PGA Tour Driving Distance Average Crosses 290-Yard Barrier

Courtesy of the PGA Tour's communications department, the final, official and accurate 2011 PGA Tour Driving Distance average: 290.9.

The 2010 driving distance average of 287.3 followed 2009's 287.9 and 2008's 287.3.

This is second largest season-to-season jump since the tour began tracking driving distance averages in 1980. (The largest increase: 6.5 yards between 2002 and 2003).

So since 2002 when the USGA and R&A announced they were drawing a line in the sand on distance increases whether they were caused by clubs, balls, technique, climate change or white belts, we've got a 10.5 yard increase since '02 and a 20-yard increase since 1998.

Is this significant? The "Statement of Principles" key lines:

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.

The R&A and the USGA will consider all of these factors contributing to distance on a regular basis. Should such a situation of meaningful increases in distances arise, the R&A and the USGA would feel it immediately necessary to seek ways of protecting the game.

So what is the meaning of significant in this mindless distance chase?