The 2005 PGA Tour driving distance average climbed to 288.9 yards, up from 287.3 in 2004. On the surface, not a huge one year leap. However, 18 weather-delayed events surely played a significant err, roll. Remember, the 2005 average was around 280 yards through the Masters. That's when we saw the "ranting distance killjoys" piece that declared everyone had their facts wrong, etc.
However, if one is to believe the USGA, R&A and PGA Tour, 2004 is not the significant comparison year. 2002 is. David Fay called it the "benchmark" during the NBC segment on USGA testing that aired during the U.S. Open.
In May 2002, the USGA and R&A issued the Joint Statement of Principles. Here's the key statement:
The R&A and the USGA believe, however, that any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable. Whether these increases in distance emanate from advancing equipment technology, greater athleticism of players, improved player coaching, golf course conditioning or a combination of these or other factors, they will have the impact of seriously reducing the challenge of the game. The consequential lengthening or toughening of courses would be costly or impossible and would have a negative effect on increasingly important environmental and ecological issues. Pace of play would be slowed and playing costs would increase.
Faced with the following numbers comparing 2002 to 2005, will the R&A and USGA act in accordance with their Statement of Principles? Change has occurred at the "highest level." Notice that the troubling 1999 to 2002 increase is consistent with the 2002 to 2005 jump:
- 2005 PGA Tour driving distance average: 288.9
- 2002 PGA Tour driving distance average: 279.8
- 1999 PGA Tour driving distance average: 272.4
Top 50 in Driving Distance Average PGA Tour
- 2005: 300.6
- 2002: 289.3
- 1999: 282.0
Nationwide Tour Driving Distance Average
- 2005: 294.3
- 2002: 287.8
- 1999: 279.0
Top 50 in Nationwide Driving Distance Average
- 2005: 305.5
- 2002: 298.3
- 1999: 287.5
Champions Tour Driving Distance Averages
- 2005: 273.9
- 2002: 268.2
- 1999: 263.9
European Tour Driving Distance Averages
- 2005: 285.1
- 2002: 281.9
- 1999: 269.8
The governing bodies can at least point to a not-so-significant jump on the European Tour. However, the increases in distance average between 1999 and 2002 were considered significant enough that the Joint Statement of Principles had to be issued.The distance jumps from 2002 to 2005 are equal to the 99-02 increases.
Will they be deemed significant?