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USGA and R&A say distance needs to be reigned back in

USGA/R&A Distance Report  

100 members have voted

  1. 1. Which of these has made the biggest contribution to distance gains on Tour in the last 30 years?

    • Ball technology
      32
    • Driver tech/fitting
      20
    • Fitness
      33
    • Launch monitor optimization
      4
    • Course conditions
      11
  2. 2. Is too much distance a problem on the Tour?

    • Yes
      44
    • No
      56
  3. 3. Is too much distance a problem for amateurs?

    • Yes
      6
    • No
      94
  4. 4. Which best represents your solution to the distance issue?

    • There's no issue. Keep things the way they are.
      19
    • Bifurcate: roll back the balls/clubs for the Tour, but leave the amateur equipment alone
      12
    • Change course conditions on Tour: taller grass, narrower fairways, etc.
      65
    • Roll back balls/clubs for everyone
      4
  5. 5. If the USGA rolls back the ball for everyone, would you switch to the new ball?

    • Yes
      38
    • No
      62


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5 hours ago, revkev said:

I will say that it would be fun to watch the pros play a game that more similar to the one we play now.
 

You mean playing...

  • from tee boxes that aren't flat
  • on fairways that haven't been mown
  • where divots in the fairway aren't filled, and the divots are 30º left of your intended direction
  • from bunkers that have inconsistent sand from hole to hole... lots or thin or none, some with rocks
  • from bunkers that aren't the same from day to day or week to week; not to mention not being raked
  • on greens that are faster than the practice green
  • on greens that weren't mowed and rolled every day.

Oh wait... maybe that's just the game I play.  Along with their swing, there is very little that's similar in the game the pros and I play.  🤣

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On 2/6/2020 at 2:14 PM, sixcat said:

Andy Johnson and Geoff Shackleford went into some detail about this on The Fried Egg this morning.  Say what you will about Shackleford but he predicted this "report" and its "findings" in his book 15 years ago!  Almost verbatim!

Just listened to that today and I love the bigger ball idea (think Callaway Magna) as a way to decrease ball velocity at higher swing speeds without having much impact on lower swing speeds.  And another democratizing aspect of this is that it's easier for less skilled players to get off the ground.  I've been known to hit it in the teeth and send screamers over the green, both with approach shots and chips, so a firm urethane covered version of a big ball might bail me out one or two shots a round.

Some other thoughts:

In addition to pinching in fairways, get rid of the intermediate rough cut in tour events.  I know it seems unfair to miss a fairway by six inches and be in the hay, but the intermediate cut can slow down a ball that's rolling and keep it out of the hay.  Make missing the fairway at all a penalty and you'll reward better drivers of the ball.

Slow the greens down and cut holes in locations where putts will break more.  It seems like so few putts on tour have much break at all inside ten feet.  If shorter putts have more break in them, where you put the ball on the green will matter more.  If location on the green matters more, then the angle into the green will matter more.  I'd love to see more situations like we saw in the President's Cup at Royal Melbourne where strategy and angles are so very important.  And who played the best golf that week?  TW - part surgeon, part artist.  That was fun golf to watch.

And mix in some centerline bunkers.  Basically, if the touring pros hate it, do it.

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9 hours ago, Kenny B said:

You mean playing...

  • from tee boxes that aren't flat
  • on fairways that haven't been mown
  • where divots in the fairway aren't filled, and the divots are 30º left of your intended direction
  • from bunkers that have inconsistent sand from hole to hole... lots or thin or none, some with rocks
  • from bunkers that aren't the same from day to day or week to week; not to mention not being raked
  • on greens that are faster than the practice green
  • on greens that weren't mowed and rolled every day.

Oh wait... maybe that's just the game I play.  Along with their swing, there is very little that's similar in the game the pros and I play.  🤣

Wait...are we playing the same golf course or what?  😁

Actually I have played at Columbia Point..nice golf course, but as you say it is not exactly Pebble Beach.

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10 hours ago, Kenny B said:

You mean playing...

  • from tee boxes that aren't flat
  • on fairways that haven't been mown
  • where divots in the fairway aren't filled, and the divots are 30º left of your intended direction
  • from bunkers that have inconsistent sand from hole to hole... lots or thin or none, some with rocks
  • from bunkers that aren't the same from day to day or week to week; not to mention not being raked
  • on greens that are faster than the practice green
  • on greens that weren't mowed and rolled every day.

Oh wait... maybe that's just the game I play.  Along with their swing, there is very little that's similar in the game the pros and I play.  🤣

Found some of my divots did ya? 🤣 

You bring up the fairway conditions and we've touched on that a bit in this thread... i think it warrants further discussion as it relates to the "excessive distance challenge". Watching coverage of the ISPS Handa Open last night I couldn't help but notice the crazy amount of rollout on drives.  While this particular course and conditions may be atypical, I still maintain that the driving distances on tour are getting much more rollout love than us mere mortals. Even here in AZ, we rarely see this amount of distance after carry.  A good example is #2 hole at Desert Hills which has an elevated tee and a pretty healthy downslope from roughly the 220 yard carry distance.  A couple of us hit past that distance regularly and see nowhere near the amount of additional distance as I often see on tour play (and this fairway is shaved pretty low).  

I don't have data on average yards after carry for the tour (all tours), but I'd be really surprised if it isn't double what we typically see on the championship level courses we play.  Looking at pgatour.com stats, they show C. Champ's 2019 average total distance at 317.9 and average carry at 311. That dosen't seem to jive with what I see on TV. I note that the data is based on 78 drives (attempts)... only a smidgen of his swats 🤔.

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41 minutes ago, fixyurdivot said:

Found some of my divots did ya? 🤣 

You bring up the fairway conditions and we've touched on that a bit in this thread... i think it warrants further discussion as it relates to the "excessive distance challenge". Watching coverage of the ISPS Handa Open last night I couldn't help but notice the crazy amount of rollout on drives.  While this particular course and conditions may be atypical, I still maintain that the driving distances on tour are getting much more rollout love than us mere mortals. Even here in AZ, we rarely see this amount of distance after carry.  A good example is #2 hole at Desert Hills which has an elevated tee and a pretty healthy downslope from roughly the 220 yard carry distance.  A couple of us hit past that distance regularly and see nowhere near the amount of additional distance as I often see on tour play (and this fairway is shaved pretty low).  

I don't have data on average yards after carry for the tour (all tours), but I'd be really surprised if it isn't double what we typically see on the championship level courses we play.  Looking at pgatour.com stats, they show C. Champ's 2019 average total distance at 317.9 and average carry at 311. That dosen't seem to jive with what I see on TV. I note that the data is based on 78 drives (attempts)... only a smidgen of his swats 🤔.

The one thing about total driving is that 1) it uses 2 holes on a course going in opposite directions (uphill vs downhill, into the wind vs with wind as examples) 2) course conditions and weather conditions have an impact 3) if someone hits it into the rough it will be shorter than if it hits and stays in the fairway 4) a year to year comparison will fluctuate for those same reasons as well as tournaments played

 

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5 minutes ago, RickyBobby_PR said:

The one thing about total driving is that 1) it uses 2 holes on a course going in opposite directions (uphill vs downhill, into the wind vs with wind as examples) 2) course conditions and weather conditions have an impact 3) if someone hits it into the rough it will be shorter than if it hits and stays in the fairway 4) a year to year comparison will fluctuate for those same reasons as well as tournaments played

That's my understanding as well.  In looking at the chart most commonly referenced (page 11 of the report), they have data for both the "measured holes" as well as for all drives.  I believe that the two  holes selected for Driving measurements each week are specifically chosen to be driver holes for most players.  The averages for "all drives" are less than on the measured holes (due to choices of less than driver on some of them?), but the trends are pretty similar.

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Just listened to that today and I love the bigger ball idea (think Callaway Magna) as a way to decrease ball velocity at higher swing speeds without having much impact on lower swing speeds.  And another democratizing aspect of this is that it's easier for less skilled players to get off the ground.  I've been known to hit it in the teeth and send screamers over the green, both with approach shots and chips, so a firm urethane covered version of a big ball might bail me out one or two shots a round.

Some other thoughts:

In addition to pinching in fairways, get rid of the intermediate rough cut in tour events.  I know it seems unfair to miss a fairway by six inches and be in the hay, but the intermediate cut can slow down a ball that's rolling and keep it out of the hay.  Make missing the fairway at all a penalty and you'll reward better drivers of the ball.

Slow the greens down and cut holes in locations where putts will break more.  It seems like so few putts on tour have much break at all inside ten feet.  If shorter putts have more break in them, where you put the ball on the green will matter more.  If location on the green matters more, then the angle into the green will matter more.  I'd love to see more situations like we saw in the President's Cup at Royal Melbourne where strategy and angles are so very important.  And who played the best golf that week?  TW - part surgeon, part artist.  That was fun golf to watch.

And mix in some centerline bunkers.  Basically, if the touring pros hate it, do it.

 

I agree on the intermediate cut. In regards to where holes are cut I regularly go to a tour event and I’m here to tell you that the holes are cut in places that would seriously tick any of us off - by edges, on ledges, next to ridges, tight to hazards. Of course it’s not that way on a week like this one where amateurs are playing but that’s understandable, rounds would take forever.

 

I thought Kenny’s humor was great but I can tell you that the greens at my club are better than Pebble - less play, hardier grass - you rarely ever see the ball hop like I’ve seen the few times that I’ve watched this week.

 

 

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I had a thought...

"What's that?"

Well, it's something that pops into your head that may or may not have any relevance, but that's not important right now.

I was considering the recent uptick in distance on tour; the PGA Tour, but really the larger increase on the Korn Ferry Tour.  Why is that?  The equipment hasn't changed significantly in the last few years. They play the same courses every year, and conditions haven't changed much.  All the players have been working out for quite awhile now, thanks to Tiger.  So what's different?

My thought is the the players that are coming onto the tour are different.  Not that many years ago there were plenty of shorter hitters on tour and they could compete well because they had other skills to help them win.  Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar just to name a few. They pulled the average down for years.  Consider what talented young players that don't hit the ball a long way have to compete with these days as the courses get longer.  There are just so many big hitters these days that also just as talented.  The shorter hitters aren't going to make it.  I think that's what we are seeing on the Korn Ferry tour now, and it has slowly made it's way onto the PGA Tour.  

Yes, the players are hitting the ball further but the driving distance average is going up more because there are fewer shorter hitters on tour.  The average keeps getting raised.

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The USGA is the most “You kids get off my lawn” / “We don’t like your kind at Bushwood” bunch I have ever seen. Only reason I was ever a member was because Arnie asked me to be one. Haven’t been since, won’t be in the future.


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8 hours ago, Kenny B said:

I had a thought...

"What's that?"

Well, it's something that pops into your head that may or may not have any relevance, but that's not important right now.

I was considering the recent uptick in distance on tour; the PGA Tour, but really the larger increase on the Korn Ferry Tour.  Why is that?  The equipment hasn't changed significantly in the last few years. They play the same courses every year, and conditions haven't changed much.  All the players have been working out for quite awhile now, thanks to Tiger.  So what's different?

My thought is the the players that are coming onto the tour are different.  Not that many years ago there were plenty of shorter hitters on tour and they could compete well because they had other skills to help them win.  Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar just to name a few. They pulled the average down for years.  Consider what talented young players that don't hit the ball a long way have to compete with these days as the courses get longer.  There are just so many big hitters these days that also just as talented.  The shorter hitters aren't going to make it.  I think that's what we are seeing on the Korn Ferry tour now, and it has slowly made it's way onto the PGA Tour.  

Yes, the players are hitting the ball further but the driving distance average is going up more because there are fewer shorter hitters on tour.  The average keeps getting raised.

The distance thing seems to be all relative.  Collin Morikawa is 137 on tour averaging 294.6 yards.  

It's really getting hard for guys like Zac Blair averaging 279 off the tee.

 

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I had a thought...
"What's that?"
Well, it's something that pops into your head that may or may not have any relevance, but that's not important right now.
I was considering the recent uptick in distance on tour; the PGA Tour, but really the larger increase on the Korn Ferry Tour.  Why is that?  The equipment hasn't changed significantly in the last few years. They play the same courses every year, and conditions haven't changed much.  All the players have been working out for quite awhile now, thanks to Tiger.  So what's different?
My thought is the the players that are coming onto the tour are different.  Not that many years ago there were plenty of shorter hitters on tour and they could compete well because they had other skills to help them win.  Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar just to name a few. They pulled the average down for years.  Consider what talented young players that don't hit the ball a long way have to compete with these days as the courses get longer.  There are just so many big hitters these days that also just as talented.  The shorter hitters aren't going to make it.  I think that's what we are seeing on the Korn Ferry tour now, and it has slowly made it's way onto the PGA Tour.  
Yes, the players are hitting the ball further but the driving distance average is going up more because there are fewer shorter hitters on tour.  The average keeps getting raised.


Interesting thoughts -


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On 2/8/2020 at 11:37 AM, revkev said:

 

I agree on the intermediate cut. In regards to where holes are cut I regularly go to a tour event and I’m here to tell you that the holes are cut in places that would seriously tick any of us off - by edges, on ledges, next to ridges, tight to hazards. Of course it’s not that way on a week like this one where amateurs are playing but that’s understandable, rounds would take forever.

 

I thought Kenny’s humor was great but I can tell you that the greens at my club are better than Pebble - less play, hardier grass - you rarely ever see the ball hop like I’ve seen the few times that I’ve watched this week.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using MyGolfSpy

Poa grass is known for bouncing especially late in the day. 

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We got to get out in front of this, golf ball manufacturers are going to need some innovative product names for these new golf balls that don't travel as far, don't roll out, spin like mad, once the USGA and R&A roll back the ball.  (IMHO this is what they have wanted to do for at least ten years)  The manufacturers are going to have major marketing issues trying to sell new golf balls that don't go as far.  

So grab the copyrights on a couple winners and when the day comes cash in.

Like the "Big Berty",  the "Shot Maker", the "Classic", the "Tour-Rite", the "Shorty", the "Whizzer",  the "Chipper", the "Gyro", "the Lay-Up", the "Gummy", the "One More" (club), the "Gutta Putta", ProV-Zeros, etc.

 

Edited by SlowNLow
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This is very long for a forum post; it’s really more a golf blog post, but I don’t have a golf blog. Also, I’m not writing any of this with the delusions that people will want to read it, but mostly to bring some order to my own thinking about the distance debate, because I see good arguments on both sides. Perhaps it will also help others.

Let’s start with a question: which iconic par 3 is closer to your image of an ideal tournament golf hole?

  • #12 at the Masters, or
  • #16 at the Phoenix Open

I suspect most of us are happy to say that there is a place for both holes (including their very different atmospheres) in the course of season. But my question is, which one is a better model for golf to pursue to best secure its own future?

Augusta’s Twelfth and Scottsdale’s Sixteenth offer profoundly contrasting visions about what golf should be and what about it should be appealing. One is set up so that virtually no one is present around the hole in a setting so reverent it’s called Amen Corner. The other stacks people on top of each other in a stadium that is not noted for its reverence.

One hole inspires day-by-day analysis of the strategy demanded by each hole location on the green; its Sunday pin is legendary. For the other, whatever strategic elements objectively exist in the hole are practically washed away by gallons of overpriced beer.

While there are some who love both holes, there’s a lot of non-overlapping area in that Venn diagram. To (over-)simplify, advocates of the Twelfth contend that golf’s proper direction is to emphasize tradition, decorum, subtlety, and nuance. Those in this camp would have to concede that their vision of the game might appeal to fewer people, but would counter that those fewer people would likely have a deeper devotion to golf.

Advocates of the Sixteenth’s version of golf suggest that it might not be the shrewdest idea for the game to market itself as a form of masochism. They contend that it could be, you know, fun. People might listen to music while playing. The ground on which golf is played doesn’t have to be so stinkin’ hallowed.

It doesn’t seem that a comparison that two roughly 150-yard par 3s would have anything to do with the distance debate, but I content that it does. At its course, the distance debate isn’t merely about distance. The contention that there is a “proper” distance for people to hit their drives is very much of the spirit of Augusta. The contrary position, that it’s fun to watch Cam Champ obliterate golf balls, feels much more in tune with Phoenix.

I’m going to pursue a couple of rabbit trails here, but my main point is this: the distance debate comes down to a matter of taste and preference. To be sure, the reality of increased distance is objectively there, and it creates real-world problems. And while I honestly don’t know what the answer is, the collective temperature of the discussion could drop a few degrees by remembering that we’re trying to figure out how to play a game for amusement.

Remembering that golf is a game, though obvious, helps this discussion, because the rules and regulations of sports are of necessity arbitrary. Sports are unnecessary. That is their nature. They may play a practical function in society, equipping citizens with physical, social, and emotional skills that can prepare them for more necessary tasks. But sport is sport because it in itself is not a task that needs to be accomplished.

If you run 26.2 miles to deliver a needed message in a battle, that is not sport. If you run 26.2 miles for its own sake, that’s sport.

In battle, you have to run 26.2 miles because that’s where the guy is to whom the message must be delivered. In sport, you run 26.2 miles…for any possible number of reasons. Because it is the nature of sport to be unnecessary, the rules of sports have no moral or logical necessity to them. The rationale for the rules of sports are rooted in various concerns:

  • Convenience: we can race to that tree. Why that distance? Because the tree standing there provides an easy finish line. Any number of rules in various sports have these kinds of origins and golf is no exception. Why 18 holes? Why a cup 4.25” in diameter? In many cases, the answer is that it was convenient for those who originated the game, and therefore become the accepted standard everywhere.
  • Competition: every sport has to determine what it is testing and this is arbitrary. An open “who can cover this distance the fastest?” contest needs further parameters to make competition meaningful. Does it make sense to have people races when we have auto races, and the cars go way faster? It does, only because we make arbitrary distinctions. Track is wrestling right now with shoe technology, but why permit shoes at all? Our answer to this question is not going to be one with mathematical certainty. Golf is fundamentally a question of getting a ball in a hole in as few strokes as possible. Do we want to be more specific about the ways in which a person must go about doing that?
  • Fun: because sport is unnecessary, and especially in a society like ours in which we have more freedom for leisure than nearly any that preceded us, we choose rules for a sport to make it more enjoyable. We start with the obvious extremes: basketball with rims at 50’ would make for a frustrating game. It might be interesting (for a time) to see if anyone could make a basket at that height, but the game of basketball would likely be literally pointless with that goal, making it more frustrating than fun to play.
  • Challenge: perhaps in tension with fun, we place some rules in place to make our sport more difficult. And at the extremes, there are sports where the grueling challenge is the point: think various endurance sports, like hypermarathon running. Typically, the more a sports rules tilt toward challenge and away from fun, the smaller the number of people that will be drawn to the sport.
  • Entertainment: I distinguish this from fun as I have in view here the perspective of the spectator rather than the participants. For sports without spectators, this doesn’t matter. But for sports that seek to generate revenue, this is an enormous consideration. I think we can safely presume that this is in large measure why baseball ignored its obvious steroid issue in the late 1990s.
  • Continuity: and we can break this down into two (sometimes very different) aspects. There is continuity of the challenge and continuity of the results. A sport like track emphasizes the continuity of the challenge. It would strike most people as absurd if, as records fall at various distances, the governing bodies of track stretch the 100m sprint to 110m to keep the times consistent with the past. But golf, with its center of gravity in relation to par, seems to prefer continuity of results. If Rory McIlroy would play an unadjusted Augusta at a number absurdly under par, doesn’t that simply mean that he’s better at golf (getting the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes) than previous generations?

The distance debate exists in the tension created by these various goals of a sport.

My point is simply to encourage everyone to recognize that. I suspect that even if equipment advances were absolutely locked down right now, we’re still likely to see driving distance averages moving from 296 yards (where it is right now) to north of 320 yards in the next decades.

If this were to happen, it means that the most elite golfers have gotten better at golf. And yes, they will be able to blow the doors off courses, shooting numbers that are absurdly under par, because they are better at golf than the golfers of the past. If the object of the game is to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes possible, hitting the ball as close as possible to the hole on every shot maximizes your ability to do that.

If we don’t like what the combination of athletic ability, equipment, optimized launch, and perfect agronomy do to our enjoyment of watching the game (and the distance problem is exclusively a problem at the most elite level), there’s a case to be made for changing it. But the case is one based on taste, one aimed at creating a product that is enjoyable to watch so that it is profitable, and in that way sustainable.

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30 minutes ago, GolfSpy MPR said:

 

This is very long for a forum post; it’s really more a golf blog post, but I don’t have a golf blog. Also, I’m not writing any of this with the delusions that people will want to read it, but mostly to bring some order to my own thinking about the distance debate, because I see good arguments on both sides. Perhaps it will also help others.

Let’s start with a question: which iconic par 3 is closer to your image of an ideal tournament golf hole?

  • #12 at the Masters, or
  • #16 at the Phoenix Open

I suspect most of us are happy to say that there is a place for both holes (including their very different atmospheres) in the course of season. But my question is, which one is a better model for golf to pursue to best secure its own future?

Augusta’s Twelfth and Scottsdale’s Sixteenth offer profoundly contrasting visions about what golf should be and what about it should be appealing. One is set up so that virtually no one is present around the hole in a setting so reverent it’s called Amen Corner. The other stacks people on top of each other in a stadium that is not noted for its reverence.

One hole inspires day-by-day analysis of the strategy demanded by each hole location on the green; its Sunday pin is legendary. For the other, whatever strategic elements objectively exist in the hole are practically washed away by gallons of overpriced beer.

While there are some who love both holes, there’s a lot of non-overlapping area in that Venn diagram. To (over-)simplify, advocates of the Twelfth contend that golf’s proper direction is to emphasize tradition, decorum, subtlety, and nuance. Those in this camp would have to concede that their vision of the game might appeal to fewer people, but would counter that those fewer people would likely have a deeper devotion to golf.

Advocates of the Sixteenth’s version of golf suggest that it might not be the shrewdest idea for the game to market itself as a form of masochism. They contend that it could be, you know, fun. People might listen to music while playing. The ground on which golf is played doesn’t have to be so stinkin’ hallowed.

It doesn’t seem that a comparison that two roughly 150-yard par 3s would have anything to do with the distance debate, but I content that it does. At its course, the distance debate isn’t merely about distance. The contention that there is a “proper” distance for people to hit their drives is very much of the spirit of Augusta. The contrary position, that it’s fun to watch Cam Champ obliterate golf balls, feels much more in tune with Phoenix.

I’m going to pursue a couple of rabbit trails here, but my main point is this: the distance debate comes down to a matter of taste and preference. To be sure, the reality of increased distance is objectively there, and it creates real-world problems. And while I honestly don’t know what the answer is, the collective temperature of the discussion could drop a few degrees by remembering that we’re trying to figure out how to play a game for amusement.

Remembering that golf is a game, though obvious, helps this discussion, because the rules and regulations of sports are of necessity arbitrary. Sports are unnecessary. That is their nature. They may play a practical function in society, equipping citizens with physical, social, and emotional skills that can prepare them for more necessary tasks. But sport is sport because it in itself is not a task that needs to be accomplished.

If you run 26.2 miles to deliver a needed message in a battle, that is not sport. If you run 26.2 miles for its own sake, that’s sport.

In battle, you have to run 26.2 miles because that’s where the guy is to whom the message must be delivered. In sport, you run 26.2 miles…for any possible number of reasons. Because it is the nature of sport to be unnecessary, the rules of sports have no moral or logical necessity to them. The rationale for the rules of sports are rooted in various concerns:

  • Convenience: we can race to that tree. Why that distance? Because the tree standing there provides an easy finish line. Any number of rules in various sports have these kinds of origins and golf is no exception. Why 18 holes? Why a cup 4.25” in diameter? In many cases, the answer is that it was convenient for those who originated the game, and therefore become the accepted standard everywhere.
  • Competition: every sport has to determine what it is testing and this is arbitrary. An open “who can cover this distance the fastest?” contest needs further parameters to make competition meaningful. Does it make sense to have people races when we have auto races, and the cars go way faster? It does, only because we make arbitrary distinctions. Track is wrestling right now with shoe technology, but why permit shoes at all? Our answer to this question is not going to be one with mathematical certainty. Golf is fundamentally a question of getting a ball in a hole in as few strokes as possible. Do we want to be more specific about the ways in which a person must go about doing that?
  • Fun: because sport is unnecessary, and especially in a society like ours in which we have more freedom for leisure than nearly any that preceded us, we choose rules for a sport to make it more enjoyable. We start with the obvious extremes: basketball with rims at 50’ would make for a frustrating game. It might be interesting (for a time) to see if anyone could make a basket at that height, but the game of basketball would likely be literally pointless with that goal, making it more frustrating than fun to play.
  • Challenge: perhaps in tension with fun, we place some rules in place to make our sport more difficult. And at the extremes, there are sports where the grueling challenge is the point: think various endurance sports, like hypermarathon running. Typically, the more a sports rules tilt toward challenge and away from fun, the smaller the number of people that will be drawn to the sport.
  • Entertainment: I distinguish this from fun as I have in view here the perspective of the spectator rather than the participants. For sports without spectators, this doesn’t matter. But for sports that seek to generate revenue, this is an enormous consideration. I think we can safely presume that this is in large measure why baseball ignored its obvious steroid issue in the late 1990s.
  • Continuity: and we can break this down into two (sometimes very different) aspects. There is continuity of the challenge and continuity of the results. A sport like track emphasizes the continuity of the challenge. It would strike most people as absurd if, as records fall at various distances, the governing bodies of track stretch the 100m sprint to 110m to keep the times consistent with the past. But golf, with its center of gravity in relation to par, seems to prefer continuity of results. If Rory McIlroy would play an unadjusted Augusta at a number absurdly under par, doesn’t that simply mean that he’s better at golf (getting the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes) than previous generations?

The distance debate exists in the tension created by these various goals of a sport.

My point is simply to encourage everyone to recognize that. I suspect that even if equipment advances were absolutely locked down right now, we’re still likely to see driving distance averages moving from 296 yards (where it is right now) to north of 320 yards in the next decades.

If this were to happen, it means that the most elite golfers have gotten better at golf. And yes, they will be able to blow the doors off courses, shooting numbers that are absurdly under par, because they are better at golf than the golfers of the past. If the object of the game is to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes possible, hitting the ball as close as possible to the hole on every shot maximizes your ability to do that.

If we don’t like what the combination of athletic ability, equipment, optimized launch, and perfect agronomy do to our enjoyment of watching the game (and the distance problem is exclusively a problem at the most elite level), there’s a case to be made for changing it. But the case is one based on taste, one aimed at creating a product that is enjoyable to watch so that it is profitable, and in that way sustainable.

 

Agree, that was long.  Having read it, I'm still not clear on your position on whether a distance problem exists and, if so, do we just accept it as part of the sports evolution (player/equipment/technology advances), or "reign it in" so that it is "enjoyable to watch so that it is profitable, and in that way sustainable".

 

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Poa grass is known for bouncing especially late in the day. 


I’ve played on Poa - not a fan.


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5 minutes ago, revkev said:

 


I’ve played on Poa - not a fan.


Sent from my iPhone using MyGolfSpy

 

Sounds ie most of us northerners when it comes to Bermuda 🤪

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We got to get out in front of this, golf ball manufacturers are going to need some innovative product names for these new golf balls that don't travel as far, don't roll out, spin like mad, once the USGA and R&A roll back the ball.  (IMHO this is what they have wanted to do for at least ten years)  The manufacturers are going to have major marketing issues trying to sell new golf balls that don't go as far.  
So grab the copyrights on a couple winners and when the day comes cash in.
Like the "Big Berty",  the "Shot Maker", the "Classic", the "Tour-Rite", the "Shorty", the "Whizzer",  the "Chipper", the "Gyro", "the Lay-Up", the "Gummy", the "One More" (club), the "Gutta Putta", ProV-Zeros, etc.
 


This and my vodka martini are the perfect end to a brutally long two days, thanks!

I watched the no putts given episode while doing a round of dishes - why I was doing the dishes when I’m the only one in the house who worked today is topic for another thread.

I found it insightful and have two tournaments that I’ve been to multiple times that are instructive and contradictory to my earlier point about former being tougher - I don’t know that it’s true unless firmer leads to hazards and truly thick rough.

So the first tournament is in my backyard - Valspar.

Driving distances at that tournament are far shorter than others - often 30 yards shorter than mid season tournaments in the Midwest or Northeast. The reason is it’s wetter in my part of Florida and there are several holes that do t allow for drives over 300 yards because of water hazards. Winning scores at Valspar range from low to mid teens and guys rave about the course - it produces a variety of winners.

The second was in my old backyard - Westchester - in its day this course was similar to Copperhead - one of the shortest on tour. When the tournament was played in August, firm conditions, rough dry and wispy - score were outrageously low. Then it moved to June - wet, snarly rough, fast firm greens - winning score was often single digits - guys loved to play there because it was great prep for the US Open just as Copperhead is for Augusta.

Course conditions are the most logical answer to the long term problem.


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15 hours ago, fixyurdivot said:

Agree, that was long.  Having read it, I'm still not clear on your position on whether a distance problem exists and, if so, do we just accept it as part of the sports evolution (player/equipment/technology advances), or "reign it in" so that it is "enjoyable to watch so that it is profitable, and in that way sustainable".

Yeah, you're right on both accounts. It's really long, and I don't have a definite conclusion on the distance debate itself. My main point was to just remind everyone involved that we're trying to figure out the best rules for a game. That means there's no definitive right and wrong here. I think that reminder applies more to the rollback/bifurcation side of the debate, who sometimes frame their arguments hyperbolically: that the modern game is a travesty, etc.

I don't want to discount the real logistics issues: length increases maintenance, etc. But what we're arguing about, chiefly, is our taste in the kind of golf we want to watch.

Maybe we could frame it this way: laying aside personality and just focusing on style of play, would you rather watch

  • A Zach Johnson or Jim Furyk plot their way around the course, laying up on par 5s to get birdies with stellar wedge play, or
  • A Rory McIlory or Jon Rahm hit mammoth drives and laser approach shots, or
  • A Bubba Watson or Phil Mickelson, hitting huge drives and hitting heroic recovery shots with imagination?

To be sure, it is good for the Tour if there's room for all of these guys. Variety is part of what makes the game interesting. But it's likely that one kind of player will be predominate. Which archetype should the Tour seek to have as the most common player?

Honestly, I'd rather watch the Bubba/Phil guys. In my judgment, they are the most entertaining and provide the most "Did you see that?!" moments per round. But it's impossible to make those guys the majority, not only because (I suspect) that style of play isn't something you can really teach, but because it just isn't the most prudent style of play for most guys if they want to have a sustainable Tour career.

Watching a ZJ or Furyk play is absolutely fascinating, but (for me) I can't imagine that having a Tour filled with those guys would be more fun to watch than a Tour filled with Rory/Rahm clones. The ZJ/Furyk types are interesting for two reasons: they're more relatable than the others, and they provide a contrast.

So on balance, it seems to me that the Tour would be making itself less interesting, on balance, if it made changes to favor a Tour filled with ZJ/Furyk types.

That's as close as I get to an answer 🙂

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