NEWS The USGA Distance Insights Project

Turtlerancher

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Nope, it was swing changes:
"Mickelson’s lower-body action has changed a lot over the years, especially when he was working with Butch Harmon, and it’s changes to his lower-body technique that have helped garner even more swing speed.

As he says below, Mickelson spent a lot of time this season working on straightening his lead leg as he comes into the ball. That straightening shifts his weight more to his back foot and allows his hips to spin more aggressively."
Mickelson, for his part, says this jump in swing speed isn’t due to any “secret.” It’s the result of a renewed fitness program, several months of speed training and some subtle technique changes — one of which he explained on his Instagram account during his Players Championship preparation.
Direct quote from what you read, hmmm, I see fitness program, ie strength training, listed in there. No mention of equipment. ?
 

LICC

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Why do I have to. Look at them. They are a lot more in shape than golfers of years past. Swing faster too. Average swing speed is up. But, I suppose those hot faces are causing that too...
Yes, look at them. JB Holmes, Bubba Watson, Seth Reeves, Trey Mullinax, Byeong-Hun An: all top-16 in driving distance last year.
 

LICC

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Question about players like Tiger and Phil. Did their swing speed increase after they started started strength training or did strength training help them sustain swing speed? The other part of the swing speed (and thus distance) is whether or not the equipment could play at higher swing speeds. In other words, did new equipment facilitate players to increase speed?
Good point. Tiger hit it greater distances before he did his strength training.
 

LICC

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All the disagreement on distance... some say its equipment, some say its the ball, some say its physical fitness, some say its swing changes. But can't it be some of all of that? Aren't they all contributing factors? And if so, would it really make sense to rollback just the equipment, for example? My opinion is no.
It is 95% the equipment.
 

Turtlerancher

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It is 95% the equipment.
Soooooo that means I can buy a 340yd drive? And Jamie Sadowski bought his 148mph swing speed?
Equipment is IMO, the smallest factor in this distance debate on the pro level. Course conditions are the driving factor, look up the data of what they have for carry vs total. I would love to have 30-50yds of roll out on my drives but, on a normal everyday course it will never happen.
 

Canadan

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I agree that golf is unlike most other sports, but not when it comes to driving the golf ball. Driving, especially in regards to distance, is solely an athletic achievement. Specifically regarding Couples, its important to take note that he was ranked 20th in the world in January 2000. That puts him right in the middle of the golf ball revolution when the Pro V1 was introduced and directly coincides with his rise in driving distance. You can also look at him as a person, he is in worse shape now than when he was ranked #1. He has never been a gym rat, especially considering his constant back issues. The only logical explanation you can draw is that the introduction of new equipment specifically the solid core golf ball and the improvements of that ball considerably changed his driving distances. The ball flies farther now than it ever has, the ball spins less now than it ever has, the clubs are more forgiving than they have ever been. This is incredibly good for the amateur game, but I don't think it bodes well for the pro tour which is the main draw of new golfers.
If driving distance is purely related to athletic achievement, why does the 250lb pure muscle former football player hit it shorter than lanky 6'3 dudes who spend zero time in the gym? It is SO much more than athletic achievement. Finesse, timing, execution, lag, fluidity, etc etc. There is SO much that goes into a golf swing.
 

LICC

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Soooooo that means I can buy a 340yd drive? And Jamie Sadowski bought his 148mph swing speed?
Equipment is IMO, the smallest factor in this distance debate on the pro level. Course conditions are the driving factor, look up the data of what they have for carry vs total. I would love to have 30-50yds of roll out on my drives but, on a normal everyday course it will never happen.
The median average carry distance on Tour last year was 280. The median total distance was 298.

You can't buy a 340 yard drive, but you can buy a drive that is 10-20% farther than whatever you would have hit with equipment 25 years ago.
 

RetiredBoomer

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Because if people want a rollback or bifurcation, it is a bad counter-argument to say we shouldn't because the distance is coming from something other than equipment technology.
OK. I vote for neither rollback or bifurcation.
I vote for the USGA and the R&A to stop thinking
that the game is about a few hundred elite players
rather than a few million recreational players.
 

mjkladis

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Name one Tour player who added significant distance from strength training that he wasn't doing previously.
Rory and Bryson come to mind.
 

LICC

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OK. I vote for neither rollback or bifurcation.
I vote for the USGA and the R&A to stop thinking
that the game is about a few hundred elite players
rather than a few million recreational players.
What about the millions who enjoy watching those few hundred elite players?
 

Dr. Double

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If driving distance is purely related to athletic achievement, why does the 250lb pure muscle former football player hit it shorter than lanky 6'3 dudes who spend zero time in the gym? It is SO much more than athletic achievement. Finesse, timing, execution, lag, fluidity, etc etc. There is SO much that goes into a golf swing.
Well first of all muscles don't equal athleticism. Have you seen bodybuilders try and throw a football? It's laughable. Athleticism is, as you mentioned, "finesse, timing, execution, lag, fluidity, etc etc" and being able to do them at an incredible rate of speed. Its basic physiology. The older you are (most of the time) the slower your body works (most of the time). Bodies atrophy, that's what they do. We as human beings breakdown and become slower and more fragile. That's why athletes peak when they do.

I want to refer back to my Fred Couples example. He is hitting it farther now than he did in his twenties. His swing looks exactly the same, his body looks exactly the same. The only variable that has changed is his age. Unless you can point to something I have totally missed in regards to a new workout regiment or a dynamic swing change, the only variable that has changed in his game is the equipment. He is hitting the ball farther because of the equipment and ball he is using, not because he all of the sudden became stronger and better at golf.
 

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What about the millions who enjoy watching those few hundred elite players?
Fair question, I understand, but that consideration doesn't impact my particular vote.

The Red Sox and Patriots and boxing are my sports entertainment.
For me, golf is fresh air and a few laughs with my friends.

But if I really want to see how good the top players are compared to me,
let them play at 6000 yards with the same equipment rules that I have.

Let them threaten to break 60 every round.
We shouldn't be defending par against them because par is what the club champion should score, not the top players in the world.
We don't change the tennis court, racquet, or ball for Federer, whoever the hell he is.
 

Dr. Double

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I think I would disagree to that assumption regarding the draw of new golfers. I don't think the game would look a lot more appealing watching guys struggle to hit the ball 280 with their driver. I think places like Top Golf and social media are drawing more people into the game than the PGA Tour is. Just a feeling I have. Could be wrong.

If your favorite shot in golf is a 350 bomb I'm not going to tell you its wrong to think that. They are awesome to watch! I would just ask you a two questions:

1) if long drives are the primary draw, why is the Long Drive Championship tape-delayed on Golf Channel and not in a live spot Sunday on CBS or NBC?

2) What are your favorite shots to watch on YouTube? I'll give you mine. (don't judge me I'm only 27 and didn't watch much golf until I was 22ish lol)
1) Tiger Chip in on 16
2) Phil out of the pine straw
3) Bubba's hook out of the pine straw
4) Spieths hole out from the bunker (either the 2017 Travelers or the 2013 John Deer)
5) Tiger's bunker helicopter cut from the WGC Mexico

In my openion, none of the greatest shots in golf history were drives. Thats not what makes golf entertaining, in my own, personal, individual (any other ways to clarify this?) opinion.

(Edit: Actually DJ's drive at Kapaluah was awesome so I would concede that, but only because it almost went in not because of how far it was)
 

LICC

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Rory and Bryson come to mind.
Rory's average driving distance in 2014: 310.5 yards, 3rd on Tour. In 2019: 313.5 yards, 2nd on Tour. No significant difference.

Bryson is too soon to tell. After the end of the season we can compare to prior seasons.
 

tahoebum

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If driving distance is purely related to athletic achievement, why does the 250lb pure muscle former football player hit it shorter than lanky 6'3 dudes who spend zero time in the gym? It is SO much more than athletic achievement. Finesse, timing, execution, lag, fluidity, etc etc. There is SO much that goes into a golf swing.
@BubbaWatson

I bet he can't do more than two pull-ups or 25 push-ups. Hit's a cut off the tee and is longer than Rory, lol.
 

Dr. Double

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I would even take my comment above a step further, what are your favorite shots to watch?
The second shot on 6 or 8 at Pebble?
The second at 13 at August from the sever ball-above-the-feet lie?

I don't think I have ever heard someone say "I cant wait to watch them hit driver off x tee".
 

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I agree that golf is unlike most other sports, but not when it comes to driving the golf ball. Driving, especially in regards to distance, is solely an athletic achievement. Specifically regarding Couples, its important to take note that he was ranked 20th in the world in January 2000. That puts him right in the middle of the golf ball revolution when the Pro V1 was introduced and directly coincides with his rise in driving distance. You can also look at him as a person, he is in worse shape now than when he was ranked #1. He has never been a gym rat, especially considering his constant back issues. The only logical explanation you can draw is that the introduction of new equipment specifically the solid core golf ball and the improvements of that ball considerably changed his driving distances. The ball flies farther now than it ever has, the ball spins less now than it ever has, the clubs are more forgiving than they have ever been. This is incredibly good for the amateur game, but I don't think it bodes well for the pro tour which is the main draw of new golfers.
ONLY? What? And fairways mowed and cut to roll like airport runways doesn't contribute? Better understanding of swing physics due to trackman? Nothing?
 

LICC

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Fair question, I understand, but that consideration doesn't impact my particular vote.

The Red Sox and Patriots and boxing are my sports entertainment.
For me, golf is fresh air and a few laughs with my friends.

But if I really want to see how good the top players are compared to me,
let them play at 6000 yards with the same equipment rules that I have.

Let them threaten to break 60 every round.
We shouldn't be defending par against them because par is what the club champion should score, not the top players in the world.
We don't change the tennis court, racquet, or ball for Federer, whoever the hell he is.
Baseball (wooden bats vs aluminum) and football (different size balls) use different equipment for the pros, basketball has a different 3-pt line, etc ...
 

Dr. Double

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ONLY? What? And fairways mowed and cut to roll like airport runways doesn't contribute? Better understanding of swing physics due to trackman?
Do they contribute? Maybe, but there is a significantly higher correlation between the introduction of the ProV1 and driving distances. Again if you look at the Fred Couples chart I shared that it is an average of his driving distances during the entire year it shows a significant uptick in driving distance from ages 40-45 (thats year 2000-2005). Not only is it a significant uptick, but it comes in exponential increments during those years. Had the tour decided in 2000 do change the agronomy of the fairway grass FOR EVERY SINGLE COMPETITION you would have seen a huge jump from age 40-41 (2000-2001) and then a plateau from age 41-45 (2001-2005) but you don't. That points to a change in equipment since we have established that there were no notable swing changes or additional gym time to account for those gains.

Also, Trackman wasn't even invented until 2003 and wasn't even adopted by the tour until 2006. Very few tour pros of that era were (or even are) using trackman.
 

radiman

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If your favorite shot in golf is a 350 bomb I'm not going to tell you its wrong to think that. They are awesome to watch! I would just ask you a two questions:

1) if long drives are the primary draw, why is the Long Drive Championship tape-delayed on Golf Channel and not in a live spot Sunday on CBS or NBC?

2) What are your favorite shots to watch on YouTube? I'll give you mine. (don't judge me I'm only 27 and didn't watch much golf until I was 22ish lol)
1) Tiger Chip in on 16
2) Phil out of the pine straw
3) Bubba's hook out of the pine straw
4) Spieths hole out from the bunker (either the 2017 Travelers or the 2013 John Deer)
5) Tiger's bunker helicopter cut from the WGC Mexico

In my openion, none of the greatest shots in golf history were drives. Thats not what makes golf entertaining, in my own, personal, individual (any other ways to clarify this?) opinion.

(Edit: Actually DJ's drive at Kapaluah was awesome so I would concede that, but only because it almost went in not because of how far it was)
I am not saying that the long drive is the biggest draw. But, i am saying that a lot more people are probably getting into the game based on social media and top golf more so than watching PGA Tournaments on TV.
 

Daddio

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Do they contribute? Maybe, but there is a significantly higher correlation between the introduction of the ProV1 and driving distances. Again if you look at the Fred Couples chart I shared that it is an average of his driving distances during the entire year it shows a significant uptick in driving distance from ages 40-45 (thats year 2000-2005). Not only is it a significant uptick, but it comes in exponential increments during those years. Had the tour decided in 2000 do change the agronomy of the fairway grass FOR EVERY SINGLE COMPETITION you would have seen a huge jump from age 40-41 (2000-2001) and then a plateau from age 41-45 (2001-2005) but you don't. That points to a change in equipment since we have established that there were no notable swing changes or additional gym time to account for those gains.
I'm not saying the ball isn't a factor, but I sure won't say other factors like rock hard conditions, trackman revelations, strategies showing the advantages of bomb/gouge are just 'maybe' contributors. They're much more than that. The easiest, least 'ham-fisted' fix is to set up these courses differently than they do now when the Tour rolls through. It's relatively easy to make bomb/gouge strategy much riskier than now and to significantly limit roll out off the tee. It's actually much less work and cost than it is to get them in the shape they do for the tour now. So much easier and also would go over much much better with the general golfing public than forcing bifurcation or equipment roll backs. But it's the USGA, so odds are they'll screw the pooch again.
 

Dr. Double

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I am not saying that the long drive is the biggest draw. But, i am saying that a lot more people are probably getting into the game based on social media and top golf more so than watching PGA Tournaments on TV.
I agree, but the most viral social content are shots then end up on the green, not drives that end up on the fairway. PGA can post all the Cam Champ drives they want, but engagement metrics don't lie, that stuff isn't as popular.
 

radiman

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I agree, but the most viral social content are shots then end up on the green, not drives that end up on the fairway. PGA can post all the Cam Champ drives they want, but engagement metrics don't lie, that stuff isn't as popular.
Right. Shots being stuffed on the green. Take away scoring opportunities by putting longer irons in the players hands, there will be a lot less of those highlight approaches.
 

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