If you're looking for clarity about predicting the future when it comes to the distance the golf ball might travel in some future not-so-far away, the most dangerous thing you can do is look at numbers.
In that light, a clarification regarding the improved launch conditions of tour players this year vs. 2007 (the first year such data was made available from PGA Tour events). While ballspeed has increased about a mile per hour since that date, the improved launch conditions we see this year (higher launch angles and lower spin) are actually relatively unchanged from what they were in 2008, The main improvement, if you want to call it that, occurred from 2007 to 2008. In clearer terms:
Year Spin Launch Ballspeed2007 2842 10.9 165.1 2008 2685 11.2 165 2009 2679 11.3 165 2010 2725 10.7 165.9 2011 2687 10.8 166.4 2012 2641 11.3 166.2
What's more confusing is that the "improved" launch conditions from 2007 to 2008 did not result in improved distance, but rather a loss of 1.3 yards. The launch conditions are still better this year than they were in 2008, just not six "theoretical" yards better. So while the distance average is trending up again this year, I still like the thought that the average this year could be as high as 291.9 or as low as 288.3. Or somewhere in between. Maybe.
What is true, though: Through the Honda Classic in 2008, there were 37 players averaging 290 or more yards per tee shot. This year, there are 82.
--Mike Stachura**Follow me on Twitter @MikeStachura