Skip to main content

McDowell on distance gains: 'It really needs to stop somewhere'

Getty Images

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Graeme McDowell’s sympathy for the game’s great golf courses has him leaning toward the USGA and R&A’s conclusion that unrelenting distance gains are detrimental to the game.

He didn’t have a chance to review specifics of the Distance Insights Project on Tuesday, as he prepared to play the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but he generally agrees something needs to be done to curb the distance trend. 

“When it starts to affect the integrity of some of the greatest courses in the game, where you don’t have a lot of real estate left to make changes, there’s a problem,” McDowell told “To me, when they moved the 17th tee at the Old Course, I was like, 'Is that necessary?' It’s one of the most iconic tee shots in the world.”

McDowell, coming off a victory Sunday at the Saudi International, feels the same way about the changes Augusta National has made to protect the shot values at the iconic 13th hole.

“If this continues, continues, continues, and we fast forward into the future, it could become silly,” he said. “I guess I generally agree with [the project’s conclusion]. I don’t think we want to continue the way we are going. It really needs to stop somewhere.”

What players are saying about USGA/R&A distance report findings

What players are saying about USGA/R&A distance report findings

Paul Casey, looking to better his runner-up finish at last year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, also didn’t have a chance to read the details of the distance project. He said, generally, as a professional, he’ll deal with whatever is required to do his job; but as a lover of the game, he doesn’t like seeing what’s happening to some great courses.

“If the effect is it starts to make golf courses obsolete, that’s an issue,” he said.

Patrick Cantlay, No. 8 in the Official World Golf Ranking, finds sympathy for the recreational player. He doesn’t see distance as an issue at the grassroots level of the game, where the sport’s health depends.

“All the equipment and stuff are great for the amateur golfers,” Cantlay said. “The ball can’t go too far for a 10-handicap.”

Cantlay: 'Ignorant' to downplay distance; Haas: Dial the ball back

Cantlay: 'Ignorant' to downplay distance; Haas: Dial the ball back

Even on the PGA Tour, Cantlay isn’t sure how big a problem distance really is.

“In general, I would say, 'No,’” he said. “On some golf courses on Tour, 'Yes.' But most courses on Tour, 'No.’”

Chesson Hadley wants to see what the USGA and R&A end up supporting as the best way to curb distance, but . . .

“I think probably some curbing wouldn’t be a bad idea,” he said.

Hadley said he wasn’t a big fan of the 249-yard par 3 he played at Torrey Pines North two weeks ago.

“That’s stupid,” Hadley said. “I’m not saying it’s a bad hole, but when you’re taking a head cover off to play a par 3 ... I don’t think that’s great.

“Hopefully, whatever they end up proposing, it’s well thought out, and we will deal with it when it comes.”