JB Holmes used to be a one-off when it came to length. Now he's just one of the regular boys with his driver in hand and he's waded into the distance debate
If you’re wondering why you hear the popular refrain that the driving distance report is a case of too little too late then it’s worth listening to what JB Holmes has to say.
“When we started playing I was hitting it around 300 yards when I was 13. I’ve always been hitting it past people but when you get into college and you’re still hitting it past all the really good players, you figure out that, wow, maybe I’m really long.
“The tour’s got a lot longer so there’s a lot of guys that hit it out there now, but when I came out on tour I feel like I was almost 20 by almost everybody. I never felt like anybody could hit it further than me. It was more that I let them hit it further than me because I was trying to hit a shot here or there but if I’m trying to swing out of my shoes, I pretty much felt like I could hang with anybody playing golf.”
Yes, Holmes is a bit of a one-off. For years he and Bubba Watson ruled the distance waves but to be able to hit it 300 yards as someone who has just become a teenager – Holmes is 37 now so this will have been in 1995 – is ridiculous.
And it wasn’t as if he was even that big.
“I wasn’t small but I wasn’t considered like huge or anything by any means. They were all pretty much the same size as me.
“Your swing speed just goes down a little bit. They didn’t have all the TrackMan and stuff when I first came out, but my swing speed when I first came out I’m guessing was around 130. But now I can get to 124 or something like that. When I was younger my cruising speed was like 126 or something like that. It’s definitely not that now, so it lost a little bit, but I still get it out there.”
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In recent years driving distances have gone through the roof. This season already 80 players have driving averages of 300 yards or longer – famously John Daly was the only player to boast such a feat in 2000.
Even taking into account Holmes’ age, he’s dropped back into the chasing pack. Last season he averaged 306.7 yards off the tee which was good for 16th spot, for the past five seasons he hasn’t been higher than 14th.
When asked about the recent driving distance report and that players are now hitting it too far for today’s courses his reply was much the same as everyone else of a sound mind: “That ship’s sailed.”
He added: “They’ve been doing that for a while. They’ve changed a whole bunch of courses now. It’s not like one person’s got something else and he’s using a different thing. Everybody’s got the same equipment. There are better athletes now playing, and when you get better athletes, they’re going to hit it further.
“Just like any sport, they’re going to hit it further, they’re going to jump higher, they’re going to run faster. We don’t have any of the jumping and running but we can hit it further.”