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NPG Episode 31: How to Fix the Distance "Problem"

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1 hour ago, bens197 said:

 


Funny you post this. Last night I was out at a pub celebrating with a friend who was promoted at work and one of the TV’s was showing that exact broadcast.

On one of the back nine holes, Sutton hit it 295 with 150 in...his driver of choice? A Taylor Made Firesole with a burner shaft. Ball of choice? Top Flite Strata.

None of the guys at the table are golfers so me saying how did that happen fell on deaf ears.

 

 

The PGA average for 1980 was about 256 yards per drive. These were the days of persimmon heads, steel shafts, and wound balata balls.

John Daly arrived on the scene in 1991, and let the tour with an average drive of 289 yards, which was a huge jump over the year before (Tom Purtzer) and the highest ever, yet the average was only slightly higher than 1980 at only 261.

1996 is when the first big change occurred. This was the year that titanium started to be widely available. Although McGregor had introduced a ti driver in 1992, it took club giants Taylor Made and Callaway to really send these new driver heads out to a mass audience.

Through the late 90’s it became evident that the Titanium heads were simply superior technology as companies could reduce weight and enlarge the sweet spot on the face. More and more players on the PGA Tour were now carrying Ti drivers in their bags.

In these years the average drive steadily climbed into the low 270’s. John Daly was still the distance king, and became the first tour player to average over 300 yards per drive for a full year.

The next huge jump came in 2001 with the invention of the multi layer Titleist Pro V1. With the soft cover that kept spin rates high, technology allowed them to put a hard core in the middle so that the ball would drive more like a Top Flite than an old balata. And wham you had the best of both worlds – distance and control. It was light years ahead of any other ball.

Almost overnight the driving averages on tour jumped up 6 yards from 273 to 279. Even John Daly jumped up 5.3 yards that year. Titleist absolutely dominated the ball market.

 

A new generation was now coming up who had grown up with the new driver and ball technology, and this ushered in a whole new era in professional golf called bomb and gauge. The object was to hit the ball as far as possible not worrying about hitting fairways. Even if a drive found the rough, it would be close enough to the green where the player could just gouge a wedge onto the middle of the green. So essentially they weren’t getting punished for lack of accuracy.

These younger players had just watched Tiger Woods dominate Augusta National off the tee in 1997 and 2000. Hank Kuehne led the Bomb and Gauge brigade with a mind boggling 321 yards per drive – which to this day has not been surpassed.

Source: https://hititlonger.com/the-history-of-driving-distance-on-the-pga-tour/

Edited by Tsecor
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1 hour ago, GolfSpy Stroker said:

(which begs the question: what is the winning score that the USGA wants?  obviously 21 under is not good but what's their target range?)

Exactly. I do not understand the complaints about scores in relation to par nor the obsession of protection of par. The only explanation I can think of is related to the sake of comparison to past eras which people taking this stance strongly deny. 


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I’m not sure about anyone else, but when was the last time you hit a drive that landed at 250 and rolled another 70 yards. These guys are hitting The fairway at 300 yards and then the ball rolls another 50-60 yards. To me that’s simple, let the fairway grass be a touch longer like it is every other day. Make the rough more penalizing. Thicker, Deeper, more whispy. Make it so the rough is not pristine Everywhere. Make it unpredictable. The course doesn’t have to be long to be difficult. 

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10 minutes ago, Kor.A.Door said:

I’m not sure about anyone else, but when was the last time you hit a drive that landed at 250 and rolled another 70 yards. These guys are hitting The fairway at 300 yards and then the ball rolls another 50-60 yards. To me that’s simple, let the fairway grass be a touch longer like it is every other day. Make the rough more penalizing. Thicker, Deeper, more whispy. Make it so the rough is not pristine Everywhere. Make it unpredictable. The course doesn’t have to be long to be difficult. 

This certainly has some potential, although when the USGA does this for the US Open we hear complaints about how that makes golf too one-dimensional.  The other problem is that course conditions are completely beyond the ability of the USGA/R&A to regulate.  Now its certainly possible that the increased attention the study brings, and ongoing discussions that will involve the PGA Tour might encourage the Tour to revise the way it sets up courses.  It might be a smart thing for the Tour to do this on their own, to minimize the motivation for enacting new equipment regulations that decrease distance

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10 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

This certainly has some potential, although when the USGA does this for the US Open we hear complaints about how that makes golf too one-dimensional.  The other problem is that course conditions are completely beyond the ability of the USGA/R&A to regulate.  Now its certainly possible that the increased attention the study brings, and ongoing discussions that will involve the PGA Tour might encourage the Tour to revise the way it sets up courses.  It might be a smart thing for the Tour to do this on their own, to minimize the motivation for enacting new equipment regulations that decrease distance

When it comes to the rough, I guess the question is... is there a grass length that will increase variability (bringing back the knuckleball flyer and the marshmallow) but without forcing the sand wedge hack out.  Combine this with firmer greens (like we saw at Riviera) that will accept perfectly struck shots but will repel the merely adequate and completely eject the flyer and I think we'll see accuracy be rewarded a bit more.

If a Rory/DJ/Rahm/JT/etc. has a phenomenal driving week, driving the ball long and hitting fairways, they'll have a huge advantage and they can manhandle the golf course.  If not, then they'll need to make a strategic decision and possibly dial it back to keep the ball in play, because a missed fairway will be a significant penalty.  This will force them to play the golf course more as the architect intended.  And the longer hitters will still have an advantage if they're farther away from the green.  If Rory's 165 from the hole and Zac Blair is 165 from the hole, Rory's still hitting a shorter club into the green.

Length will always be an advantage.  


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7 hours ago, HardcoreLooper said:

When it comes to the rough, I guess the question is... is there a grass length that will increase variability (bringing back the knuckleball flyer and the marshmallow) but without forcing the sand wedge hack out.  Combine this with firmer greens (like we saw at Riviera) that will accept perfectly struck shots but will repel the merely adequate and completely eject the flyer and I think we'll see accuracy be rewarded a bit more.

If a Rory/DJ/Rahm/JT/etc. has a phenomenal driving week, driving the ball long and hitting fairways, they'll have a huge advantage and they can manhandle the golf course.  If not, then they'll need to make a strategic decision and possibly dial it back to keep the ball in play, because a missed fairway will be a significant penalty.  This will force them to play the golf course more as the architect intended.  And the longer hitters will still have an advantage if they're farther away from the green.  If Rory's 165 from the hole and Zac Blair is 165 from the hole, Rory's still hitting a shorter club into the green.

Length will always be an advantage.  

Yes length is always an advantage. Dialing it back doesn’t fix that issue. I am not one for dialing it back, I think  course setup is the way to change the game. Let’s face it, these guys are really good, they can hit shots that we can’t. I say let’s enjoy watching them hit bombs. The scores aren’t that much different from year to year. Yes the scoring is up a little. If the only guys that are winning are the guys who fit into the longest on tour category then yes there’s an issue, but they aren’t always the one winning. When you consider that the short hitter ls on tour are still around 295 they all hit it long. I say leave it, set up the course a little different and see what happens before you start adding length to everything

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2 hours ago, Kor.A.Door said:

Yes length is always an advantage. Dialing it back doesn’t fix that issue. I am not one for dialing it back, I think  course setup is the way to change the game. Let’s face it, these guys are really good, they can hit shots that we can’t. I say let’s enjoy watching them hit bombs. The scores aren’t that much different from year to year. Yes the scoring is up a little. If the only guys that are winning are the guys who fit into the longest on tour category then yes there’s an issue, but they aren’t always the one winning. When you consider that the short hitter ls on tour are still around 295 they all hit it long. I say leave it, set up the course a little different and see what happens before you start adding length to everything

I don't doubt that scores are staying relatively similar, but these scores are coming on courses that are getting longer and longer.  If the Tour was still playing regularly on courses that were 6900-7200 yards, I bet we'd see scores significantly lower.

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How dare they!!! How dare Bay Hill and PGA National intentionally destroy years of dumb-a** thoughtful analysis and study by the USGA supporting equipment throttling by demonstrating how effective tournament course set-up is to solving the distance issue. Both courses should have their official ratings revoked until they agree to widen fairways, dramatically shorten rough, slow down and soften up greens, and fill in about half of the water hazards on their courses! They need to get those scores down to an acceptable 18 to 20 below par so the USGA can justify prove their position. HOW DARE THEY!!!!

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31 minutes ago, MIgregb said:

How dare they!!! How dare Bay Hill and PGA National intentionally destroy years of dumb-a** thoughtful analysis and study by the USGA supporting equipment throttling by demonstrating how effective tournament course set-up is to solving the distance issue. Both courses should have their official ratings revoked until they agree to widen fairways, dramatically shorten rough, slow down and soften up greens, and fill in about half of the water hazards on their courses! They need to get those scores down to an acceptable 18 to 20 below par so the USGA can justify prove their position. HOW DARE THEY!!!!

As popular as bashing the R&A is, many of the factors that influence driving distance are beyond the control of the Ruling Bodies.  The joint report definitely indicated that course set-up has an impact, as does player fitness, as does improved clubfitting, as do continuing advances in equipment.  The last two weeks on the PGA Tour show how effective course set-up can be in limiting distance by increasing the relative value of hitting fairways.  But let's put our heads together, is there any way that course conditioning and set-up can be regulated by the USGA and R&A, for anything other than the few tournaments that they run in-house?  Please, you must be smarter than the Ruling Bodies, how would you word such a requirement?  Or maybe we should just leave it to the PGA to voluntarily change the way they set up most of their tournaments, and to voluntarily change the way they market their entertainment product to the masses.  Any predictions on seeing long rough, slow fairways, and firm fast greens at the next John Deere Classic, or the Rocket Mortgage or the Travelers?

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On ‎2‎/‎28‎/‎2020 at 1:15 PM, DaveP043 said:

This certainly has some potential, although when the USGA does this for the US Open we hear complaints about how that makes golf too one-dimensional.  The other problem is that course conditions are completely beyond the ability of the USGA/R&A to regulate.  Now its certainly possible that the increased attention the study brings, and ongoing discussions that will involve the PGA Tour might encourage the Tour to revise the way it sets up courses.  It might be a smart thing for the Tour to do this on their own, to minimize the motivation for enacting new equipment regulations that decrease distance

So were the scores the past two weeks the product of the PGA tour using more difficult course set ups or the weather or both?

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3 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

As popular as bashing the R&A is, many of the factors that influence driving distance are beyond the control of the Ruling Bodies.  The joint report definitely indicated that course set-up has an impact, as does player fitness, as does improved clubfitting, as do continuing advances in equipment.  The last two weeks on the PGA Tour show how effective course set-up can be in limiting distance by increasing the relative value of hitting fairways.  But let's put our heads together, is there any way that course conditioning and set-up can be regulated by the USGA and R&A, for anything other than the few tournaments that they run in-house?  Please, you must be smarter than the Ruling Bodies, how would you word such a requirement?  Or maybe we should just leave it to the PGA to voluntarily change the way they set up most of their tournaments, and to voluntarily change the way they market their entertainment product to the masses.  Any predictions on seeing long rough, slow fairways, and firm fast greens at the next John Deere Classic, or the Rocket Mortgage or the Travelers?

Great point - not much chance, those tournaments don't attract as many big names and therefore they need to bombing and scoring as a draw.

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4 minutes ago, revkev said:

So were the scores the past two weeks the product of the PGA tour using more difficult course set ups or the weather or both?

To me, PGA National is just a punishing golf course.  Lots of times, a mistake leads to a half-shot penalty, or maybe a quarter-shot.  But when the ball is in the water, strokes aren't lost in fractions, but in whole numbers, so scores get high.  Combine that with wind, and its even tougher.  Bay Hill seemed the same, with perhaps more emphasis on the gnarly rough, and even higher winds.  But in each case, the rough seemed "rougher" than we commonly see, and the greens were really firm, so accuracy became more important than it usually is.  We'll see if this is type of set-up is a rarity, or the "new normal".

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Has the USGA considered having players come over the top and flip at the ball?  That's what I do and nobody complains about my distance.

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13 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

To me, PGA National is just a punishing golf course.  Lots of times, a mistake leads to a half-shot penalty, or maybe a quarter-shot.  But when the ball is in the water, strokes aren't lost in fractions, but in whole numbers, so scores get high.  Combine that with wind, and its even tougher.  Bay Hill seemed the same, with perhaps more emphasis on the gnarly rough, and even higher winds.  But in each case, the rough seemed "rougher" than we commonly see, and the greens were really firm, so accuracy became more important than it usually is.  We'll see if this is type of set-up is a rarity, or the "new normal".

I've played both but Bayhill and PGA National but that was before Nicklaus got his hands on it - those two back nine par 3's had water on them but there was much more room between the water's edge and the green - a bit more margin for error.  Bayhill isn't as bad as it looks but it doesn't normally have that much rough (which then brought more of the water into play.)

It will be very interesting to see what happens this weekend - if you got that kind of wind under those kind of conditions at Sawgrass it would truly be a blood bath - but its supposed to be warm and dry, I'm not sure what the rough is like now and don't know how windy it will be. 

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19 minutes ago, Wedgie said:

Has the USGA considered having players come over the top and flip at the ball?  That's what I do and nobody complains about my distance.

Looks like they told Tyrrell Hatton to use an early extension but he still won so I'm not sure where we go from here....

 

 

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Just now, GolfSpy Stroker said:

Looks like they told Tyrrell Hatton to use an early extension but he still won so I'm not sure where we go from here....

 

 

I'm pretty sure I do that too!

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1 minute ago, Wedgie said:

I'm pretty sure I do that too!

welcome to the team !! 😁

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Of course, I was being sarcastic with my “how dare they” post.  And no doubt weather conditions made both courses more difficult. But it does seem to point to (at least) a potential remedy to the distance issue by having tougher course conditions for tournaments as opposed to the seemingly monumental task of rolling back equipment. There is already a bifurcation with tournament vs. recreational courses. So why add another fork in the road, at least until they find out for certain how much course set-up can improve the situation? It seems to me that if the USGA can legislate what equipment can be used in all tournaments, they can find a way to legislate course conditions in those same tournaments. I don’t have the language ready for them to insert into the rule book, but I believe it can be done (tried??).

Look, I doubt there’s a perfect one-size-fits-all solution; but changing course conditions sure seems like an expedient one.


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22 minutes ago, MIgregb said:

Of course, I was being sarcastic with my “how dare they” post.  And no doubt weather conditions made both courses more difficult. But it does seem to point to (at least) a potential remedy to the distance issue by having tougher course conditions for tournaments as opposed to the seemingly monumental task of rolling back equipment. There is already a bifurcation with tournament vs. recreational courses. So why add another fork in the road, at least until they find out for certain how much course set-up can improve the situation? It seems to me that if the USGA can legislate what equipment can be used in all tournaments, they can find a way to legislate course conditions in those same tournaments. I don’t have the language ready for them to insert into the rule book, but I believe it can be done (tried??).

Look, I doubt there’s a perfect one-size-fits-all solution; but changing course conditions sure seems like an expedient one.

The way I look at it, there's no bifurcation at this time.  The Rules of Golf apply to every golfer, from the PGA Tour to the 9-hole municipal down the street.  The equipment rules, every single rule that potentially limits distance, apply to everyone.  I just don't see that regulation of course conditions at any tournament beyond those actually run by the Ruling Bodies is within the realm of the USGA (and R&A, they're involved every step of the way).  Yes, conditions are different at PGA  Tour events from those at your local muni, but those differences don't exist because of any regulation by anyone.  But this is why the next steps discussed in the USGA summary include discussion with all the stakeholders on a number of potential courses of action, including de facto bifurcation (via authorized local rule), and including potential ways of minimizing future equipment-related gains in distance.  Maybe in those discussions the PGA Tour will volunteer to try to toughen conditions more often, to increase the negative consequences of off-line shots, and maybe that will lead players to think twice about hitting driver as often.  

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