If we're going to have an honest debate about golf ball distance and the effect it has on golf, then, as the Internet says, you've gotta hear both sides. That's why the game's governing bodies, the USGA and R&A, have opened websites soliciting public feedback from golfers, golf stakeholders and others on the impact golf-ball distance has on the game.
The websites, called Distance Insights, will not only be a place where the golf community can sound off on this intensely debated issue, but it will also be a starting point for future research and study of the distance issue.
“The topic of increased distance and its effects on the game have been discussed for well over a century. We believe that now is the time to examine this topic through a very wide and long lens, knowing it is critical to the future of the game,” said USGA CEO Mike Davis in a release. “We look forward to delving deeply into this topic and learning more, led by doing right by golf, first and foremost.”
Pretty much everyone involved in the game -- amateur and professional golfers, worldwide professional golf tours, golf course owners and operators, golf equipment manufacturers, golf course architects, golf course superintendents and more -- are encouraged to participate and weigh in on the discussion. The USGA and R&A want to not only figure out what's happening with golf-ball distance, which they tackle at the professional level with an annual report on golf ball driving distance, but also its potential impacts on pace of play, golf course construction and maintenance practices, other equipment, golf course design and player enjoyment and participation.
Ultimately, the USGA and the R&A deliver a report in 2019 which will go alongside the annual distance report.
This seems to be a signal from the USGA and the R&A that, despite the public and private (then leaked) comments of its respective chief executives, the die has not already been cast on rolling back golf ball distance. While Mike Davis appears interested in pursuing a rollback on a personal level, and Martin Slumbers at the R&A has said a line has been crossed in terms of driving distance, both leaders and their respective organizations are weighing a massive alteration to the fabric of the game. Taking into account 360-degree feedback from throughout the sport is absolutely essential in understanding the full ramifications of doing something -- or doing nothing.