USGA Issues Distance "Myth" Talking Points

Adam Van Brimmer of the Morris News Service reports on a USGA release apparently handed out at the Masters.

The USGA recently released a list of eight myths about golf equipment and performance. The scientific findings, at the least, cast doubt on whether something significant should be done to rein in the equipment advances many say are changing the way the game is played.

"We thought that people who are avid golfers would be interested in actual facts and measurements with respect to the performance of golfers in today's world with new technology," said Walter Driver, USGA's president and an Augusta National member. "We want to give people access to some of the facts and dispel some of the myths that develop around every golf era, and new golf technology in particular."

Note that Walter Driver was available for a quote on this document. The myths are not available on the USGA website. Here they are, according to the USGA:

MYTH 1: Golfers with faster swing speeds hit today's advanced golf balls farther than they did balls introduced before 2000.
MYTH 2: Golf-ball distance is not currently limited.
MYTH 3:Driving distance on the PGA Tour is rapidly increasing.
MYTH 4: The long hitters on the PGA Tour finish higher on the money list.
MYTH 5:Most PGA Tour players swing at 120 mph or more.
MYTH 6:The USGA ball test doesn't control ball distance well enough because pros' swings are different than the test method.
MYTH 7:The average distance for 5-irons on tour is more than 200 yards.
MYTH 8:You get more distance by putting topspin on a drive.

Van Brimmer offers these rebuttal points:

- Though the golf-ball distance is limited, the USGA's overall distance standard limit made a quantum leap from 296.8 yards to 320 yards in 2003 to account for advances in club technology. The swing speed used in the test increased from 109 mph to 120 mph to reflect these changes.

- Though driving distance has flattened out in recent years, as the USGA statistics show, it certainly grew unabated throughout the 1990s and earlier this decade. For example, 29-year-old John Daly led the PGA Tour in driving distance in 1995 with a 289-yard average. Seven years later, an older and heavier Daly led the tour at 306 yards off the tee - a whopping 17-yard increase.

- While fewer long hitters reign on the money list, most of the top players average 300 yards or better. Half of 2005's top 10 money winners, including the top 3 of Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, crush the ball.

Top players rely more on length now than two decades ago. In 1985, none of the top 10 money leaders ranked among the top 10 in driving distance. In 1984, only three did.

The lengthening of Augusta National and other courses is an architect's way of keeping up. Augusta has added nearly 500 yards since 2002, about the same time the increase in driving distance leveled off.

Now, contrast this with the two speeches USGA's Jim Vernon has given (Annual Meeting and Arizona).

Talk about sending mixed messages.