Reader Greg asked why the great interest here in the jumps at the top of each Tour's driving distance stats.
On May 9, 2002, the USGA and R&A issued a "Joint Statement of Principles" regarding the improvement of golf clubs and balls. The key line says: "any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable."
- 2002: 18 players averaged over 290 yards, 1 player averaged over 300 yards
- 2005: 83 players averaging over 290 yards, 25 players averaging over 300 yards
- 2002: 63 players averaged over 290 yards, 15 players averaged over 300 yards
- 2005: 95 players averaged over 290 yards, 42 averaged players over 300 yards
So while the average Tour drive has climbed at a pace that the USGA could easily shrug off as not necessarily "significant," the huge leaps at the top would seem to indicate that manufacturers have been able to design a ball that passes the USGA overall distance standard under the stipulated launch conditions, but under different launch conditions, allows the players to exceed the distance standard. Thus, creating a situation where some are able to work around the intent of the rules.
Or the guys have just really been working out a lot since 2002.
But it doesn't matter how they've managed to increase their distance since the governing bodies say "any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable."
Not much grey area in that statement, nor in the "highest level" driving distance increases since 2002.