R&A and USGA agree the golf ball is going too far and is detrimental to the game

Golf’s governing bodies agree that the golf ball is being hit further than ever and something needs to be done about it.

Earlier this week, the golf’s governing bodies the R&A and USGA released the results of a multi-year Distance Insights Project – an examination into whether the modern golf ball, with modern equipment hit by modern players, is going too far. And if so, explore its impact on the game.

Check out the full Distance Insights Project report and its conclusions over at the USGA.

But the bottom line is that yes, the conclusion is that the golf ball is going too far and is detrimental to the game of golf.

From part of the conclusions:

… we believe that it is time to break the cycle of increasingly longer hitting distances and golf courses and to work to build a long-term future that reinforces golf’sessential challenge and enhances the viability of both existing courses and courses yet to be built. In reaching this conclusion, we recognize that some have the view that the governing bodies might have done more in addressing the implications of the continuing increases in hitting distances and course lengths.

It’s a huge report that includes data on the differences in driving distances of the modern professional golfer to those in the past, the increase in the length of golf courses which lead to a larger footprint, higher costs, environmental concerns and less course strategy, and potential ways to fix the problem.

If you want to know more, I’d suggest taking a look at Dylan Dethier’s piece at Golf.com offering 10 important takeaways from the Distance Insights Project, including this important piece on bifurcation (making one set of rules of the professionals and one for the amateurs).

After reading the report, one thing we wanted to clarify with Davis was the USGA’s stance on bifurcation — the idea that elite players and pros could play with a different set of rules governing their equipment. Davis confirmed that the USGA is not looking for a long-term bifurcation solution. “We play under a single set of rules, we believe in that strongly, it’s a strength and virtue of the game and we’re steadfast in retaining that,” he said.

Still, the USGA/R&A did announce that they’re assessing the installation of a new local rule that would allow specific courses or tournaments to use equipment that would result in shorter hitting distances. A short course, for example, could use a limited-flight golf ball in a tournament and still follow the rules.

As usual, Mike Clayton’s words on this stuff is worth a  read:

The increasing number of courses at risk of being “less challenging’’ and “ultimately obsolete for the longest hitters” is, they argue, “a serious loss for the game”.

No one can argue with this conclusion. To diminish the test, to reduce the questions great holes including Royal Melbourne’s sixth hole ask down to drives and wedges is horrifying to those who care about the treasured courses of the game.

No doubt too, the R&A are desperately worried the Old Course at St Andrews may offer up six or even seven driveable par fours at next year’s Open Championship. The timing of the report and the coming in 17 months of the 150th Open cannot surely be coincidental?

As a long time advocate to roll back the distance the golf ball is going, Geoff Shackelford is right across it all including his thoughts on which of golf’s big organisations (excluding golf ball manufacturers) are now pushing for changes, the effect on trajectory and spin of the modern golf ball and a story on the baffling reactions by some tour pros including a bizarre take by Paul Casey:

Paul Casey: “There’s an argument for this. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. But the golf courses became longer because the golf developers said if we can make the golf courses longer, we can get four more houses on that hole and two more on that hole, etc. That’s more money.

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