R&A Chief Concedes "Movements" Seen In '17 Driving Distance

Nice to ask a distance question and not get the usual suggestion that things have leveled off, but maybe R&A Chief Martin Slumbers knew after this year's U.S. Open's driving distances that such a stance would not fly.

From today's R&A press conference at the 146th Open Championship.

Q. Several of the players have noted that they are hitting very few drivers. Some players may not even have driver in their bag. In the context of the statement of principles from 2003 regarding skill, does it concern you that that club is not a factor this week because of the distance the players hit the ball?

MARTIN SLUMBERS: Well, you can look at it two ways, the golf course is set up 17 yards shorter than it was played in '08. The great thing about links golf, as many of you know, if you're as much an aficionado of this game as I am, course management is one of the most important things about links golf. It's pretty firm out there. It's running hard. The rough, if you run out in the wrong direction, can be pretty penal. And certainly the conversations I've had with players is that they are really enjoying the challenge of trying to work at how to get the ball in the right place. And at times that will lead them to hit irons as against drivers or woods. I think Phil was talking yesterday about maybe not putting a driver in the bag, and I think we'll see quite a few irons, especially if the wind stays in the quadrant that it's in in the moment.

The broader question on distance that you raise is we are very -- I spend a lot of my time and the R&A's time looking at distance. We are very focused on setting it up in two ways, one is around transparency, which is what we did two years ago - started to take the PGA data and take the European Tour data, put it together and publish that. Some people don't like that. Others say it's great to have the numbers.

The second thing that I'm looking at and spend probably as much time doing it is this balance between skill and technology, and whether how much the technology and skill, are they in balance, is it good for the recreational game? Is it the same for the elite game? And those two issues are what we are looking at at the moment. And if you look at the data over the last 18 months, we are seeing this year movements, only halfway through the year. We will take a full look at the end of the year, and then come back and make sure we analyse and think about it very carefully.