R&A and USGA release key findings on impacts of distance in golf

Canadian Men's Mod-Amateur Golf Championship
PHOTO BERNARD BRAULT, GOLF CANADA -KAHNAWAKE, Quebec: SEPT 14, 2017 Canadian men's Senior Championship Championnat canadien sÈnior masculin The Kanawaki Golf Club

The USGA and The R&A have issued the Distance Insights Report, which provides comprehensive research and analysis on the contributors to, and long-term impacts of, hitting distance in golf.

After extensive stakeholder research, 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 summarizes their perspectives on the long-term implications for the sport.

The reports and library have been publicly released and can be found at usga.org/distanceinsights or randa.org/distanceinsights.

To facilitate input from manufacturers and other stakeholders in the golf community, specific topics of further research will be identified and published within 45 days. It is expected that this important step in gathering input could take approximately nine months to one year.

Key findings of the project include

“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, chief executive officer of the USGA. “This report clearly shows a consistent increase in hitting distance and golf course lengths over the last 100-plus years. 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. With collaboration from the entire golf community, we have an opportunity to stem this tide and help ensure golf remains sustainable and enjoyable for generations to come.”

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, 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 USGA and The R&A 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 that the main topic for research and assessment will be potential changes in the Equipment Rules, along with further inquiry into the effects of course design, conditions and setup on hitting distance.

With this background in mind, 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. Without limiting the scope of topics that may be considered, this review is expected to include the following:

All research and any work regarding potential changes to Equipment Standards in golf are guided by the Equipment Rulemaking Procedures, which were agreed upon and published by the USGA and The R&A in 2011 to ensure a transparent and collaborative process among key stakeholders in the game. These procedures can be found here: Equipment Rulemaking Procedures.