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Now and Then Measuring Distance

If you have ever wondered about how much effect the new equipment has on the length that players hit the ball, look no further than an old PGA TOUR media guide. The section on statistics is absolutely mind-bending.
Twenty-five years ago, Dan Pohl was 27 years old and the leading driver on TOUR. Today, Dan is a good deal grayer, a little more wobbly after multiple back surgeries, and a good deal older at 52. And, he still smokes the ball further than anybody ' on the Champions Tour.
Dan Pohl
Twenty-five years later, Dan Pohl is nearly 20 yards longer off the tee.
How much further did he hit the ball in his prime back in the PGA TOUR days? None. Thats right ' none. In fact, he was almost 20 yards SHORTER back in 1980 when he was launching it out there 274.3 yards a pop.
Today? Well, today, he leads the senior gents with an average of 292.5. Today, there are 24 graybeards who are driving it an average of 274.3. Many of the old gaffers can pop it up and get 274 a try.
On the Champions Tour, Hejime Mesiai already has one blast this year of more than 400 yards ' 401, to be exact. R.W. Eaks has popped it 398 once. Ol Andy Bean cranked one out there 386. Hey, a 400-yard drive just isnt what it used to be anymore.
On the PGA TOUR, no less than 29 players have laid it out there 400 yards at least once. Jason Gore leads with 427 yards. Is it any wonder that a 380-yard, par-4 is almost extinct now?
I remember in 1983 interviewing David Graham, a not-particularly-long hitter, about a round he had played that day in Houston. Graham was going through his round shot-by-shot, and he happened to mention that on one 410-yard hole he had used a driver and a 9-iron.
A 9-IRON! I said, not sure I had heard him correctly. Did you say 9-IRON? That, frankly, was amazing to me, though Ill have to admit that I wasnt too well-versed in professional driving distances.
Yes, 9-iron, said Graham, indicating by the tone of his voice that he didnt think the 9-iron distance was particularly noteworthy.
Today, if someone uses a driver and a 9-iron, on terrain as flat and windless as Houstons, hes probably talking about a hole that is 480, 490 yards. Thats a drive of, say, 340 ' very common on the PGA TOUR (its been done at least a thousand times this year) ' and a 9-iron of 140.
In 1993, just 13 years ago, John Daly was leading the TOUR in driving distance with an average poke of 283-plus. Today, just 13 years later, that average would place Daly 154th on the driving distance list. The top distance driver today, J.B. Holmes, averages 317.8 yards. Daly himself ' now 40 years old and well past his long-hitting prime ' averages just under 307.
As little as 13 years ago, in 1993, the PGA TOUR played a tournament on a course which measured only 6,280 yards ' the Hattiesburg Country Club in Mississippi. A track of that puny length would be laughed into oblivion today. Today, venerable old Pebble Beach is the shortest course on TOUR, and it plays to a length of 6,737 yards.
A 7,000-yard course, which would have been one of the longer layouts in 93, is considered short by todays standards. And, of course, Dan Pohls 274 would be unheard-of. Four women are averaging that today, led by Karin Sjodin at 284.5.
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