Little League Putting An End To Launch Angle Chase With New "Deader" Bats

The Wall Street Journal’s Amanda Christovich looks at the crackdown on what had been a speed and distance chase in youth baseball. Home runs are way down in the Little League World Series two years in a row now since “deader” bats mimicking wood were introduced for a variety of reasons.

Thanks to reader LS who detected the many things golf can learn from the USA Baseball moves, which seemed determined to keep the sport sane and safe both instead of emphasis on exit velocity, particularly since most young lads may not be physically ready for the emphasis on speed.

But that kind of power surge is not likely to happen at this year’s Little League Baseball World Series, which is now underway. Regulation changes—most notably, the switch to a “deader” bat that mimics wood bats—mean home runs in Williamsport this year are on the verge of becoming extinct.

“The difference is astounding,” said Patrick Gloriod, who coached the Peachtree City Little League team in the 2018 LLBWS and witnessed the steep decline in home runs at that tournament once the new bats went into use.

None of this would be a problem, if not for the fact that the best youth players have spent the last few years developing a swing designed for one thing: to hit as many home runs as possible. 

They’ll get over it. Will TV?

“Telling everyone to swing up is the same as telling everyone to swing down,” said Bleecker. 

If last year’s trend continues, those dismayed that the major-league ball is juiced can rejoice in how the Little League bat is deadened.

“I’m not sure how much ESPN is gonna like watching small ball,” said Gloriod.

Distance Debate: Focus Is Turning Away From The Ball And Toward Drivers

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The Mauling At Medinah is Mike Clayton’s label for the shock and awe at the 2019 BMW, where Justin Thomas and many others overwhelmed the rain-softened 7600 yard course.

(Random thought interruption here: I thought it was the improved agronomy that meant tons of roll, yet Medinah was a sponge…anyway, we now return to our regularly scheduled distance post).

After looking at past Medinah majors and what scores were needed to succeed, Clayton writes:

Justin Thomas was unquestionably brilliant this past week at Medinah, where he answered all the questions the course posed. His 263 represents amazing golf, but is it a full 24 shots more compelling than Graham’s 287 was 44 years ago?

The question for the game, for the professional tour and the administrators in New Jersey and St Andrews is: How will you manage the technological assault on the game’s great courses and a game so out of balance at the top level?

Or do they abdicate their responsibility to restore the balance MacKenzie and his great contemporaries understood and built?

The evidence of what we watched from Medinah is the golf isn’t so interesting when the questions are so easily answered with power and wedges.

Much was made of Adam Scott’s comments calling out designers and officials to set courses up to require shaping the ball, but that’s tough to do overnight.

But it was his comment as reported by Evin Priest about drivers that accelerated his previous public statements about driver head size.

Scott warned superstar drivers may no longer stand out, such as Australia's Greg Norman and American Davis Love III did in previous eras.

"The driver is the most forgiving club in the bag now; it's just swing as hard as you can and get it down there far," he said.

"It's not a skilful part of the game anymore and it's really unfair for some guys who are great drivers of the golf ball.

"I don't think their talents are showing up as much as they should."

And there was Tiger as well at Medinah, echoing comments he’s been making all year:

“Now you just pull out driver, bomb it down there and you’re looking for three to four good weeks a year,” Woods said. “That’s how you play. It’s not the consistency, it’s not about making a bunch of cuts. It’s about having three, four good weeks a year. That’s the difference. Guys understand that.”

These comments have all presumably been made to the USGA and R&A as part of their distance insights research. No one mentions the ball much these days—calm down Wally!—some because they are paid not to, while others genuinely believe it’s maxed out.

So are we seeing a shifting focus to reducing the driver head size for elite players and would it make a difference? There is only one way to find out, once the manufacturers stop kicking and screaming about the massive R&D expenditures needed to knock 75 cc’s off their current models.

Taylor Made has a jump start with this mini-driver released earlier this year. Anyone test it out on a launch monitor?

Shark: Take The Ball Back To 1996 Specs

Greg Norman has been a consistent advocate for a golf ball that spins more. But unlike his recent shift away from shirtless Instagram posts, he has remained consistent on the distance matter.

And now he’s responding to Instagram posts on the hot button topic that became popular again as PGA Tour pros made a mockery of 7,600 yard Medinah.

This is the Shark we know has the game’s best interests at heart:


Readers Questioning Clubs That Start Over The Speed Limit, But Within Testing Tolerance

Callaway CEO Chip Brewer issued a lengthy statement to explaining the Xander Schauffele non-conforming driver situation at the 2019 Open.

Brewer’s admission that the company handed their player a driver over the 239 CT limit but within the tolerance limit did not sit well with some observers.

Reader Chris writes:

Geoff, I am staggered at this statement:

“We know Xander’s driver was conforming when he received it. Probably in the range of 245 – 250 CT. At the Open we tested it at 255 CT, still conforming but close to the limit. The R&A tested it at 258, one over the limit.

The limit is 239, with a tolerance of 18 presumably for exactly the sort of circumstances Brewer describes in the statement. To hand a player a club they know to be beyond the limit is extraordinary negligence!

And Scott on Twitter also noted this issue with an analogy:

It’s hard not to wonder if both Schauffele in revealing his positive test and Brewer in admitting the company handed a driver to their player over the limit, brought all of the scrutiny on themselves. Particularly given the likelihood of “CT Creep” as outlined by Brewer in his statement.

The CEO’s statement could also backfire given the shots at the governing bodies about their testing suggesting some sort of possible tampering or illegitimacy (“Part of the issue is the testing location, a tent on the back of the range, where folks not directly involved in the specific testing can walk in-and-out too freely.”). That alone could invite more scrutiny, more required disclosure and more headaches for the manufacturers. This is trending toward ERC 2.0 by challenging the competence and very generous procedures of the enforcers.

As I noted just after The Open, all of these parties would have been wiser to admit their mistake and expressed gratitude at the lack of serious punishment. Because now it sure seems like they’ve kept this situation alive and festering, perhaps even warranting more scrutiny, more consideration and maybe tighter testing.

Given that the governing bodies have wrapped up their distance study and may take action this fall, this situation could help them make a case that the equipment rules need tightening and more public disclosure of those who fail tests. That would be an amazing turn of events.

Players Offering Thoughts On Testing For Juiced Drivers

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As I noted for Golfweek, Xander Schauffele going public with his failed driver test at The Open, and then stirring up a debate about hot drivers, has kept the incident in the news and led to some interesting comments from top players.

Jason Munz reports on player thoughts as they tee it up in Memphis this week, and while some inexplicably display life in the bubble by praising Schauffele for taking on the R&A—even after being caught playing an illegal club that was used in competition since January—there are some who don’t take this quite so lightly.

Justin Thomas says it’s on the makers to not let this happen:

“I think that’s on the manufacturers to make sure that (the clubs) are tested and that they are conforming,” he said. “Because that’s not fair to the rest of the field if guys are using some and some aren’t. We don’t have those tests just sitting in our living room (where) we can do them when we get home.”

While that is ideal, ultimately random testing is a better way to prevent a rogue player or clubmaker from skirting the rules.

Meanwhile Bryson DeChambeau tells Golf.com’s Jonathan Wall that the winner or top 5 should be tested every week and if they fail, can keep the win but take a hit elsewhere:

“If you did play a driver that was illegal, you take some FedEx Cup points away,” said DeChambeau, who has five Tour wins. “So you make your money and win, that’s great, but you lose half the points you made. It’s not like you should have the trophy taken away. That’s one way to deal with it. You putted well, you chipped well. But I think there needs to be some repercussions from using something that’s not under the conformance rules. If they want to challenge the ruling, they can go do some tests to see if it was truly over.”

Digest's USGA Confidential: Golf Pros And Their Entourages Vent, Rip And Choose Not To Be Named

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As someone who has done his share of USGA, uh, critiquing, I found the Golf Digest “USGA Confidential” an interesting read at times. However, I can’t help but think most readers will come away finding golf pros and their “teams” to be inconsistent, a tad greedy and unsatisfiable even in the face of obvious mistakes, some of them colossal ones.

Particularly since the elephant in the room—regulating a distance explosion overwhelming courses—is a non-starter for a large percentage of players.

By the end of their venting, I was exhausted, in part because no single person willingly putting their name on such strong views. The totality could leave some readers USGA-sympathetic and annoyed by the understandably-annoyed golfers.

The headline-maker from the impressive effort of gathering 57 voices—35 current players and 16 major champions—was talk of an organized U.S. Open boycott. An unnamed player named names of potential boycotters:

MULTIPLE PGA TOUR WINNER: We had about 10–15 guys who were willing to sit out after 2016. Some of them were big names—Dustin was one, Rory was another.

ANOTHER MAJOR CHAMPION AND FORMER WORLD NO. 1: I was prepared to do it [take part in a boycott]. Absolutely.

ANOTHER MAJOR CHAMPION: I was one of them.

MULTIPLE PGA TOUR WINNER: I would have boycotted if it had come to that. If it wasn't a major, I wouldn't play it, and a lot of other guys feel that way.

MULTIPLE PGA TOUR WINNER: I figure we needed about 25 guys, and I think we could have gotten there based on what I was hearing from players. Really, just one would have done it, but Tiger wasn't playing at the time. Without us, they don't have a tournament.

Actually, it’s a 156-player field with a majority of the spots earned by qualifiers and would have continued on with the same purse and 156 players.

That the “stars” of the game think they could somehow shut down the U.S. Open, yet are unwilling to sign their name to the view, suggests a level of isolation from reality that might run deeper than we imagined.

Sorry boys, but only one player on the planet pulling a protest no-show would have significant meaning.

As for course setup issues, this collection speaks to the can’t-win issues facing the USGA in trying to balance a sense of fairness, difficulty and creativity in a game overwhelmed by modern distances.

MULTIPLE PGA TOUR WINNER: I miss the U.S. Opens of old, where you had narrow fairways and thick rough, and it tested everything.

FORMER EUROPEAN RYDER CUP CAPTAIN: The old DNA was worth defending. It had always been that way. The majors should pose different questions. The Open is about the weather. The Masters is about the course. The PGA is a more difficult PGA Tour event. And the U.S. Open is about narrow fairways. What makes Grand Slam winners so great is that they've passed all four tests.

WINNER OF MORE THAN 20 EUROPEAN TOUR EVENTS: The U.S. Open was always the fairest of the four majors. It was tough, but only bad shots were punished. As we saw at Paris [in the 2018 Ryder Cup], that's the way forward.

FORMER EUROPEAN RYDER CUP CAPTAIN: The Ryder Cup last year was more about accuracy, and the Americans couldn't hit the ball straight. At Erin Hills, the fairways were 60 yards wide. That's not a U.S. Open. But the USGA has adapted to the modern game rather than making the game adapt to the U.S. Open. If a 280-yard drive straight down the middle was most beneficial, no one would be hitting drives 350 yards. Straight should be as important as long.

MULTIPLE EUROPEAN TOUR WINNER: The wide-fairways thing is not working. Too many guys have no chance if you don't hit it 350 yards off the tee.

Got all of that?

Finally, the notion of the USGA building permanent, 8,500 yard venues on the coasts, first floated by CBS’s Peter Kostis many years ago, offered up the world’s golf architects for free to design the facilities and end the practice of going to golf’s iconic venues. Of course, it’s a fine idea in terms of practicalities but a dreadful notion to throw out history, character and golf’s ties to its past so that distance can go unregulated.

Kostis surfaced with the idea again, followed by many more who reinforce how all of this whining, inconsistency and silliness could all be solved with a 10% reduction in distance and a foot or so off the Stimpmeter speeds.

TEACHER OF MULTIPLE MAJOR CHAMPIONS: I said this a long time ago and was ridiculed: I would prefer for the USGA to buy land on the East Coast of the U.S. and on the West Coast of the U.S., then build two facilities for the U.S. Open. Each would have four courses. And each one would be designed to present the examination they wish to present to the players. If they want tight fairways and long rough, so be it. They're entitled to conduct their championships any way they want. So build courses to fit that ideal, whatever it might be. If they did that, they would stop ruining the classic courses by trying to jerry-rig them.

Like I said, there is a lot to Digest in this one and most of it leaves you wondering if there are many Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and a few others who will put the game above themselves.

Latest Green Reading Book Silliness: NCAA Championship Official Book Deemed Non-Conforming On Event Eve

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Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols details the latest fiasco with non-banned-but-should-be green reading materials”: official yardage books from the NCAA Division I women’s championships are non-conforming. By 1/16th of an inch. On ten of the holes.

“We’re just going to go to Office Depot and get some sticker labels and cover up all 18 of them,” said Purdue coach Devon Brouse.

Officials didn’t specify which of the 10 holes were in violation.

The new interpretation for Rule 4.3a, which went into effect Jan. 1, stipulates that players may use a putting-green map during play, but it must be “limited to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480).”

The original green reading book ban discussions would have been more restrictive, but the USGA and R&A watered things down a bit, and now we have the same information, only smaller. Most of the time.

Just ban them and get it over with!

Videos: Smarter Every Day Guys Testing The Mechanical Limits Of A Golf Ball; Mark Rober's Rocket Powered Driver

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Thanks to reader Jeff for this most entertaining 16 minutes of SmarterEveryDay content focusing on what they could do to make a golf ball…squirm.

Seriously geeky fun stuff here with some epic camera work…

Mark Rober, best known as the glitter package guy to 62 million viewers and counting, created the rocket-powered driver seen in the above video and posted this a few weeks ago. Al Czervik, eat your heart out:

Jason Day's Ball Speed Drops 13 MPH Using The Original Taylor Made Metal Wood

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Nice bit of data posted here by Golf.com’s Luke Kerr-Dineen of Jason Day on the Quail Hollow range after the Aussie hit the original Taylor Made driver.

Day’s current 2019 PGA Tour ball speed average is 177.2. His clubhead speed average is 118 mph, but in a follow up Tweet posted a screen shot showing a 111 clubhead speed with the much smaller head (275cc?).

No word on how Athleticism and Agronomy are feeling right now after a simple change in driver head size ate into the huge advantages they’ve given today’s players.

Tiger: "Look at these heads, 460 cc's, you hit the ball anywhere on the face and have it go 300 yards."

Just my read from his comments yesterday, which were similar to remarks made at The Players. But it sounds like he’s inching closer to thinking a de-skilling has occurred at the top level with 460 cc drivers.

From hjs pre-WGC Dell Match Play press session outside the Austin CC clubhouse:

Q. How would you describe the level of competition now in 2019?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that equipment has made it smaller. The margin is much smaller than it used to be. Now look at these heads, 460 cc's, you hit the ball anywhere on the face and have it go 300 yards. Before it put a premium on good ball-strikers to hit the ball in the middle of the face each and every time. And there was a distinction between the guys who could do that and the guys who couldn't. And that's no longer the case.

It promotes people swinging harder. Teeing the ball higher, swinging harder and hitting the ball further. And the old shot of hitting just a squeezier, low, heelie cut in play, that's no longer the case. Guys are trying to maximize distance off the tee, to try and carry that number 300, 320, 330 in the air. And it's become a game that's played more up in the air than it ever used to be.

Any day now we’re going to have teh 360 cc Driver Open…

Tiger On Technology, Training, Distance

Before we go deep on the 2019 Players, I just wanted to highlight these comments from Tiger Woods earlier this week.

Nice to see him explaining for those not necessarily able to understand how much the weight of clubs and size of clubheads changes how people swing. Not that we would go back to heavier clubs, but the driver head size?

Q. And everyone was sort of talking about the longevity you can get that now that modern technology, training, etcetera. But do you have concerns for guys like Jason Day and others that have had injuries sort of popping up a bit more because of this force you talked of?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I would think that the younger kids now that are involved in the game that are coming into the game are -- put it this way, that are coming on to the TOUR now, by far hit it harder than what we did when we came on TOUR. And that's due to technology and that's also due to the training and also due to the fact that I -- in my opinion, the drivers have gotten so much bigger and you have so much more surface area to miss it and hit the ball well. When I beat Davis in that playoff in '96, he had a persimmon driver. You laugh, but that was -- they were still around. So you had to hit the ball absolutely dead flush, and the guys didn't really hit it that hard. But now you can.

These kids have been training. They're stronger, they're more physical. You look what the college programs are doing, how many times they're lifting, five, six times a week. They're so much stronger now and they're able to handle the force, but also they're generating a lot of force, so there's going to be a give and take.

It will be interesting to see. These kids are hitting it so much further now and it's cool to see. We thought that Dustin was long and Bubba was long, and then we have Cameron Champ out here. It just keeps propping up. I thought I was pretty long, and then John Daly would hit it by me.

Q. So I guess we'll know when they're 40, right, how that works over time?

TIGER WOODS: It's going to -- we're going to see how it goes over the next 15, 20 years, see how the sport evolves. When you're swinging clubs that are 15 ounces and things, what we used to, to where now it's like as light as a feather. I remember, I mean, geez, my driver shaft was 121, 122 grams. Now they're 60 and 50, 60, 70 grams. So, yeah, they're lighter, and hence you're hitting it further.

But these kids are swinging so much harder, but they're so much stronger, and we'll see how that evolves. There's no reason why you can't play longer with the way the training is. You also have to be lucky, too, not to have injuries. Some bodies just get more dinged up than others.

Cejka DQ'd For Using Old Green Reading Materials On New Greens

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The new rules reducing the scale of green reading book specs has done little to diminish their use except to increase eye strain and add to the growing sense of regulatory ineptitude.

Which made Alex Cejka’s DQ from the Honda for using 2018’s book slightly ridiculous at first blush. From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek story on the explanation for what was an easy call for PGA Tour referees.

Cejka finished the 14th hole and was on his way to the 15th when he was approached by rules official Robby Ware.

“It was brought to the committee’s attention that Alex might possibly be using some old greens reading materials, and so we were obligated to check that out,” Ware said. “Alex was basically using an old yardage book and old greens reading materials that did not fit the size to scale limit.”

Here’s where this episode moves to another comedic level: besides being an illegal book, the greens have been resurfaced at PGA National, likely making last year’s edition less accurate.

Golf World’s Brian Wacker also has more on how officials learned of the first green reading book violation: Cejka’s playing partner Cameron Tringale saw that Cejka was using the larger 2018-sized materials to read greens.

“I was perplexed,” Tringale said of noticing the book. “That doesn't look right. Did I really see that?

“When we finished the 14th hole, I went to use the bathroom and when I came out I saw [Cejka] riding off in a cart.”

Just One Player Laid Up At Riviera's 10th Hole Sunday, Zero Yesterday

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Longtime readers know I’ve tracked the gradual shift of the ShotLink scatter chart at Riviera’s 10th toward the greensite.

The great risk-reward short par-4 is now officially a one-shot hole given that only one player appeared to intentionally lay up Sunday and only 40 over four days of Genesis Open play at Riviera. The rest—400 attempts—”went for the green”.

That, my friends, is a par-4 in name only.

The round 4 scatter chart:

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When the hole played shorter Saturday, no one laid up.

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And over four days, almost no one is even bothering to try to use the lay-up options once so revered before, you know, kale, high-fiber diets and agronomy conspired to shorten the hole.

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Why Have Golf's Better Athletes Only Picked Up 1.3 M.P.H. In Clubhead Speed Over The Last Decade?

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The USGA and R&A have released their annual driving distance report and the pro tour’s saw a 1.7 yard increase on top of last year’s 3 yard increase.

Given how much we’re told the recent spikes are a product of increased athleticism—not equipment innovation or launch monitors or instruction—the gain of just 1.3 mph in swing speed since the players started traveling with foam rollers, eating raw cauliflower and taking their core work more seriously seems paltry.

From David Dusek’s Golfweek story on the report:

Compared to the earliest radar data available, which came in 2007, ball speed is up almost 4 mph, drives start 0.3 higher and with almost 200 rpm less spin. At the same time, the average clubhead speed on those drives has increased from 112.4 mph to 113.7 mph. This would indicate that while the pros on the PGA Tour are swinging faster as a group, their equipment and swings are becoming more optimized and efficient.

Athleticism nice, algorithms nicer.

Meanwhile in his Golf World assessment, Mike Stachura attempts to downplay yet another increase in driving distance across the board by ascribing a percentage decline to the increase.

According to the report, the average increase in driving distance across all professional tours in 2018 was 1.7 yards over 2017. While that number is significantly higher than the trend from 2006-2016, it is more than 40 percent less than the gain seen in average driving distance from 2016 to 2017.

More than 40%! Nothing to see here!

Finally, the most interesting thing I saw in the report—besides huge spikes in drives over 320 yards powered by that 1.3% clubhead speed increase—was a yellow color coded admission that “stability through regulation” ended in 2016. Translation: our rules stopped working the last two years. Interesting choice of words.

Honma's Mark King: Pro-Bifurcation And Lamenting Multiple Driver Launches

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Adam Schupak talks to ex-TaylorMade CEO Mark King about his role at Honma USA and more.

A couple of noteworthy quotes include his admission of abusing the annual driver release with multiple drivers unveiled in one year. But he stands by the approach of a new driver every year for the 20% who will pay.

MK: That we went so fast. My last 2-3 years at TaylorMade I don’t think the model was wrong. I think we abused the model a bit. Every time sales dipped a bit, we launched a new product. I wish we had shown more discipline. If you don’t have anything that makes the club different, you should probably wait. That said, I think one-year lifecycles when done properly is still the best way because I do think 20 percent of the golfers buy 80 percent of the equipment. Those 20 percent want to buy something unique and different ever year.

Mark him down for bifurcation, still!

AS: Where do you stand on the great distance debate going on in golf?

MK: You still have to think about the masses. I’m in the business of selling clubs to them and it’s the hardest game in the world. That’s why anything we can do to make it easier, I’m all for. That’s why I’ve always been OK with bifurcating the Rules of Golf.

PGA Tour Commish: "Hard to argue you should be changing anything right now because the sport is growing and thriving."

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It’s hard to get past the above quote from PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan made in a 2019 Sentry TOC media session and reported here by Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge.

The Commissioner’s views on distance are no secret: he wants to hype younger and longer players because he believes that’s why people watch the game despite all of the grandstands being at greens and not tee boxes.

You can take your pick of reasons for a short-sighted stance that even his youth-obsessed predecessor never went so far overboard to make. But more alarming is the view that the sport is growing and thriving, so why change a thing?

“We’re gonna be a party to all these discussions,” Monahan said. “We’re going to understand everybody’s perspectives as the USGA and R&A move forward with their Distance Insights project, but it’s hard to argue you should be changing anything right now because the sport is growing and thriving.”

If it’s growing and thriving, why do we have all of these expensive grow the game initiatives to jumpstart participation?

Why is the golf course industry fearful of a recession and a new tax code eliminating entertainment deductions if the game is thriving?

There is also the PGA Tour as a product. He should be hoping for a variety of players and a variety of playing styles to make the game thrive, not a one-dimensional power game. No sport that’s gone all in on technology and power has come out better. As a fan of sports, Monahan should know this. And he should know better.

Titleist Distance Questionairre: Who Knew Filling Out A Survey Could Be So Fun(ny)?

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It appears our favorite ballmakers in Fairhaven are gearing up for a fight as the PGA Tour driving distances have jumped more in the last two years than in the previous dozen or so.

With the governing bodies surveying golfers on distance, the folks at Titleist are fearful of losing market share are asking their beloved fans, customers and others to fill out at wonderfully misleading survey on distance.

For starters, they suggest the governing bodies of golf have suggested a distance rollback percentage of 15-25%. They have not. This comically dishonest chart is inecessary to see just what lengths they’ll go to in order to scare golfers filling in answers to questions:

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Despite the sheer fictional nature of the chart, the apparently embarrassment of making stuff up did not stop Titleist from posting the hilariously misleading chart atop pages essentially reminding the survey-taker of the dastardly deeds looming from the USGA and R&A:

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So besides the sight of the fake rollback numbers, the notion of listing them above questions probably would not pass muster at most legitimate polling organizations. But as we know, this isn’t really about getting honest answers from core golfers.

Tiger On His 2018 And The Game Changing Dramatically

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Evan Priest scores a year-end Golf.com exclusive with Tiger and this answer got me wondering if any other all-time great player experienced more dramatic equipment advances during the course of his or her career? I don’t think so.

Well, it depends. In that era, 280 was a long drive. Now it’s, “Hey, can you carry it 320 in the air?” The game has evolved and, I was telling some [people in Melbourne], when I came down here to play the Presidents Cup in 1998, some of the guys were transitioning out of persimmon. The game has changed dramatically since then.

Banner Time For Fairway Mowers, Strengthened Cores! PGA Tour Distance Average Up 6.1 Yards Over Two Years

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GolfDigest.com’s Mike Johnson reports on the rather astounding jump in 2018’s PGA Tour Driving Distance average (4 yards) on top of 2017’s healthy jump (2.1) yards.

The governing bodies have relentlessly pointed to a flatlining since the old Statement of Principles days, but maybe the nation’s superintendents and physios worked behind the scenes to push distances forward the last two years. (Sarcasm emoji goes here.)

As you may recall the distance number was at an amazing 294.7 through June’s Travelers Championship, meaning the average spiked nicely in just the final two months or so of the season when things warmed up and the nation’s maintenance mechanics conspired to sharpen mower blades. Because, you know the game is played on the ground so much these days!

And as noted here on the eve of the Tour Championship, things were looking rather historic as far as increases go which Johnson affirms.

He reports last year’s 2.1 yard increase prompted the Distance Insights study and he included this curious description of the survey.

Though some who have participated feel the questions have been biased toward a negative impression of distance, there’s no denying at the elite level that the game’s best have gotten longer. Fourteen players averaged 310 yards or more this past PGA Tour season and 60 topped 300 yards compared to 7 and 40, respectively, the year before.

I haven’t heard of any negative bias from those who participated in the survey. Maybe there needed to be a few warm-up questions where people get to share their most intimate, fondest recollections of gaining distance off the tee? Or of the manufacturers? Or of their Trackman relationships?