We’ve heard a lot from players – professional and amateur alike – on the golf distance debate following the joint report from the R&A and USGA, but we are yet to hear from any of the companies that make golf equipment. Until now.
David Maher, the CEO and president of Acushnet, which owns Titleist, has released a carefully constructed statement on the matter.
“We believe the conclusions drawn in this report undervalue the skill and athleticism of the game’s very best players and focus far too much on the top of the men’s professional game and project this on golf and golfers as a whole,” it reads. “Furthermore, we believe that existing equipment regulations effectively govern the prospects of any significant increases in hitting distance by the game’s longest hitters.
“Like all sports, golf is played differently today than it was centuries, and even decades, ago – from the people who play, the rules by which we play, and the equipment we use. Almost all would agree this progress has been a great benefit to the game and that innovation in golf equipment has been an important contributor to this progress.
“Golf is bringing younger players into the game sooner and keeping older players longer than ever; professional golf is as dynamic and entertaining as it’s ever been; and the game remains a healthy challenge for all players and at all levels.”
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It continues: “Since the origins of the game, innovation in equipment has played a critical role in its growth and enjoyment. However, the report indicates the next step in the Distance Insights Project will focus on evaluating potential changes to the equipment rules to curb innovation and limit any additional hitting distance.
“Golf equipment has historically been highly regulated, and these regulations have been effective in setting upper limits on equipment performance and ensuring that the best golfers separate themselves with their talent, skill, and training while using equipment best suited to their games. The ability to consistently achieve distance with accuracy, and convert this into low scores, remains a special and elusive skill. In fact, the report itself shows that hitting distance on the PGA Tour decreased in six of the past 13 years, including 2019. We believe this helps to affirm the effectiveness of regulatory efforts, particularly those adopted since the early 2000s, which continue to achieve their desired intent of setting boundaries around future distance increases while also rewarding skill and encouraging innovation.”
Maher then moves onto the possibility of bifurcation and whether or not this is a workable solution for Titleist.
“The existing equipment regulations allow professional and amateur golfers to play by the same unified set of rules, with the same equipment, and on the same courses,” he said. “The report, however, suggests that consideration be given to a ‘Local Rule option that would specify use of clubs and/or balls intended to result in shorter hitting distances.’
“We believe that playing by a unified set of rules coalesces our game, is an essential part of its global understanding and appeal, and eliminates the inconsistency and instability that would come from multiple sets of equipment standards. We think it should be preserved for these reasons.”
So while it doesn’t look like Titleist will be pushing for any big changes to equipment rules, they have however said they are “looking forward to continuing to work with the game’s stakeholders over the coming months and years to advance the best interests of the game.”