As you may have heard 6 our of the 7 worldwide tours have seen an increase in driving distance...which is becoming an annual repeated phenomena. But, Do you know how it is measured? Is it flawed?? If you are interested read on...I realize this is alot of stuff but I could not believe the details and I think you will be surprised at how distances are measured.
The average driving distance is typically measured on two holes at each tournament and can result in nearly 40,000 shots being measured over the course of a season on some tours. The vast majority of players on the PGA TOUR (94%) and European Tour (96%) use driver on the holes used for measuring driving distance regardless of their driving distance rank.
The driving distance, for the sake of the research conducted, is the total distance measured from the teeing ground to the point where ball comes to rest – regardless of the location (fairway, rough, bunker, putting green, etc.). This data is collected on the major tours using one of two methods: Tournament officials will measure incremental distances from the teeing ground, which are then marked on both edges of the fairway of the hole(s) being used for the collection of data. These distance marks are then used by the player, caddie or volunteer collecting the data to determine the distance for a given drive.
A combination of GPS and laser measuring equipment is used to directly measure the distance of each drive on a hole.
Driving distance data typically collected on the two holes is selected taking into account via three criteria: The holes should be oriented in opposing directions (to minimize the impact of the wind on the average distance). The holes should preferably both be selected such that the landing area for the drives is flat. Where this is not feasible, the holes would preferably have opposing topography to minimize the effect of slopes on the average driving distance. The holes should be selected to maximize the potential that the golfers will choose to hit their driver (ensuring that the data most closely reflects the distance hit by players using drivers).
The PGA TOUR introduced the Shotlink system in 2003, which is used at most of its tournaments. This system measures every shot during a tournament, which means that, in addition to the traditional “measured” driving distance on two holes, data are also available for all other par-4 and par-5 holes. The PGA TOUR, Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR Champions Tour calculate the average driving distance based on all available shots by all players competing in their events. However, only the players who have played a predefined number of qualifying rounds are included for presentation in the end of season summary statistics.
In recent years a player would typically need to play 50 rounds on the PGA TOUR, 35 rounds on the Web.com Tour or between 35 and 40 rounds on the PGA TOUR Champions Tour for inclusion in the end of season summary statistics. The European Tour only collects data for full members of the tour and subsequently only players who have played 10 or more rounds will be included for presentation in the end of season summary statistics. The Ladies European Tour typically collects data only for full members of the tour, although the data for non-members who fill in a stats card may be included within the raw data. The LPGA reports data only for players who over the course of a season have participated in a minimum of 10 events or 1/3 of the total number of official events, whichever is fewer.
Further analysis shows a comparison of these major professional tours, both men’s and women’s, indicates that the average driving distance on the men’s tours has increased by approximately 2.2% since 2003 until the end of the 2017 season, with a more modest average increase of 0.75% being observed on the ladies’ tours.
The average driving distance of the longest (and shortest) players on the European and PGA tours closely tracks the respective tour average driving distances, including the season-to-season fluctuations. When viewed as percentages, there is consistency both between tours and seasons. The longest 10 players tend to be about 7% longer than the tour average, whereas the shortest 10 players tend to be about 6-8% shorter than the tour average.
In 2017, the average clubhead speed was 113.9 mph, with an average launch angle of 11.1° and average spin of 2,578 rpm (anyone who has been properly fitted will notice a parallel to these numbers!). The 90th percentile for clubhead speed was 120.1 mph. These values are very close to the test conditions for the Overall Distance Standard (launch angle of 10°, backspin of 2,520 rpm and a clubhead speed of 120mph), which regulates ball distance.
The PGA TOUR has used a TrackMan RADAR system to measure launch data at tournaments as part of the Shotlink system since 2007. Data is typically collected on one or two par 4 or par 5 holes at each tournament; although these holes are not always the “measured” driving holes (only 19 out of 38 holes on which RADAR data was reported in 2017 were “measured” driving holes). Since the introduction of logging club selection for tee shots in 2012, this launch data is only reported for shots that are hit with a driver. In practical terms this results in the exclusion of approximately 500-600 shots each year (from a population of 12,000-16,000) and as such its believe it has only a very minor effect on the value of the average launch conditions, according to the USGA and R&A research.
According to the research, the average clubhead speed has increased by 1.5 mph from 2007 to 2017 and ball speed by 3.4 mph. Launch angle in 2017 is 0.3° higher than the 2007 value, while spin is 236 rpm lower in 2017. It is also noteworthy that the launch condition set-up for the Overall Distance Standard is 10° and 2,520 rpm at a clubhead speed of 120 mph.
Interesting enough, CEO of the PGA of America, Pete Bevacqua was on on Michael Breed's radio show (A New Breed of Golf) and indicated rolling back the golf ball would not be good for the game. Its his belief that the distance issue shouldn't be on the top of the list of priorities for the game. He believes the challenges to golf is time.
If you want to read more, check out the USGA 2017 Distance Report. www.usga.org/.../2017-distance-report-final.pdf
So, there you have it...all the details on driving distance to possible to better formulate an opinion on driving distance and the ball...what are your thoughts?