Tour, PGA of America Fire Back on Distance Report

 

The rebuttal to the USGA and R&A’s joint study announcement on Monday came swiftly and decisively from dissenters. Among those disagreeing with the study’s findings were PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua. 

 

Geoff Shackelford obtained a copy of PGA Tour Commissioner Monahan’s email to the players of the Tour ahead of the study’s release, concluding that the Tour doesn’t believe there are any “significant or abnormal” increases in distances since 2003.

Dear TOUR Member,

Later this morning, the USGA and The R&A will be releasing an annual report on driving distance that reviews data from professional tours from the 2017 season. Since 2003, we have been closely monitoring trends in driving distance, working with the USGA and The R&A; all involved wanted to ensure the broader PGA TOUR membership was made aware of the report and its findings in advance.

Among other things, the report shows the following:

– From 2003 to 2017, average driving distance on the PGA TOUR has increased by 2.3%, or a total of 6.6 yards.

 

– From 2016 to 2017, there was an increase of 2.5 yards in average driving distance. While this may seem significant when taken in isolation, it has not been uncommon over the past 15 years to see significant gains or losses. Since 2003, there have been three instances where a significant gain was recorded between years, and five instances where the average decreased.

– Since 2007, when we started monitoring launch conditions each week on TOUR, average club head speed has increased by 1.5 mph. There is a strong correlation between club head speed and the total distance gains seen since 2003. We believe this increase in club head speed is mostly attributable to a combination of factors, such as increased player athleticism and fitness, physical build of the player, enhancements in equipment fitting and the proliferation of launch-monitoring capabilities.

It is interesting to note that since 2003, the average age of a TOUR member has gone down, and the average height has gone up.

Having carefully reviewed the data, we do not believe the trends indicate a significant or abnormal increase in distance since 2003 or from 2016 to 2017. Rest assured, we will continue to collaborate and share data with the USGA and The R&A – along with other industry stakeholders – in monitoring these trends, as we have since 2003, and are hopeful our perspectives will align.

According to GolfDigest.com’s Mike Stachura, Monahan wasn’t alone in his conclusions. PGA of America CEO Bevacqua was “highly skeptical” of what the report called “unusual and concerning increases” in distance.

“Having just received the full report last evening, it is difficult for us at the PGA of America to provide meaningful comments on its content at this time. However, given the recent industry discussions and media reports regarding a potential roll back of the golf ball for all players and/or a segment of elite players, our Board of Directors has discussed this topic at length. Based on the information we have seen, we are highly skeptical that rolling back the golf ball in whole or part will be in the best interests of the sport and our collective efforts to grow the game.

 

“Our nearly 29,000 PGA professionals would be at the forefront of implementing this potential roll back, so we will be polling them this week to fully understand their perspective, especially on what it would mean for the vast majority of the golfers they serve. We look forward to offering our candid feedback to the USGA and R&A once we have collected that data and reviewed the full report.”

[GeoffShackelford.com, GolfDigest.com]

 

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