It’s in and the USGA along with the R&A have released their Distance Insights Project Report.
It’s been a long time coming and the conclusions are what you might expect — the distance high-level players are getting these days is not good for the future of the game.
Here are some of the basics from the lengthy report:
The research in the Distance Insights Report shows that hitting distances and the lengths of golf courses have been increasing for more than 100 years. We believe that this continuing cycle of increases is undesirable and detrimental to golf’s long-term future, for two main reasons:
First, the inherent strategic challenge presented by many golf courses can be compromised, especially when those courses have not or cannot become long enough to keep up with increases in the hitting distances of the golfers who play from their longest tees:
• Increased hitting distance can lead to a reduction in the variety, length and creativity of shot types needed on such courses and to holes more often being overpowered by distance, as well as to an increased emphasis on the importance of distance at the expense of accuracy and other skills.
• This can begin to undermine the core principle that the challenge of golf is about using a broad range of skills and making risk/reward judgments during a round.
• The result is also that an increasing number of such courses, both widely renowned and less well-known, are at risk of becoming less challenging or ultimately obsolete for those who play from their longest tees – a serious loss for the game.
Second, the overall trend of golf courses becoming longer has its own adverse consequences that ultimately affect golfers at all levels and the game as a whole:
• Expanding existing courses and building longer new ones often requires significant capital investment and higher annual operating costs.
• Overall, the trend towards longer courses puts golf at odds with the growing societal concerns about the use of water, chemicals and other resources, the pressures for development restrictions and alternative land use, and the need to mitigate the long-term effects of a changing climate and natural environment.
These things have been discussed often the past few years. Length has rendered many grand old designs obsolete. It’s a combination of equipment and to a larger degree, the golf ball.
Jack Nicklaus warned everyone years ago that the golf ball was getting out of control and finally, everyone listened. Took long enough.
So what will the USGA and R&A do?
There will no doubt be a lot of pushback from the equipment companies and the two governing bodies will now set out on a very precarious journey.
Can they put the Genie back in The Bottle?
It will be difficult.
Here is their conclusion:
We believe that it is time to break the cycle of increasingly longer hitting distances and golf courses and to work to build a long-term future that reinforces golf’s essential challenge and enhances the viability of both existing courses and courses yet to be built. In reaching this conclusion, we recognize that some have the view that the governing bodies might have done more in addressing the implications of the continuing increases in hitting distances and course lengths. There are always uncertainties about the future, and an inherent part of our role is to incorporate the lessons of experience, continue to monitor and assess ongoing developments, and develop consensus on issues that should be addressed. Our views have evolved as events have unfolded and new information has become available, just as they may evolve in the future, and we believe that it is never too late to do the right thing for the future of the game. By stepping back to take this long-term view in the Distance Insights Project, we believe that we are in position to address this set of issues from all perspectives and to search for effective long-term solutions.
What’s next? Remains to be seen.
So if you’ve got a half-hour on your hands, here’s the cliff notes version of the report — the Summary Conclusion: