Driving distance continues to increase on Tour, but barely

February 15, 2017

A new report on driving distance in professional golf shows a modest increase across the PGA, LPGA, Champions, European and Web.com tours.

Across these tours, driving distance has increased by 1.2% since 2003. Advancements in equipment technology led to rapid improvements in average driving distance among pros in recent history, especially in the decade between 1993 and 2003, when the average increased by 27 yards. After 2003, gains have been more slight.

In 1980, the average driving distance on the PGA Tour was about 255 yards. In 2003, that figure had risen to 285 yards. Following the 2016 season, the average hovered around 290 yards. The introduction of oversized drivers, titanium drivers and multi-layer Tour golf balls each spurred an increase in average drives. Not surprisingly, scoring averages across all of the tours studied have fallen at the same time as driving distance increased and technology improved.  

The report comes from a joint effort by the USGA and the R&A to track driving distance changes in the sport, including for amateur golfers. Its data echoes previous conclusions made by researchers that while driving distance average is still increasing, growth seems to have peaked in the 1990s.

The average driving distance on two of the tours studied, the Ladies European tour and the Japan Golf tour, saw slight decreases in driving distance.