The R&A and USGA have revealed published the findings of their annual review of driving distance in golf, which they say shows an “unusual and concerning” increase – and one that “requires closer inspection and monitoring”
Introduced in 2015, the annual report examines driving distance data from seven of the major worldwide professional golf tours, based on nearly 300,000 drives per year. The data from studies of male and female amateur golfers is also included.
The 2015 and 2016 editions of the distance report presented the increases in driving distance since 2003 as a slow creep of around 0.2 yards per year.
However, the data in the new 2017 report shows a deviation from this trend, where the average distance gain across the seven worldwide tours was more than three yards since 2016.
Releasing the findings, the R&A and USGA said: “As noted in previous annual reports, variability in driving distance of four or more yards from season to season on any one tour is not uncommon.
“However, this level of increase across so many tours in a single season is unusual and concerning and requires closer inspection and monitoring to fully understand the causes and effects.”
Both organisations added that they remain “committed to the spirit of the 2002 Joint Statement of Principles, which recognise that distance impacts many aspects of golf and that any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable.”
This follows weeks of discussion about driving distances on the world's biggest tours. Just last week, Jack Nicklaus revealed that Mike Davis, the executive director of the USGA, had told him: "We're getting there. We're going to get there. I need your help when we get there."
Some other prominent pros have also waded into the matter, with two-time PGA Tour winner James Hahn particularly outspoken about it on social media.
Breaking news. In addition to limited flight balls, the USGA plans to ban working out, proper diet and swinging faster than 105mph. They are also planning on removing the 3 point shot in the NBA.— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) February 23, 2018
If we were playing a match, would you rather hit 7 iron to my 9 iron OR hit hybrid to my 5 iron? Oh and by the way, I can still hit par 5s in two with 3 wood. You can't.— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) February 25, 2018
Actually was referring to how I make a living would be affected by this proposed rule change when I'm playing against DJ, Rory, and Thomas. Or should we just talk about your $5 weekend matches. https://t.co/jbhO6EWFgC— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) February 25, 2018
The R&A and USGA statement added that both bodies 'will conduct a thoughtful conversation about the effects of distance prior to making any specific proposals".
It added: "We remain open-minded and our absolute priority is to ensure that all key stakeholders are involved in an open and inclusive process and that we move forward together in the best interests of golf at all levels.
There is no fixed timetable, but we will commence this process immediately and endeavor to reach a conclusion as promptly as possible."
Watch this space.