The USGA CEO Mike Davis has spoken on golf's distance issue and how it is affecting golfers of all abilities
USGA Chief Mike Davis: “We Do Not Think Distance Is Necessarily Good For The Game”
With 350+ yard drives commonplace these days and 430+ yard par-4s being turned into par-3s, golf is a different game now to what it has ever been.
The power players like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and co. are seemingly not only playing a different game to us fans, but it would appear that they’re playing a different game to a whole host of their competitors too.
Doglegs don’t seem to present the strategic challenge they used to, par-5s are rarely out of range with a drive and an iron and players have publicly spoken about the potential of 8,000 yard golf courses as well as the issue of ‘bifurication’.
And we’re getting hints that golf’s governing bodies may be about to do something about it.
USGA CEO Mike Davis was speaking on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio about golf’s issue with distance.
“We do not think that distance is necessarily good for the game,” is a quote of Davis’ that really stands out.
“The issue is complex, it’s important and it’s one that we need to, and we will, face straight on,” he said.
Davis alluded to the fact that 1 in 4 golf courses in USA are not making money, and without golf courses working from a business standpoint – current and beginner golfers won’t have anywhere to play.
“What has happened over the years is equipment and golf courses and golfers have all innovated.
“What has happened over the years is that as we’ve innovated equipment, what has transpired over the past 100 years is that golf courses have had to expand.
“New golf courses require more acreage, not only to build a golf course but to maintain a golf course, to walk a golf course, to play a golf course – it takes more time.”
In the 60 years between 1940 and 2000, Augusta National had increased in yardage by 185 yards.
Yet just 17 years later it measures a further 450 yards longer.
“Distance is all relative, when I came on board US Open courses were 6800-6900 yards, now the norm is more like 7400-7500 yards.
“What has that done for the game? How has that made the game better?
These statistics show that average golfers probably aren't…
We take a look at some stats and…
“What it’s done is it has cost not just golf courses who host these big elite male professional tournaments, not only have they had to change but it truly has affected golf courses on the recreational level.
“We look at it and as we look to the future we’re asking ourselves saying, we want the game of golf to be fun, we want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what score you should shoot vs the equipment.”
However, Davis appreciates the moden-day golf equipment, and is well aware that all golfers want more distance.
“We acknowledge that this new equipment where it’s easier to play the game, more enjoyable to play the game is great for golfers and we all want that equipment.
“Just purely from an enjoyability standpoint we all want to increase distance.
“We want to make sure that we have a game people can enjoy, we want to make sure that the game is sustainable.”
Davis compared golf to other sports like tennis, American football and soccer, and whether their ‘arenas’ have had to change because of technology.
“We look at other sports and say they haven’t had to change their arenas. Tennis courts are the same size as the tennis court was, football fields haven’t had to go to 130 yards in length, the basketball courts are the same, the soccer fields are the same – you’re not watching stadiums get changed because of equipment.
“Unfortunately that is what’s happened in golf. It’s not as if it’s stopped, it’s continuing to go.
“And that’s concerning.”
The R&A and USGA will be releasing their annual distance study in the next few weeks, that will be one to look out for.
Listen to SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio’s interview with Mike Davis here:
Let us know your thoughts on golf’s distance issue on our social channels