Does golf have a distance problem? The ruling bodies will soon have an answer
Stan Badz/PGA Tour
In August 2018, the USGA and R&A announced an investigation into distance called the Distance Insights Project. In February 2020, the governing bodies will, at long last, relay the findings
The goal of the report was to understand the global picture of distance in golf, or, as the announcement said, “How distance in golf has impacted [the governing bodies] over their full golf experience, if at all, and its projected impact into the future.”
Though the report is likely to be thorough and offer a relatively complete picture of the landscape as it relates to distance and its impact on the game, there’s no getting around the fact that the “distance debate” really only applies to the very elite level of the game. Even the top line 2019 numbers from the professional ranks would make it difficult to make an argument for action to put a check on distance.
Consider that average driving distance on the PGA Tour in the 2018-'19 season was 293.9 yards, down 2.2 yards from the year before. On the PGA Tour Champions it dipped 5.4 yards from 277.6 to 272.2. On the Korn Ferry Tour, though the average was an eye-catching 302.8 yards, that was still 2.1 yards less than the prior year.
Also not to be lost in all the talk about whether or not there should be an equipment rollback of some kind to curb distance is the fact this is primarily an elite tour problem and, as such, the PGA Tour would need to be fully on board with any such rollback for one to be implemented. That appears to be a reach. The tour’s membership reaps millions of dollars from equipment endorsement deals annually. One of the tour’s primary appeals to fans is that its players hit the ball superhuman distances. Given just those two parameters alone, it’s difficult to see the upside of agreeing to a rollback.
As such, the Distance Insights Project report should prove to be an interesting read. Just don’t expect much action to come from it.