but fewer lost balls to look for and less errant shots.     And for evening hours, why not a glow-in-the-dark ball that doesn't fly far?  

Golf courses are threatened by urbanization, gentrification, sky-high real estate prices, taxation, wages and cost of employees, and declining participation in golf.    Is golf going the way of bowling?    Will it become again a game only for the wealthy elite?  

Which adaptation to combat the hemorrhage most harms traditional golf, a shorter ball and more shortened courses -- or garbage can-size holes in the green?    

And remember, this is not either-or, but introducing more choices in how people play at average golf courses.     

 

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6 hours ago, Shanks_McGurk said:

Given the right ball, a 9 hole short course can play like Firestone, and much faster.     Faster because of not only shorter walking/cart distances but fewer lost balls to look for and less errant shots.     And for evening hours, why not a glow-in-the-dark ball that doesn't fly far?  

I would say the PGA Tour players would take the same amount of time over the ball as they do now. Even if you drop 7500 yards to 6800 yards, you'll see round times go from 5 hours to 4.5 hours.

*I just took 7500 yards divided by 300 minutes and used that rate to calculate a time for a 6800 yard course. PGA Tour players are not losing that many golf balls that it's causing them to waste time. Heck, they find more golf balls than Amateurs do because of the crowd and the helpers around the course.

6 hours ago, Shanks_McGurk said:

Is golf going the way of bowling?    Will it become again a game only for the wealthy elite?  

Bowling is played by the wealthy elite? Not sure what bowling alleys you are going to.

 

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I'm really confused/angry/baffled by the USGA's insistence on there being a "distance issue".  Who's complaining?  The rich guys who have to keep modifying their courses to keep up with the PGA Tour players?  It's certainly not me and the rest of the unwashed masses who are struggling to make a half-way decent score. How many professional golfers are bombing it to the point that an eyebrow is raised?  10, 20? Hell, let's say 100.  Let's compare that to the number of golfers who are happy to convince themselves they hit it 250 or the number of golfers who just said f*** it and stopped altogether. 

If the USGA actually did something to reduce a ball's distance, I'll have my own solution to the distance "issue":

1. Play with non-conforming balls (I don't have a handicap and will probably never get one.)

2. Quit playing altogether.

And would the PGA Tour even bother with the USGA's ruling? There's no reason that they can't just say, "nah... we're going our own way on this one." I really think that sooner or later, the USGA is going to do something that basically forces the PGA Tour to do their own thing.

The USGA should worry about the amateur game (or lack thereof) and let the PGA Tour sort their own "problems" out.

I gave the USGA feedback to that effect.

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