Increased Hitting Distances Detrimental To Future Of Golf – Distance Report

Golf's governing bodies say that increased distances are bad for the game and its future

Increased Hitting Distances Detrimental To Future Of Golf - Distance Report
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Golf's governing bodies say that increased distances are bad for the game and its future

Increased Hitting Distances Detrimental To Future Of Golf - Distance Report

The R&A and USGA's long-awaited Distance Insights Report (opens in new tab) has been released with a key tone suggesting that increased hitting distances is bad for the game and its future.

The report finds a 100-year trend of increased hitting distances as well as an increase in the length of golf courses across the world.

This, according to golf's governing bodies, can lead to a risk of many courses becoming less challenging or obsolete.

The R&A and USGA say that increased hitting distances could undermine the core principle of golf to have a wide range of skills.

The report also raises concerns over water and chemical use as well as other resources if courses keep getting lengthened.

Longer distances and courses are 'taking golf in the wrong direction and not necessary for a challenging, enjoyable and sustainable game,' the report says.

A concern has been identified that many recreational golfers are playing from longer tees than is necessary relative to their hitting distances and, in particular, that the forward tees on many golf courses are very long for many of the golfers who play from them.“This is not about the last few years or the next few years but rather about the long-term future of the game,” said Mike Davis, chief executive officer of the USGA.

“This report clearly shows a consistent increase in hitting distance and golf course lengths over the last 100-plus years. These increases have had a profound impact on costs to build, modify and operate golf courses and they have impacted golfers at all levels. We believe this problem will continue unless this cycle is brought to an end. With collaboration from the entire golf community, we have an opportunity to stem this tide and help ensure golf remains sustainable and enjoyable for generations to come.”

Related: How far do average golfers hit the ball?

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said, “We believe we have reached a pivotal moment in golf. The publication of this report is highly significant. The impact of long-term hitting distance increases on some of golf’s essential elements are now clear – including changing the strategic challenge of the sport, altering the balance of skills needed to be successful and risking courses being less challenging or obsolete. Our objective as governing bodies is to work with the key stakeholders in golf to address this issue in a way that brings the sport together and which ensures it continues to thrive for many years to come.”

Further research is to be published within the next 45 days after input from manufacturers and other stakeholders in the golfing world.

The governing bodies will now undertake a 'broad' review of both golf clubs and balls with potential changes in the equipment rules as they search for solutions to the increasing hitting distances in the game.

There will also be a further inquiry into the effects of course design, conditions and setup on hitting distance.

Key findings of the Distance Insights Report include:

- There is a 100-year trend of hitting distance increases in golf, as well as a corresponding increase in the length of golf courses, across the game globally. The R&A and the USGA believe this continuing cycle is detrimental to the game’s long-term future.

- 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. This can lead to a risk of many courses becoming less challenging, or obsolete.

- Increased hitting distance can begin to undermine the core principle that the challenge of golf is about needing to demonstrate a broad range of skills to be successful.

- If courses continue to lengthen, it is at odds with growing societal concerns about the use of water, chemicals and other resources.

- Longer distances and courses, longer tees and longer times to play are taking golf in the wrong direction and are not necessary for a challenging, enjoyable and sustainable game.

Read the report here (opens in new tab).

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Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-6. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x