Titleist and FootJoy CEO disputes USGA’s distance report
The golf distance report is out of bounds, one of the game’s biggest equipment manufacturers says.
In a statement released Wednesday, David Maher, president and CEO of Acushnet Company — the parent company of Titleist and FootJoy, among other golf brands — disputed the findings of the recently released Distance Insights Project from the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club.
The report suggests that increased hitting distances are hurting the game, and while it does not give specific solutions, it does suggest such things as the potential for new conformance tests for clubs and balls, and a local rule that would allow courses to require limited-flight equipment.
Not so fast, says Maher, the first equipment manufacturer to weigh in on the report.
“We believe the conclusions drawn in this report undervalue the skill and athleticism of the game’s very best players and focus far too much on the top of the men’s professional game and project this on golf and golfers as a whole,” Maher wrote in the release entitled “A Perspective on the Distance Insights Report,” which also links to a previous release from the company entitled “Tradition and Technology.”
“Furthermore, we believe that existing equipment regulations effectively govern the prospects of any significant increases in hitting distance by the game’s longest hitters.”
In response to Maher’s statement, the USGA issued a statement of its own: “At our core, we are golf fans, and we continue to celebrate both the skill and athleticism of today’s players across the game. As we articulated in the statement of conclusions, we see this as a multifaceted, long-term issue that impacts everyone — from recreational to elite players as well as golf courses at all levels of the game — old and new alike. We look forward to working with Acushnet and other manufacturers as we engage in the next steps.”
Before the distance report’s release, USGA CEO Mike Davis said in a conference call between GOLF.com writers and USGA executives that “the expectation of every generation that they’re going to hit it longer than the previous generation, we think that is taking golf in the wrong direction. And we do see some really good opportunities to mitigate these pressures.”
Innovation in equipment in golf, Maher said, has “played a critical role in its growth and enjoyment.”
“These regulations have been effective in setting upper limits on equipment performance and ensuring that the best golfers separate themselves with their talent, skill, and training while using equipment best suited to their games,” Maher said. “The ability to consistently achieve distance with accuracy, and convert this into low scores, remains a special and elusive skill.”
Maher also disagreed with the creation of any sort of local rule.
“We believe that playing by a unified set of rules coalesces our game, is an essential part of its global understanding and appeal, and eliminates the inconsistency and instability that would come from multiple sets of equipment standards,” Maher said. The release links to a report entitled “The Case for Unification,” which takes a similar stance and was written by former Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein in 2013.
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