Tour Driving Distances


Frank, I enjoy the weekly putting tips and your blog: they really do help.

I have a two part question, the first is, after watching the PGA Championship it looks like the pros are hitting the ball a lot longer than they used to and is it not time for two sets of rules?

Second if we had two sets of rules how would you suggest the ball be reduced in distance to cope with the extra distance the pros are getting?

Matt, CA



I am pleased that we are providing helpful information with our weekly e-mails.

To your question about two sets of rules, NO I don’t think we need to bifurcate the Rules of Golf. The one set we have seems to be working very well and if we had two sets, when would we change from one set to the other?

For example if we believed that the ball should be different for the PGA Tour (shorter presumably), then when would we switch?  Many amateurs enter the US Open and try to qualify at local and sectional sites. Is it here or at their home club – where they developed the qualifying handicap – that they switch to the shorter ball.  Does this not affect the club championship as well?

This is only one example of the difficulties of the implementation of two sets of rules.

The other thing we need to recognize is that the average driving distance on the Tour has changed by less than two feet over the last six years. When Rory hits a 340- yard drive, we hear about it ten or more times during the broadcast and therefore come to treat the extraordinary as commonplace. This is the nature of entertainment and unusual feats.

Matt, because I don’t think that there is a problem with distance anymore – this was not the case soon after titanium with the spring-like-effect was introduced—I do not believe that having two sets of rules re. distance is good for the game.

If you do want to differentiate the pros from us mortals and see more shot making, as well as improving  the entertainment value of the broadcast, then let’s have a “Condition of Competition” for the Tour where all clubs conform with the rules but they can only use ten.  This is an easy rule — actually a ‘Condition of Competition’  — to implement as long as you can count to ten. I discussed this in last week’s column.

Matt, I suppose you can say; Is this not a form of bifurcation? To which my answer is yes but it is not a harmful one as it is a ‘condition of competition’ and does not affect the conformity of equipment.

Hope this give you some food for thought.

Please let us know your thoughts by sharing below.




8 thoughts on “Tour Driving Distances

  1. I believe there are a lot more players capable of generating clubhead speeds with the driver greater than 120mph than there has ever been on the PGA Tour. They have fine tuned their swings to the limits using the best technology and physical conditioning. While the overall driving distance may not have increased they number of players capable of carrying the ball over 300 yards has.
    However, the Wyndham just completed on an old Donald Ross design, with strategically configured rough,demonstrated the value of driving the ball in the fairway!

  2. I don’t believe there is a problem with distance. The winner of this years long driving contest at the PGA did not hit it as far as Jack Nicklaus did 40 years ago with vastly inferior equipment compared to what today’s pro golfers use. Rory, as was Jack are exceptional players, who would hit it farther than other golfers no matter what equipment they were using.

  3. Todays pros swing very differently than earlier generations. Their moves are much more extreme. The advent of computer analysis and minute inspection of every move has changed the way the pros swing.
    Sadly, this means that more and more instruction urges amateurs to copy the modern pro swing. Most – close to all – of us simply don’t have the physical capability of generating 120+mph clubhead speed, and if we try to find an extra 10 yards, we’re more likely to wind up with chronic back, shoulder, neck or knee problems.

  4. I seem to recall a guy named Nicklaus winning the Wednesday long drive contests on tour with drives of 340+ yards using persimmon drivers and high spin, decades-old technology balls. If there is a problem today, then narrow the landing areas and grow the rough.

  5. bifurcation, perhaps yes. Different balls, never! The bifurcation most struggling amateurs and in particular beginners needs is to do away with stroke and distance penalties, allow rolling the ball in all grass situations, limit putts to three and a few other such reliefs we could allow to make the game more enjoyable and play faster for the 50% of men (and women) players with handicaps above 15. Condition of competitions? Yes, more stringent rules for competitions. It is my goal to see more persons enjoy the game (read better scores at a faster pace) and hopefully less persons moving away from his wonderful game we call golf. Whiskey (octogenarian). P.S. my handicap happens to be below 15 so I am not sculpturing my suggestions for myself, but I am suggesting for benefit of many others lots younger than I, and to grow our game. W.

  6. My guess is that for most weekend duffers there are already 2 sets of rules. Most of the guys in my Saturday group improve their lie, ask for and receive advice about which club to hit, how their putt will break, gimmes, and the occasional mulligan. Often it’s because they really don’t know the rules. But no one minds because we are there to have fun. If we do play in an actual tournament, those of us who know the rules do try to keep the others honest.

  7. i agree with the 10 clubs rule for the pros. It is easy to implement, and puts the emphasis back on shot making in the game.

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