The Truth About Driving Distance - COPIED

By Frank ThomasSeptember 2, 2009, 4:00 pm
Dear Frank,
I really appreciate what you are doing for the game. I know you addressed this issue in your book, Just Hit It, but do you still think we need to be unconcerned about the distance pros are now hitting the ball? Do you think there is an end to this increase in distance and, if not, what will the USGA have to do to control it?
' Sean

Thanks for your kind comments and for buying my book. I am pleased you enjoyed it.
You have pushed another one of my hot buttons so let me clear up a few things about a very real problem.
The problem is not that the pros are continuing to increase their driving distance, but that people think they are doing this. This perception is based on marketing and the over-dramatization of distance being portrayed by the media. Yes, we have seen ' reinforced by several replays and without appropriate explanation ' extraordinary feats by a few individuals able to drive the ball in excess of 380 yards. The fact that the ball rolled three to four times farther than normal because the conditions were conducive to such long drives, is rarely discussed, as this would take away from the 'Wow' and 'You-Da-Man' factor.
The problem ' which will not go away ' is that many viewers, some of whom are concerned golfers and even administrators, treat these extraordinary feats as common place.
Sean, the laws of nature have limited the distance a golfer can drive the ball given a specific clubhead speed, and clubhead speeds are not getting much faster unless you go to the circus or long-drive competitions.
So here are the facts. The chart below shows how the PGA Tour's average driving distance has changed since 1968 ' distance data was not recorded between 1969 and 1980. The big jump came between 1995 and 2003 when spring-like effect in drivers was permitted to avoid litigation.
The multi-layered ball and spring-like effect ' commonly referred to as increased COR (Coefficient of Restitution) ' has allowed pros to launch balls higher with less spin, creating optimum launch conditions (i.e. a unique launch angle and spin rate for a particular ball speed to achieve the maximum distance given average turf conditions). These conditions were not achievable by Jack Nicklaus or others of his era with the equipment available to them at the time.
It was predicted some 10 years ago that when these optimum conditions were met, the average distance would level off. Now, the only way to increase distance is to increase head speed ' and we all know what happens when we try to kill the ball. Tigers clubhead speed is not measurably faster than Jack Nicklaus was 45 years ago, so we shouldnt expect a dramatic increase in average clubhead speeds on the Tour in the near future.
I think the graph below speaks for itself. Neither you nor any others need to be concerned unless we consider the anomalies to be the norm. Mother Nature has taken control of distance.
Driving Distance on PGA Tour chart.
The average driving distance on Tour has changed very little the last few years.

Sean, as far as the average golfer is concerned, we have not seen significant improvements in distance over the last 15 years or so. This is in spite of all the new technology introduced and advertising claims that every new club will increase your distance 15-20 yards. If that were the case, most of us would be driving the ball at least 300 yards by now.
The laws of nature do not change at midnight on December 31 every year. So don't expect any significant improvement in distance from a new club compared to last year's model.
However, if you have not upgraded your driver in the last seven years then it is time to consider a new one, or even last year's model, which will save you some money.
Sean, the USGA does not have to be concerned about distance increases anymore, but you can be assured that this issue ' which is now more than 100 years old ' will not go away any time soon. For more facts about equipment and the game, be sure to register as a Frankly Friend for my FREE weekly updates.
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to 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
Frank Thomas
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.