Why are the R&A and USGA act­ing now?

Golf World (UK) - - PRIZE DRAW -

Hav­ing wit­nessed only a mod­est in­crease across seven global tours in their pre­vi­ous two an­nual driv­ing dis­tance re­ports, the USGA and R&A felt no rea­son to act. Since 2003, they noted, we have seen only a “slow creep of around 0.2 yards per year”.

When the 2017 dis­tance re­port landed on their desks, how­ever, the two bod­ies noted, as one, that the slow creep had be­come too sig­nif­i­cant to ig­nore. “The 2017 data shows a de­vi­a­tion from this trend,” read the re­port’s pre­am­ble. “The av­er­age dis­tance gain across the seven world­wide tours was more than three yards since 2016.”

The slow creep up­wards had been re­placed by some­thing more alarm­ing. “Our 2002 Joint State­ment of Prin­ci­ples put a line in the sand,” said R&A CEO Martin Slum­bers, re­fer­ring to the fun­da­men­tal no­tion that skill, not tech­nol­ogy, should be the pri­mary de­ter­mi­nant of suc­cess in the game. “But when you look at this data,” he added, “we have prob­a­bly crossed that line in the sand. A se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion is now needed on where we go.”

Slum­bers wasn’t the only in­flu­en­tial fig­ure voic­ing con­cern. On mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions, USGA CEO Mike Davis hinted new ball-re­lated leg­is­la­tion may be nec­es­sary, most no­tably last Novem­ber when he talked about the ‘hor­ri­ble im­pact of in­creased dis­tance’. Ac­tion was in­evitable, though in what form re­mains to be seen.

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