Driving Distance vs Accuracy

By Frank ThomasJanuary 28, 2010, 1:31 am

So much effort has spent developing equipment and balls that go farther and farther. The USGA has placed limitations on some products such as compression limits on balls and volume size for driver heads. A few years back, some courses (like Augusta National) started lengthening courses in an attempt to 'Tiger proof' them. I have always wondered why they didn't shorten courses, narrow the fairways, and make the rough more severe. It would be somewhat like lowering the basketball rim to 8' which would mean being 8' tall would not be as advantageous. This also might reduce water and maintenance costs. What do you think?

–Greg, CA

I really do appreciate your question as it makes sense at a time when we seem to be running out of this faculty.

I have suggested on many occasions that there is truly no need to lengthen courses for the tour players just because some of them are able to hit the ball a long way but rather, as you have suggested, shorten them. There are more skills required to identify the best golfer than his ability to drive the ball a long way. However, we have placed a disproportionate premium on distance and unknowingly rewarded those who have developed this ability – at the expense of other skills – by lengthening courses.

If distance was the most important skill in golf, as we seem to have implied by our actions to continue to  lengthen courses for major championships, then we should build a course 8,000 yards long with only two holes. One hole 4,000-yard long  outward and the another 4,000 yards back. This would clearly identify and reward the longest hitters.

Course design and strategic set up are of utmost importance if the object is to identify the best golfers. The fact that golfers, not all of us but certainly the tour pros,  are able to hit the ball great distances has created a problem. The solution for coping with this, is not to lengthen courses  but as you have suggested, shorten them.

The driver is not sacrosanct, and if we decide not to use it – because the risk of not being accurate with a long drive is too great – we will not face a life in purgatory.

I reviewed the change in the average driving distance on the PGA Tour to find – as anticipated – that we have reached the predicted plateau. This plateau is governed mainly by the laws of physics – with a little help from the governing bodies – and the fact that the tour pros are launching the ball at its optimum launch conditions for their head speeds. This should be of some comfort to those who believe that increases in driving distance are never ending.

The major shift in average driving distance was between 1996 and 2004 when the USGA allowed spring like effect in titanium club faces and this, in combination with the multi-layered solid construction ball increased the distance on tour  about 25 yards without any increase in skill. A major contributing factor to this extraordinary increase is the fact that the new better performing ball and club allowed golfers to reach the optimum launch conditions of higher launch angles with lower spin rates.

The fear of any further increase in distance on Tour is over. For the rest of us, we may have a little more to go if we found the sweet spot more often. To help in this mission, a shorter driver may help not only keep us in the fairway but, on average, have longer drives.

As much as we don’t really want to believe it, the average golfer drives the ball close to 90 yards shorter than the average Tour pro but we think we are only 50 yards shorter. We also believe that every new driver we pay $500 for will make up 20 yards of this difference.

The thrill of looking for this magic club is part of the charm the game has to offer, and something the manufacturers thrive upon.

Greg, for those few events, when the Tour comes to town, we really need only change the course set up for appropriate risk/reward options and there will be no need to make the course any longer. This would allow more good golfers to exhibit their true skills and allow us to identify the true champion while increasing the entertainment value of tour events.

Our thrills can come from watching golfers – those long hitters – try to drive, if they have the courage, a green on a 350 yard par four with the potential of making a triple bogey. This is a form of entertainment, similar to but not as disastrous, as going to a NASCAR race to see the accidents.

For those of us who want to enjoy our game more, we need to find the sweet spot on our driver more often with a shorter driver and play from shorter tees. Unfortunately we fantasize about more distance and as a result it is has become the magic word in marketing. We buy hope and there is a lot of it for sale.

Thanks, for your question about which many will agree and I am sure you will enjoy my book “Just Hit It” where I discuss similar issues and other thought provoking topics as well as guide to golfers in their selection of new equipment to increase their distance and allow them to enjoy their game a little more.

– Frank  

Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.