R&A, USGA Release contentious ‘distance’ report

Tom Watson once remarked that he was still hitting the ball about the same distance as he did in his prime. Not bad for a professional golfer now in his late 60s.

Still the facts suggest Watson must be an exception to the rule because, according to the R&A and the USGA your average pro is not hitting it much further than he did 13 years ago.

Dustin Johnson Dustin Johnson (Credit:www.golffile.ie)

That sounds incredible when you see guys like Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Brooks Koepka reducing pars fives to a drive and a pitch.

Yet it’s true as stats cannot lie and when the annual review of driving distance was released by golf’s governing bodies last week it clearly indicated that between the years of 2003 and 2016, and on seven of the world’s major professional golf tours, “the average driving distance on five of the seven tours had increased only about 1.2 per cent, or 0.2 yards per year”.

Amazingly, it actually decreased by about 1.5 per cent on the other two tours.

That stat tends to belie what seems to be occurring and that is that the best courses in the world…courses like Augusta National and St Andrews were striving to try and add some extra distance to their courses because of the prodigious distances the best players in the world were hitting it.

But as one US expert pointed out, it wasn’t so much that the average distance that had slightly increased but more that there were actually more guys hitting it over 300 yards (274m) off the tee in 2016 than there was in 2003.

According to PGA Tour statistics, 27 players averaged more than 300 yards per drive last season, 15 more than in 2010 and 18 more than in 2003.

Individual drives over 300 yards made up 26.56 per cent of tee shots in 2003 but comprised 31.14 per cent of tee shots in 2016.

What I find more distressing than anything is that I have “lost” more than 0.2 yards a year since then…and I don’t know where to find it.