How legitimate was the USGA and R&A’s distance testing?
The statistics came from data taken from the seven main tours, dating back to 2003 and involving roughly 300,00 shots in total. That data was typically recorded on two holes at each event, with 94% of PGA Tour players and 96% on the European Tour using a driver on those holes. Fourteen years and 300,000 shots-worth of data is a solid sample size, but can it tell the whole story? Between 1993 and 2003, driver heads got larger and larger and the wound, Balata ball became obsolete, replaced by the solid core, urethane-covered ball – the Nike Tour Accuracy followed by the Titleist Pro-V1. In that single decade, the average drive on the PGA Tour jumped an astonishing 27 yards – or 10.38%. So, while the USGA/R&A report assessing data from 2003-2017 is necessary and appears very thorough, there are many who argue it’s redundant as the horse had already bolted. Equally, does testing outdoors, with varying wind and temperatures invite too many variables? Some would argue that to eradicate any doubt, the testing should have been conducted in sterile, scientific conditions. Also, to paint the full picture on driving distances, testing amateurs would have also helped – test the majority as well as the minority.