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Golf’s distance problem (or not)


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I work for a PGM program at a DI university.  I am the director of player development and internships.  Needless to say, I see quite a few golf swings each week.

I mostly have 18-22yr old young men in my program.  Only a handful have driver ball speeds in the 170s.  Most are lower 160s or 150s.

Today, we ran a fundraiser tournament and set up TrackMan on a driver hole. We had 84 golfers come through of all ages and physical fitness levels.  Only two broke 170mph ball speed.  The majority carried it somewhere between 150-220yds.  I’ll run the stats later, but we had a minimum carry of 3.8yds (cold top) and a max carry of around 299.

What are your thoughts on whether or not there is a distance problem (as in the USGA’s position that golfers are hitting it too far and making courses obsolete) in golf?  Granted that statement may be targeted at the PGA Tour.  What do you see at your courses? 

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24 minutes ago, GolfSpy_CS said:

as in the USGA’s position that golfers are hitting it too far

The USGA has been pretty clear in saying this is a problem only at the very top levels of play.  But those distance gains, for the golf we all see on TV, change the perception of what yardages we should all be playing.  Those perceptions fuel the changes courses are making to add yardage to what, for 99% of players, are already plenty long enough courses.  At my home club, we have a half-dozen guys who are stupid long, but in general the membership is plenty happy playing 5900 (white/senior) to 6200 (blue/regular) tees.

 

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17 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

The USGA has been pretty clear in saying this is a problem only at the very top levels of play.  But those distance gains, for the golf we all see on TV, change the perception of what yardages we should all be playing.  Those perceptions fuel the changes courses are making to add yardage to what, for 99% of players, are already plenty long enough courses.  At my home club, we have a half-dozen guys who are stupid long, but in general the membership is plenty happy playing 5900 (white/senior) to 6200 (blue/regular) tees.

 

Yes, thus why I said in the post that it may be targeted at the PGA Tour.

As you say, I still see it having an impact at the recreational levels as well.  The overwhelming majority of golfers I play with on the random quick nine are hitting it in that 200-220yd carry range and trying to play from 6,500yds or more. 

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16 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

The USGA has been pretty clear in saying this is a problem only at the very top levels of play.  But those distance gains, for the golf we all see on TV, change the perception of what yardages we should all be playing.  Those perceptions fuel the changes courses are making to add yardage to what, for 99% of players, are already plenty long enough courses.  At my home club, we have a half-dozen guys who are stupid long, but in general the membership is plenty happy playing 5900 (white/senior) to 6200 (blue/regular) tees.

I should add, the back (gold) tees are plenty long enough for most players, including one guy who made it to the  USGA Senior Amateur a couple years back, at a little under 6800 yards.

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44 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

The USGA has been pretty clear in saying this is a problem only at the very top levels of play.  But those distance gains, for the golf we all see on TV, change the perception of what yardages we should all be playing.  Those perceptions fuel the changes courses are making to add yardage to what, for 99% of players, are already plenty long enough courses.  At my home club, we have a half-dozen guys who are stupid long, but in general the membership is plenty happy playing 5900 (white/senior) to 6200 (blue/regular) tees.

 

That is close to our yardages 5900 6200 but then again we are at sea level and 2 miles from the ocean as the seagull flies. I think our Super Senior tees ( over 70 YOA) are like 5400. The regular Gold Senior tees where I play from are around 5700. On those yardages general rule of thumb add 10% for sea level. I think our blue back tees play around 6600 to 6700. When I play vintage persimmon golf I play mostly from the Green Super Senior tees since I only hit a persimmon driver 200 yards max now. 

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34 minutes ago, GolfSpy_CS said:

Yes, thus why I said in the post that it may be targeted at the PGA Tour.

As you say, I still see it having an impact at the recreational levels as well.  The overwhelming majority of golfers I play with on the random quick nine are hitting it in that 200-220yd carry range and trying to play from 6,500yds or more. 

Yep at this stage of life with my bad back and half swing I only hit a modern metal driver like 220. Before my accident darn near 2 years ago now I was still punching it out there around 240 250 with the metal driver not bad at the time for a 62 year old. At this stage of life I could give 2 hoots less what the Tour or anyone else does distance wise. I am going to play the best I can do with my buds and have fun doing it. I am grateful every time I tee it up good or bad that I am blessed to even be able to walk much less attempt to play golf

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I personally don't think there is a problem.   The game; especially the pro game  has evolved the amateur game not as much.  The old school courses have evolved with better maintenance, equipment has evolved to perform better,  players are more fit, and players understand the game better.   You mentioned NC State and what you saw at the tournament;  is that the same level of performance for the golf team?  

No matter what is done players will continue to hit the ball father and some players will be significantly longer than others.   People say courses are becoming obsolete yet old school courses can be setup to be penal and increase scoring.   My question would be what does everyone what to rollback to or maintain;  what is the max distance?

 

 

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10 minutes ago, cnosil said:

I personally don't think there is a problem.   The game; especially the pro game  has evolved the amateur game not as much.  The old school courses have evolved with better maintenance, equipment has evolved to perform better,  players are more fit, and players understand the game better.   You mentioned NC State and what you saw at the tournament;  is that the same level of performance for the golf team?  

No matter what is done players will continue to hit the ball father and some players will be significantly longer than others.   People say courses are becoming obsolete yet old school courses can be setup to be penal and increase scoring.   My question would be what does everyone what to rollback to or maintain;  what is the max distance?

 

 

Today was a fundraiser with regular golfers.  Our men’s team obviously has some who can bang it with the best of them and some who don’t hit it as far.  They played a DI tournament a few weekends ago and I saw several players hit drivers on the range.  Wasn’t anything spectacular or crazy long.

100% agree.  Some seem to forget that Nicklaus and Snead were long for their era as well.  You can’t regulate athletes getting bigger, stronger, taller, faster.  I say enjoy the game at whatever distance you play it at and if people on Tour start hitting 380yd drives, so be it.  Guarantee it’ll make it more fun for the lay fan.  And just cut a creek at 330yds if they start bombing it that far.  They’ll always have an advantage no matter how the course is set up.  Always have. Nothing will change that.

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3 hours ago, GolfSpy_CS said:

What are your thoughts on whether or not there is a distance problem (as in the USGA’s position that golfers are hitting it too far and making courses obsolete) in golf?  Granted that statement may be targeted at the PGA Tour.  What do you see at your courses? 

At the amateur level, I see no issue at all.  Most courses offer tee sets that cover the spectrum of long and short hitters.  I rarely see players overpowering course layouts unless they are playing tees not well matched to their hitting distances. 

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2 hours ago, GolfSpy_CS said:

 You can’t regulate athletes getting bigger, stronger, taller, faster. 

Players will continue to get bigger, stronger, taller, faster.  Does that mean rules should never change in response to that change?

 

Take football.  Kickers have gotten bigger, stronger et.al.  The rules have changed many times because kickers got too good.  The goal posts have been narrowed. Tee were eliminated for field goals and the ball had to be placed on the ground.  The ball was moved back for kickoffs.  The kicker was moved farther back for extra points.  

 

The balance/strategy of games sometimes need to be preserved, even when the change comes from players themselves getting physically bigger,  stronger, taller, faster..

   

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8 hours ago, alfriday101 said:

Players will continue to get bigger, stronger, taller, faster.  Does that mean rules should never change in response to that change?

 

Take football.  Kickers have gotten bigger, stronger et.al.  The rules have changed many times because kickers got too good.  The goal posts have been narrowed. Tee were eliminated for field goals and the ball had to be placed on the ground.  The ball was moved back for kickoffs.  The kicker was moved farther back for extra points.  

 

The balance/strategy of games sometimes need to be preserved, even when the change comes from players themselves getting physically bigger,  stronger, taller, faster..

   

Point well taken.  Same happened in basketball (example: college moved the 3pt line back).  I’m not saying rules should never change.  It’s just that with golf, it seems that any equipment or rule changes would also continue to simply maintain the distance advantage that the already longer hitters have.  Make the club less hot and now the shorter hitters hit it shorter.  Longer hitters will still be longer.  It is what it is.  Grow the rough longer,  big hitters still have the advantage.
 

Only thing I could see is add a creek where long balls land and/or roll to force big hitters to lay back or choose the risk.  But then again, even if big hitters and short hitter are hitting their approaches from the same distance, big hitter is hitting a club or two less than short hitter.  The advantage is still maintained.

While the trend has and likely will continue to be that the farther you hit it the more money you make at the Tour level (I ran a regression on this a while back), it’s not like Bryson, Champ, and Rory have won every tournament and major.  Far from it.  There is much more to the game that factors in.

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9 hours ago, alfriday101 said:

Players will continue to get bigger, stronger, taller, faster.  Does that mean rules should never change in response to that change?

 

Take football.  Kickers have gotten bigger, stronger et.al.  The rules have changed many times because kickers got too good.  The goal posts have been narrowed. Tee were eliminated for field goals and the ball had to be placed on the ground.  The ball was moved back for kickoffs.  The kicker was moved farther back for extra points.  

 

The balance/strategy of games sometimes need to be preserved, even when the change comes from players themselves getting physically bigger,  stronger, taller, faster..

   

There’s always going to be long hitters and short hitters. The distance complaint is coming from course designers. They are lacking the imagination that the old designers have and think the only option for new designs to get a tour event at their course is to go longer which requires more property which costs more money. So they complain. Two of the bigger complainers also happen to be two of the longer guys of their era in Jack and Tiger. They had no issues taking advantage of their length during their hey day and are complaining from their design business.

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14 minutes ago, RickyBobby_PR said:

There’s always going to be long hitters and short hitters. The distance complaint is coming from course designers. They are lacking the imagination that the old designers have and think the only option for new designs to get a tour event at their course is to go longer which requires more property which costs more money. So they complain. Two of the bigger complainers also happen to be two of the longer guys of their era in Jack and Tiger. They had no issues taking advantage of their length during their hey day and are complaining from their design business.

Any the point could be made, why care?  So what if scores drop?  Unless there is some magical winning score (let’s call it -6), what is there to do about it?

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Using The Masters as an example, average winning scores have been trending lower since 1934.  The average from 1934-1989 was -7.29.  From 1990-2009, it averaged -10.72 (a 32% increase), and from 2010 to present, -11.56 (+7%). To what extent this is hitting length related is hard to say for sure but we do know that hitting length throughout the bag has increased, so it stands to reason it is a primary factor. 

The rather significant change in scoring coincides with a period where significant equipment changes took place.  With those major material and design improvements now cooked into equipment, the gains are considerably less - as we see in the product cycle tests. Maybe I'm wrong here, but the "swoled era" didn't really get rolling until about 2010 and I suspect it is mostly responsible for gains since then.  Take a look at players physiques from decades ago and today - big difference. How much more distance can be gained across the field from physical strength training, I dunno... but suspect not that much.  So presuming equipment has pretty much has plateaued, that leaves physical size, strength and swing mechanics as the opportunity for further average hitting length gains... and I don't think their is much meat left on that bone. Yeah, ok, Harry Higgs, Jason Dufner, Beef, and Lowery aside 😆...

Augusta National has been making changes to the course in attempt to throttle the gains in length and seem to have done a pretty good job. We've discussed many other changes to course conditions, in various related threads, that could offset some of the distance.  One that I see as a no brainer is fairway and rough cut lengths. Pool table like fairways that allow considerable rollout does not help. We also have seen recent events where shaggy rough around the greens wreaked havoc on the field and put a dent in scoring.

Ultimately, average scoring is just a score and the number itself doesn't really matter.  What matters (at least for me) is not seeing the pro game become something that does not remotely reflect the game you and I play.  Being able to routinely reach par 5's in two shots isn't our game.  Grabbing a 9i or PW for a second shot on 400+ yard holes isn't our game. 

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35 minutes ago, GolfSpy_CS said:

Any the point could be made, why care?  So what if scores drop?  Unless there is some magical winning score (let’s call it -6), what is there to do about it?

Agree. I don’t get the complaining about low scores. I watch golf to see the best in the world perform. Why would I want to see US Open conditions every week. I like the variety of courses and weeks of low scores, mid scores and the periodic not so great 

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We've had this discussion any numbers of times.  I must say this is far and away the best informed and most civil discussion that we've had.  I think a large part of that is that two years time has past and we have learned that the USGA does not intend to impact us regardless of what it ultimately decides what to do.

I've picked up a couple of things from the discussion that have made me feel good and one that I know is true for my area and it seems as if for the rest of us, also.  First the good ones - I see that a couple of good players in my age group play from tees that are the same distance as I - I'm 65, a 6 handicap, I've lost distance for sure over the last 10 years but doing overspeed training has stemmed that tide and gotten a bit back for me.  I generally play at 5,900 yards which are the Senior Chairman tees at my club - it makes for a just right course at Sea Level distance wise.  The second is that the group is recognizing that length has always been an important attribute at the highest levels.  Whether its 270 when everyone else hits it 250 or 320 when everyone else hits it 290 the top players of an era will almost always be in the upper third distance wise.  There are very few exceptions and even they are mid pack, another words long enough.

 

The sad but true reality that I'm reading is that some here are concerned that the distances of tour players are influencing many to play from longer tees.  I don't know if that is true but I do know that it's true that guys often play from tees that they shouldn't particularly when I play the local muni or a resort or semi private, daily fee type course. 

 

We have 5 sets of tees at my club with 3 combo sets for a total of 8 that have USGA ratings.  We are going to lose the Senior Chair name for the ones that I play because many people who aren't seniors won't play them and they should.  Instead they play the white tees at 6,200 yards sea level.  If you average 220 off the tee (a bit above average for a male golfer) those tees will eat you for lunch.  There is no really long par 5 or par 3 so there are 4 par 4's over 400 with a 5th that is 390 with a huge green - when the pin is back it's around 410.  Get stuck behind a group playing from those tees that shouldn't be and you have to call the pro shop on the 8th hole to have them send someone out to tell the group to move up a set or skip a hole.  The nice thing is that they will.  The course 7,200 from the back - I've never seen anyone on those who shouldn't be and I've rarely ever seen anyone on the blues that shouldn't be either - those are 6,600 with a course rating of 73.8 and slope of 140 - it's 74.4 144 from the back - it's a really challenging and fun course to play from any set.

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1 hour ago, revkev said:

The sad but true reality that I'm reading is that some here are concerned that the distances of tour players are influencing many to play from longer tees.  I don't know if that is true but I do know that it's true that guys often play from tees that they shouldn't particularly when I play the local muni or a resort or semi private, daily fee type course. 

I see their frequently when paired with random people. I think some of it is the stigma of mens, ladies, senior tees and egos come into play. There’s a course I play frequently that has 4 sets of tees red, white, blue and black) it’s a tough course from the white for average length golfers and a challenge for most golfers from the blue. Lots of people play the blues that should be playing the  whites but they won’t move up. It’s usually the 50+ age range that I see play the whites because they know they don’t hit long.

Im not sure if there will ever be a way to get peoples egos out of choosing tee boxes

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4 hours ago, GolfSpy_CS said:

 It’s just that with golf, it seems that any equipment or rule changes would also continue to simply maintain the distance advantage that the already longer hitters have.  Make the club less hot and now the shorter hitters hit it shorter.  Longer hitters will still be longer.  It is what it is.  Grow the rough longer,  big hitters still have the advantage.

 

... Like many things in life, there is no easy answer. Two things come to mind for me. I think hitting the ball longer should be an advantage. Many courses are set up with risk reward for long hitters and if you are long and accurate you should get the reward. That said, way too many courses are not set up for a risk reward and only offer a reward for circumventing the course design. Pinching the fairway between bunkers 310yds off the tee so you can either lay back with a fairway wood/hybrid/long iron or challenge the narrow landing area is the design. Flat, wide landing areas with a LW to the green if you can fly those bunkers at 330 yds was never part of the design. Putting trees at the corner of a dogleg where a big drive of 320 leaves you a nice 2nd shot into a par 5 but missing a little left or right can put you in the trees and most likely a punch out. The course designer never pictured someone flying the all trees on the corner that need a 330yd carry and again, defeats the design of the hole. This of course only applies to the pros and why I have always been in favor of bi-furcation. We have so many great classic courses and I just don't think we need new courses designed for just for pros at 7600 or longer. 

... The second point for 99.99% of amateurs is they have the same problems of playing the way the course was designed, but not because they are long off the tee but because they are short off the tee. Course yardage is a poor indicator of your ability to play the course unless you know every hole and understand how they effect your game. My home course is an outstanding muni, hosting many state tourney's and even PGA qualifiers. Tips are 7089 but at 69 I play from the second set of tees at 6403 and that is a big jump. But that 6403 is very deceptive because several holes are much shorter than normal at 346, 277, 115 and 294. The 277 and 294 have lakes at a dogleg offering a risk reward to drive the green so really good holes. But that means several holes that all play uphill off the tee so even longer than the yardage at 439, 412, 430 and a 426 finishing hole and all are basically unreachable for many I play with. Once in a blue moon someone reaches with a career 3 wood but almost all the time these are 3 shot holes to reach the green. For better players this layout is a nice challenge where I can hit hybrid or 4 iron depending on the wind and feel like low index players should be forced to use most every club inn their bag for at least a few holes. For less skilled players, moving up a tee box changes those holes to 403, 383, 408 and 403 so they at least offer the opportunity to reach the top of the hill or even get some roll coming down the other side and reach a par 4 with 2 good shots. However the yardage is listed at 5952 and too many Ams feel anything less than 6000 is too easy or worse beneath their ability. Thankfully some courses offer combo tees which somewhat solves the problem but not enough courses take advantage of combo tees.

... So we are set ups with opposite conundrums. Some Pro's are playing courses that are too short and some Ams are playing courses that are too long. At least the latter is an easier fix than the former. 

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Driver:     :cobra-small: LTDx 10.5* ... LinQ M40X 6F3
Fairway:  :taylormade-small: SIM2 Max 15/16.5/18* ... Tensei Raw Blue 65R
Utility:      :taylormade-small: UDi 18* ... Even Flow Black 85R
                 :taylormade-small: DHy 19* ... Diamana Ltd 65R
                  :taylormade-small: Sim Hybrid 22* ... Diamana Ltd 75R
Irons:        :cobra-small: 5-Pw Forged Tec ... Steelfiber i80R
Wedges:   :taylormade-small: MG3 50*/MG3 58* LB ... Steelfiber i95R
Putter:      :cleveland-small: Hunting Beach Soft 11S 33.5"
Ball:           :taylormade-small: Maxfli Tour '22/TP5x '21

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Great discussion and thanks to everyone who has shared their experiences and thoughts.

Another note from the tournament yesterday.  So many people thanked me for giving them their stats and said that they never really knew how far they carried their driver.  I do think knowledge is empowering and/or helps to realize what you can/should do concerning by tee box choice.

Several said, “Wow, I thought I hit it a lot farther than that.”  I would take that time to day, “Your swing speed is respectable, especially for your age and/or skill level.  What you really need to do is learn to hit the middle of the face more and minimize spin and you’ll see at least a 20yd jump in this number.”   They left feeling energized and hopeful, and quite a few said, “We should probably move up a tee box or so.”

I had a few say, “Man that TrackMan where I got my driver must have been jacked up to high elevation because they told me I carried 30yds farther than this one…”.   I used that opportunity to discuss seeing a qualified fitter rather than just going and hitting on a box store sim. 
 

All in all, I think educating the general golfing public on actual average distances for their age/skill level can really free up the ego a bit.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the range next to a group of guys and they’re talking about how that drive they just hit went at least 290yds.  I can’t help but chuckle when the range ends at 300 and they barely carried it 220.  So much misunderstanding and unrealistic expectations.  
 

Even my college aged students think they hit it farther than they do.  Part of my process with them is to have them play 10 rounds and map their ball landing spots on the green relative to their target.  The overwhelming majority miss short with a few balls long, as opposed to a more even spread long/short.

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Instagram:  @tony_rosselli_

:SuperSpeed:Training

Pre training max driver speed: 124mph

Current: 130mph

WITB:

Driver: :ping-small:G400 LST 8.5* with HZRDUS SMOKE 6.5 70g 

Woods: :taylormade-small: 2007 Burner TP 3 wood and 5 wood

Irons:  :srixon-small: Z765 4-PW (1 degree flat) with KBS $-130 shafts

Wedges:  :vokey-small: SM7 50/12/F, 54/10/S and 58/12/D

Putter: 681811256_Odysseylogo.png.499799aea6663befa411c8db1d859702.png Stroke Lab Ten S 33"

Ball:  :titelist-small: ProV1

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1 hour ago, RickyBobby_PR said:

I see their frequently when paired with random people. I think some of it is the stigma of mens, ladies, senior tees and egos come into play. There’s a course I play frequently that has 4 sets of tees red, white, blue and black) it’s a tough course from the white for average length golfers and a challenge for most golfers from the blue. Lots of people play the blues that should be playing the  whites but they won’t move up. It’s usually the 50+ age range that I see play the whites because they know they don’t hit long.

Im not sure if there will ever be a way to get peoples egos out of choosing tee boxes

The color of the tee box is a big stigma.  I’ve always thought, why not just name the tee boxes something different.  “Hogan tees, Palmer tees, etc.”. There is a U.S. Kids Club sponsored course near me where they say on the first tee box, “If your 7 iron goes this far, play tee box 1, if it goes this far play tee box 2” and so on.  Now that obviously still relies on people honestly knowing their accurate numbers.  Remove the stigma/ego of men’s, women’s, senior, etc. and perhaps that helps a bit. 

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Instagram:  @tony_rosselli_

:SuperSpeed:Training

Pre training max driver speed: 124mph

Current: 130mph

WITB:

Driver: :ping-small:G400 LST 8.5* with HZRDUS SMOKE 6.5 70g 

Woods: :taylormade-small: 2007 Burner TP 3 wood and 5 wood

Irons:  :srixon-small: Z765 4-PW (1 degree flat) with KBS $-130 shafts

Wedges:  :vokey-small: SM7 50/12/F, 54/10/S and 58/12/D

Putter: 681811256_Odysseylogo.png.499799aea6663befa411c8db1d859702.png Stroke Lab Ten S 33"

Ball:  :titelist-small: ProV1

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