USGA, R&A study: Driving distance not on the rise

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The USGA and R&A have released the findings of a joint study which concluded that, despite the seemingly increased prevalence of ultra-long tee shots, driving distance is not on the rise in the professional game.

The study looked at driving distance across seven different professional circuits. It concluded that from 2003-15, distance off the tee rose slightly on four circuits (PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions, Web.com Tour and European Tour). That increase, though, was nominal - reportedly only 0.2 yards per year, or a 1 percent increase.

Additionally, three of the tours (Japan Golf Tour, LPGA and Ladies' European Tour) actually saw driving distance decrease slightly over the same period.

The study also found that distribution of driving distances across the PGA Tour and European Tour have remained proportional: the 10 longest hitters are 7 percent longer than their respective tour's average, while the 10 shortest hitters are 6 percent shorter than average.

The PGA Tour and European Tour data came from "measured" driving holes, which are typically two holes per tournament. The study indicated that a vast majority of players used drivers on those holes (97 percent for European Tour, 94 percent for PGA Tour). The study found that 28.94 percent of PGA Tour drives went more than 300 yards in 2015, while the figure for European Tour drives was 28.42 percent.

For comparison, the percentage of 300-plus yard drives in 2003 was 26.56 percent on the PGA Tour and 26.14 percent on the European Tour.

The study also found that launch conditions for a PGA Tour drive are similar to what they were several years ago. The average measured PGA Tour drive in 2015 featured a clubhead speed of 113.2 mph, a ball speed of 167.7 mph, a launch angle of 10.8 degrees and a spin rate of 2599 RPM.

For comparison, the average PGA Tour drive in 2007 featured a clubhead speed of 112.4 mph, a ball speed of 165.4 mph, a launch angle of 10.8 degrees and a spin rate of 2814 RPM.