The debate around distance gains in the pro game grew louder Monday with the publication of the USGA and R&A’s annual distance report, which revealed a three-yard average distance gain across the seven most prominent professional tours.
The contributing factors to the distance boom over the last decade remain up for debate, but apparently PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan doesn’t believe it has anything to do with golf balls or club technology.
In an email to PGA Tour players published by Geoff Shackelford, Monahan downplayed the report’s findings.
“From 2016 to 2017, there was an increase of 2.5 yards in average driving distance,” Monahan wrote. “While this may seem significant when taken in isolation, it has not been uncommon over the past 15 years to see significant gains or losses. Since 2003, there have been three instances where a significant gain was recorded between years, and five instances where the average decreased.”
Monahan’s email continued with a proposed explanation of the Tour’s sudden distance gain in recent years.
“Since 2007, when we started monitoring launch conditions each week on TOUR, average club head speed has increased by 1.5 mph. There is a strong correlation between club head speed and the total distance gains seen since 2003. We believe this increase in club head speed is mostly attributable to a combination of factors, such as increased player athleticism and fitness, physical build of the player, enhancements in equipment fitting and the proliferation of launch-monitoring capabilities. It is interesting to note that since 2003, the average age of a TOUR member has gone down, and the average height has gone up. Having carefully reviewed the data, we do not believe the trends indicate a significant or abnormal increase in distance since 2003 or from 2016 to 2017.”
Monahan concluded his email with promise to continue to collaborate with the USGA and R&A, and the hope that “our perspectives will align.”
You can read the entire Distance Report here.