Are Tour pros hitting the golf ball too far?

Tour stats may encourage the regulators to say:

Bob Warters's picture
Fri, 6 Jan 2012

When average driving distance on the European Tour at the end of 2011 revealed an increase among the top 180 players of more than 10.3 yards and with a record 17 players bombing it more than 300 yards, time maybe for the authorities to take John Solheim’s gearing down of the golf ball seriously in 2012.

No doubt Olympic athletes will be setting world records in London in the summer. And with golfers now as fit as many of those competitors, distances can only get longer than the 312.7 yards Alvaro Quiros regularly smashes his Callaway golf ball, compared to Belgian Nicholas Colsaerts winning 307.7 average in 2010.

Back at the turn of the 21st Century Emanuel Canonica was the big cheese with the big stick with an average of 295 yards. But these days that won’t even get you in the top-30 for driving distance on the European Tour.

As for the 180th best driver on Tour, Indian Siv Kapur's 277.9-yard average is 21 yards better than his 2010 counterpart Christian Cevaer of France, whom, despite his lack of length off the tee still managed to win the European Open in 2009.

As for the PGA Tour, it saw a paltry 3.6-yard increase at the end of 2011 - allegedly the largest single year gain since 2003 and set an all-time high for players averaging more than 300 yards (21).

It was no mystery that Holmes (JB) and Watson (Bubba) were at the top of their stats with 318 and 314 respectively.

Perhaps most tellingly, according to some observers, it reflected an 11.4-yard PGA Tour gain since 2002 - the year golf’s ruling bodies issued the Joint Statement of Principles, a document that included the phrase “any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable.”

The USGA’s senior technical director Dick Rugge revealed recently, however, following Solheim’s proposals, that no distance-related rule changes are imminent.

But if Tour golfers continue to get stronger and fitter and manufacturers find other ways to stretch the regulatory envelope in terms of driver technology, expect the game’s ruling bodies to drill deeper into the detail to see what might be done to avoid more Tour courses becoming obsolete.

Is it time to find a way to make accuracy king again and get more from our short games?

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