The much-anticipated Distance Insights Project from golf's governing bodies has concluded that the increasing lengthening of golf in all aspects is taking the game "in the wrong direction"

The USGA/R&A distance report has been released. So what have they been researching and how is it going to affect your golf?

R&A distance report: What’s the problem?

The Rules of Golf state the fundamental principle that “golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the player’s judgment, skills and abilities”.

Likewise the equipment rules seek to “protect the traditions of the game, to prevent an over-reliance on technological advances rather than on practice and skill, and to preserve skill differentials throughout the game”.

Essentially the R&A and USGA believe you should rely on a variety of skills and judgements to complete every hole rather than it just be dominated by one factor such as distance.

The report shows hitting distances have been increasing for over 100 years. Both the R&A and USGA think this is undesirable as it is reducing the challenge of the game by limiting the variety of shots and creativity needed to compete.

R&A distance report

One solution would be to lengthen or toughen up golf courses, but this would be very costly. As well as potentially having a negative effect on the environment in terms of water and chemical use.

An interesting addition was their belief that many recreational golfers are playing from longer tees than necessary which is only increases round times, we know slow play is a hot topic at the moment.

“In summary, we believe that golf will best thrive over the next decades and beyond if this continuing cycle of ever-increasing hitting distances and golf course lengths is brought to an end.

“Longer distances, longer courses, playing from longer tees, and longer times to play are taking golf in the wrong direction and are not necessary to make golf challenging, enjoyable or sustainable in the future.”

R&A distance report: So what’s changing?

The report doesn’t go on to point out exactly what changes will be made and it looks like it may be a while before we have all the answers.

It does however look extremely likely we will see tweaks to the equipment rules with either a ball that does not travel as far or clubs that will not hit a ball as far.

“The concept is that equipment meeting a particular set of reduced-distance specifications – for example, a ball that does not travel as far or a club that will not hit a ball as far – might be a defined subset of the overall category of conforming equipment.

“This could allow committees that conduct golf competitions or oversee individual courses to choose, by Local Rule authorised under the Rules of Golf, whether and when to require that such equipment be used.

“Such a Local Rule option could be available for use at all levels of play, and golfers playing outside of a competition could also have the option to make this choice for themselves.”

It also looks increasingly likely we will see some bifurcation of equipment with different types of equipment being used in different levels of competition. The paper states that “it is not currently intended to consider revising the overall specifications in a way that would produce substantial reductions in hitting distances at all levels of the game” which also suggests this change is going to hit the pros harder than us club golfers.

How this might affect some of the big equipment manufacturers? Here’s what Callaway CEO Chip Brewer had to say…

“We appreciate the USGA / R&A’s work on behalf of the game of golf and are studying the report, which is understandably quite extensive. No official opinions or reactions from us at this time. We look forward to engaging in a productive discussion with the ruling bodies as well as other industry constituents as this conversation plays out.”

Do you think we should be changing the equipment rules? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me.