USGA, R&A distance report shows increases for pros and ams
29 Jan 2019
by Staff

USGA photo
USGA photo

The USGA and R&A released an annual report on driving distance on Jan. 29, revealing a picture of how distance has increased across professional golf – and amateur golf – over the past year. Historical data also offers a look at broader distance trends. Across the board, distance is on the upswing.

In compiling the report, the two governing bodies typically measure driving distance on two holes at each tournament across seven participating professional tours, which results in nearly 40,000 shots being measured annually for the study.

The monitored tours include the European Tour, PGA Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Tour, PGA Tour Champions, Ladies European Tour and LPGA Tour.

Not surprisingly, the report shows that driving distance increased by an average of 1.7 yards across those tours in 2018.

In terms of year-over-year increases, the change between 2017 distances and 2018 distances is most significant on the major men’s tours. The average distance rose 3.6 yards (1.2 percent) across measured holes on the PGA Tour, and 3 yards (or 1 percent) on the European Tour.

The full report can be found here

Amateurs were also included in the study, but with a much smaller sample size and with a different kind of revelation.

Driving distance was collected for male and female amateurs, but only in the United Kingdom. Four venues were used to collect male amateur data in 2018 (down from the usual six) while eight were used to collect female data. Typically, 1,700-2,000 drives are measured annually for male amateurs and 200-300 shots for female amateurs.

With the typical year-to-year fluctuations, male amateurs have experienced a net gain of 15 yards since 1996. Amateur driving average rose roughly 7 yards since the 2017 report to an average of 214.7 yards in 2018.

Female amateurs in the study averaged 147.9 yards off the tee in 2018.

Amateur data has also been reviewed according to handicap. When divided into four groups (6 and under, 6-12, 13-20 and 21+), male amateurs with the highest handicaps show the most distance gain – to the tune of 22 yards since 1996.

Interestingly, the study reveals that the amateurs with the highest handicaps have also used driver increasingly often during the data collection period. In 1996, only 54 percent of shots by a player with a handicap of 21 or higher were hit with a driver but in 2018, that rose to 91 percent for the 21+ handicap group.

In terms of its larger purpose, the USGA included this statement with the data:

The 2018 report represents one set of data among the already substantial collection of information currently being studied within the context of the ongoing Distance Insights project, which was launched last May to provide a comprehensive and definitive study of the past, present and future impacts of distance at all levels of the game globally.

A progress update on work conducted to date on the Distance Insights project will be delivered by the end of the first quarter of 2019. The USGA and The R&A remain on target to distribute the comprehensive Distance Insights report in the latter half of 2019.

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