Cycle of long hitting distances in golf to be ‘brought to an end’

The chief executive of St Andrews based The R&A says golf has reached a “pivotal moment” as it addresses the long-term impacts of hitting distance.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 9:11 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 1:10 pm
Please credit The R&A. Caption: Martin Slumbers has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of The R&A and Secretary of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

Governing bodies The R&A and The USGA have this week issued their ‘Distance Insights Report’ which provides comprehensive research and analysis on the contributing factors of long distance.

The report features more than 100 years of data, informed by a library of 56 supporting documents.

It is accompanied by a 15-page conclusions paper from the governing bodies that summarises their perspectives on the long-term implications for the sport.

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In it, the findings conclude that there has been a 100-year trend of hitting distance increases in golf, as well as a corresponding increase in the length of golf courses, across the game globally.

The R&A and the USGA believe this continuing cycle is “detrimental to the game’s long-term future”.

Martin Slumbers, R&A chief executive, said: “We believe we have reached a pivotal moment in golf.

“The publication of this report is highly significant.

“The impact of long-term hitting distance increases on some of golf’s essential elements are now clear – including changing the strategic challenge of the sport, altering the balance of skills needed to be successful and risking courses being less challenging or obsolete.

“Our objective as governing bodies is to work with the key stakeholders in golf to address this issue in a way that brings the sport together and which ensures it continues to thrive for many years to come.”

No solutions have been determined as yet.

The R&A and The USGA will now enter the next phase of their work by assessing potential solutions that can help end the cycle of increased distance.

It is expected the main topic for research and assessment will be potential changes in the equipment rules, along with further enquiry into the effects of course design, conditions and setup on hitting distance.

A broad review of both clubs and balls will be conducted to understand and assess a full range of options for addressing these issues relating to hitting distance.

The report findings added that longer hitting distances led to longer tees and longer times to play, results which were taking golf in the “wrong direction”.

Mike Davis, chief executive officer of the USGA added: “These increases have had a profound impact on costs to build, modify and operate golf courses and they have impacted golfers at all levels.

“We believe this problem will continue unless this cycle is brought to an end.”

Details on the full report and further information on hitting distance can be found on the R&A’s website.