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« Roundup: Final Reads And Notes For The 2017 Open | Main | R&A Turning Fairway Into OB Zone Highlights Distance Issues »
Wednesday
Jul192017

R&A Chief Concedes "Movements" Seen In '17 Driving Distance

Nice to ask a distance question and not get the usual suggestion that things have leveled off, but maybe R&A Chief Martin Slumbers knew after this year's U.S. Open's driving distances that such a stance would not fly.

From today's R&A press conference at the 146th Open Championship.

Q. Several of the players have noted that they are hitting very few drivers. Some players may not even have driver in their bag. In the context of the statement of principles from 2003 regarding skill, does it concern you that that club is not a factor this week because of the distance the players hit the ball?

MARTIN SLUMBERS: Well, you can look at it two ways, the golf course is set up 17 yards shorter than it was played in '08. The great thing about links golf, as many of you know, if you're as much an aficionado of this game as I am, course management is one of the most important things about links golf. It's pretty firm out there. It's running hard. The rough, if you run out in the wrong direction, can be pretty penal. And certainly the conversations I've had with players is that they are really enjoying the challenge of trying to work at how to get the ball in the right place. And at times that will lead them to hit irons as against drivers or woods. I think Phil was talking yesterday about maybe not putting a driver in the bag, and I think we'll see quite a few irons, especially if the wind stays in the quadrant that it's in in the moment.

The broader question on distance that you raise is we are very -- I spend a lot of my time and the R&A's time looking at distance. We are very focused on setting it up in two ways, one is around transparency, which is what we did two years ago - started to take the PGA data and take the European Tour data, put it together and publish that. Some people don't like that. Others say it's great to have the numbers.

The second thing that I'm looking at and spend probably as much time doing it is this balance between skill and technology, and whether how much the technology and skill, are they in balance, is it good for the recreational game? Is it the same for the elite game? And those two issues are what we are looking at at the moment. And if you look at the data over the last 18 months, we are seeing this year movements, only halfway through the year. We will take a full look at the end of the year, and then come back and make sure we analyse and think about it very carefully.

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Reader Comments (14)

At least Slumbers is willing to publicly acknowledge that distance is becoming an issue and that it may be related to technology (balls, clubs). It's more than I can say about Mike Davis and the ostriches at the USGA and PGA who seem to be in love with the prospect of 400 yard drives and 8,000 yard courses.
07.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGreg
Why would he focus on 18 months? The median current 2017 drive distance is about 1 yard longer than 2011.
07.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRottcod
2011 PGAT Top 10 ave. driving: 304.1 - 318.4. 5 players at 310 or better.

2017 PGAT Top 10 ave. driving 307.5 - 313.2. 5 players at 310 or better.
07.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
Long hitters are teeing it up with 3 woods/ irons more than they used to. The yardages would be longer otherwise.
07.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
This is typical R&A – it’s their usual bullshit - the problem has been out there years, well before 2000 Open and still they filibuster around the blood question, scared to say anything just in case they might be asked to honour any commitment.

The facts are right outside their office in St Andrews on TOC, its scattered around all the so called championship courses they have on their lists, but seem not to have noticed – now why is that?

I have been concerned for years about the quality of the sites selected for golf courses and I have even been more concerned with golf course architecture, both at times just not fit for purpose, but now I can honestly say with the load of rubbish coming out of the R&A that IMHO they are ‘NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE’.

“I spend a lot of my time and the R&A's time looking at distance.” And yet after all these years he like the R&A have done Diddly-Squat – now the R&A I know, let their record speak for themselves.
07.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
If the governing bodies can "pivot" on outlawing the anchored stroke after allowing it for 30 years they can roll the ball back and rebalance the skill set associated with scoring in golf. What Rahm did in Ireland and Shinkwin in Scotland is a preview of this week. The only challenge will be the weather. None of the idiots at the R and A or the USGA want to acknowledge what everybody else sees on tv every week. The ball/head/shaft combination takes the fear out of the game for the elite players and makes the game an outdoor video game of scrambles for one.
07.19.2017 | Unregistered Commentermunihack
The R&A and the USGA are bending over backwards to appease the professionals because they know where there bread is buttered. The majority of funding to these organizations is funneled through professional golf and the running of both Opens - they are therefore hardly going to turn around and roll back the ball and turn the natural order of professional golf as we know it on its ear. To make your way in pro golf today you have to be a well above average long hitter. Sure there are exceptions such as Jim Fyurk - but look at the world rankings which are dominated by mashers. Today's tour pros can concentrate on 3 clubs - driver, wedge, putter. That's a far cry from the days of Nicklaus and Watson who commanded the whole bag. Roll back the ball and what happens to professional golf? That's a question for which the R&A and the USGA don't have an answer.
07.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSaltwater Golfer
Governing bodies will not take on equipment manufacturers. Money talks. There was little added money to be made on long putters. Balls and clubs that add distance bring in big money, as do distance measuring devices.
07.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBud
There's zero evidence that the pros are hitting 3woods etc off the tee more now than back in the Persimmon days.
07.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRottcod
Perhaps the pivotal question is bifurcation, and the unwillingness of the two governing bodies to embrace the concept.
07.19.2017 | Unregistered Commenterhh morant
Rottcod, you must be watching a different game. Many bombers do what Stenson has done for years, hitting 3 wood more often than driver on certain holes. Sawgrass being an obvious example.
07.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
May I add the best courses call for every club in the bag. Links does that only when the wind blows. But today equipment has made 14 clubs unessessary on most courses pros play today and it's becoming stale to watch. R and A, USGA sort it out soon.
07.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
@Easingwold

I agree - then one must remember that modern golf course architecture in no longer tuned to MR Average but to producing Championship Courses for the elite. This in turn also means that that design has like technology been directed toward the elite, so in real terms the course is much easier, to read and play, with the hazards located more around the Green. Add to that the quality of fairways, sand in bunkers and Greens, just where is the real test that defines the player is playing Golf.

Skill, is now second or perhaps third or even further down the list, being superseded by showmanship, aided very much by equipment and alas the highly built and maintained courses they play upon. One day many watching Golf will come to realise that the quality in not quite there and that its nearly as fake as watching professional wrestling on TV.
07.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Morris
Easingwold, PGAT average driving distance is done on two holes per round, holes that driver is likely to be used. Stenson or another relatively rare predominantly 3-wood player will not show up in the Top 10 which I showed, nor be significant in altering overall stats. For instance, Stenson's average driving distance for 2017 is 285.7.
07.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC

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