News & Opinion

USGA, R&A release ‘Distance Insights’ project

Golf's governing bodies detail the increased distance that the ball travels and how it affects the modern game, but they will seek more input before making a decision that could be 1 year away

The USGA and R&A released the findings from their “Distance Insights” project, a report that details the steady increase in distance in golf, the governing bodies announced Tuesday.

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Bigger, stronger and faster. That defines the game of Tony Finau, who at 6 feet 4 inches and 200 pounds, looks the part of the modern touring professional. Finau routinely drives the ball 300-plus yards and, with his prodigious length, has forced architects to rethink the look of a modern golf course.

The research documents a 100-year trend of increased hitting distances, plus corresponding lengthening of golf courses worldwide. “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, the USGA’s chief executive officer.

The report cites the modern technology behind clubs and balls, bigger and stronger athletes and their training techniques, plus improved agronomy that promotes extra roll as reasons for the increased distance. No solutions have been determined, but the USGA and R&A will assess potential ways to end the cycle of increased distance. Changes in equipment rules are among the potential solutions. Among the options: using specific golf balls or clubs that result in shorter distances plus the option of a “local rule” for balls or clubs.

However, the governing bodies – the USGA governs the game in the U.S. and Mexico, and the R&A oversees golf in the rest of the world – do not favor bifurcation, i.e., two sets of rules. The USGA and R&A will allow input from manufacturers and others in the golf community to be published within 45 days, with any decision 9-12 months away.

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