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

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Last night the Golf channel was re-broadcasting the 2000 Players championship.  It was Tiger chasing Hal Sutton.  A great comp.
The distance they were getting with the clubs they were using was impressive - both were getting over 300 easily with those small headed drivers.
Funny thing is nobody even mentioned 'distance' and I think Sutton won at either -10 or -11.... (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?)
If you get a chance, watch one of the older tournaments.  Check out the length of the grass and see if distance was an issue back then.  I know some folks fault the equipment but I don't know about that.  Tiger was hitting his 9i 160+ without much of an issue and old man Hal was keeping right with him!
This week is going to be nuts because of the altitude in Mexico.  Guys will be hitting mid irons 250.... but just because you can hit the ball a long way doesn't mean you're going to win.
Just ask Jamie Sadlowski, Cam Champ and all of those other big time bombers.


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.


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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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