Study shows driving distance increasing on pro tours (but not as much as last year)

January 29, 2019
Hideki Matsuyama tees off during the 2018 PGA Championship.

Distance continues to be on the rise across many of the world’s major professional tours. The USGA and R&A’s fourth Annual Driving Distance Report, released on Tuesday, revealed driving distance increased an average of 1.7 yards across the seven professional tours (PGA Tour, Web.com Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA Tour Champions, LPGA and Ladies European Tour) analyzed for the study.

The increase in distance was nearly half of the previous year’s gain of more than 3 yards.

According to the data, every tour saw a modest gain in distance; the PGA Tour lead the way with a 1.2 percent increase over the past year (292.5 yards to 296.1 yards) while the LPGA saw the smallest increase (0.1 percent) from 252.6 yards to 252.7 yards.

While the PGA Tour continues to lead the way with the largest year-over-year gains, the Web.com Tour boasts the longest average driving distance at 304.9 yards. The report also noted the Web.com Tour is more than 12 yards longer in 2018 than it was in 2003.

The rise in distance continues to have a direct correlation to more clubhead speed, coupled with optimized driver launch and spin characteristics across every major tour. In 2018, the average clubhead speed was 113.7 mph, with an average launch angle of 11.1 degrees and average spin of 2641 rpm. The report pointed out the average is “very close to the test conditions for the Overall Distance Standard (launch angle of 10 degrees, backspin of 2520 rpm and a clubhead speed of 120 mph) which regulates ball distance.”

Amateur male golfers are seeing increases as well, with those in the United Kingdom topping out at 215 yards in 2018 — an increase of 7 yards from last year’s 208-yard average. Driving distance for female average golfers between 2013 and 2018 was 148 yards.

“History has proven that it is impossible to foresee the developments in golf equipment which advancing technology will deliver,” golf’s governing bodies said in the report. “It is of the greatest importance to golf’s continuing appeal that such advances are judged against a clear and broadly accepted series of principles. While generally welcoming this progress, with the adoption of the Joint Statement of Principles, the R&A and the USGA committed to remaining vigilant when considering equipment Rules to protect golf’s best traditions, to prevent an over-reliance on technological advances rather than skill, and to ensure that skill is the dominant element of success throughout the game.”

The USGA and R&A plan to release a progress update on work conducted to date on the Distance Insights project, which will be delivered by the end of the first quarter of 2019. The USGA and the R&A plan to distribute the Distance Insights report in the latter half of 2019.