A&Q: Read An Unusually Terrible Global Golf Post Interview On The USGA Distance Project

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With news of the USGA and R&A allowing everyone to submit views on distance, this is obviously cause to rage against the machine threatening to take five yards away from angry golf scribes.

It's never a good sign when a writer's rhetorical questions battle the answers for word count supremacy. Nor is normal for a journalist to flood the conversation with so much rage, particularly since the issue involves how far a little white ball flies.

But this unique blend of hostility overtakes Steve Eubanks interview of the USGA's Rand Jerris about the "Distance Insights Project."

The Post: Everyone’s perspective is based on their own life experiences. For example, there’s nobody left who can tell us what the distance impact was like when the game transitioned from hickory to steel shafts. And there was very little data accumulated at that time. So, how do we have this overarching discussion about distance without a legitimate, verifiable and texted data set?

Pausing here to let you ponder the joys of reading the words "texted data set." 

Jerris: There are various sources of information at which we can look. One is aerial photography thanks to the United States government. We can look at the evolution of the footprints of golf courses around the country over long periods of time, not just in terms of length but in terms of breadth and how much space they’re taking up. Because we can look at the times of those changes, hopefully we can determine what elements of those changes are directly attributable to distance. 

The Post: That last point requires a logic leap. Yes, you can see where the footprints of courses have changed over time. But how do you make the leap, based on that evidence, that those changes were attributable to distance? 

Maybe because no one has ever said, the game goes by too fast and we need to drag this out longer.

We must--MUST--spend more time walking back to tees and taking up more space so we can spend more money on maintenance. Now!

Jerris: That’s a fair point.

You are too kind, Rand. Too kind.

The photography will be just one component of the comprehensive data. We will couple that with input from as many external, legitimate sources as we can find. Teachers have been collecting data from their students. Avid golfers have been collecting data about their distance. Then it’s a matter of analysis. That’s where we get all interested parties together and say, “Here’s what we’re seeing in the data. Now, let’s talk about what it means.”

The Post: Going back to the report that we receive in February, the changes in distance have been remarkably small. The incremental increases, and in some cases decreases, surprised a lot of people. A lot of that was confirmation bias. Everyone you see seems to be hitting if farther, so we believe that there must be these huge jumps in distance. But when you look at the data we’ve seen so far, that doesn’t appear to be the case. To launch this program under the aegis that ‘We know distance is an issue,’ doesn’t that fly in the face of the data you’ve already collected and analyzed?

Now that's some confirmation bias!