Hey USGA, women golfers dream of more distance, not less

Here’s why every woman who plays recreational golf and dreams of improving her driving distance should immediately visit the USGA’s Distance Insights page and take the quick, four-question survey.

Image of woman dreaming of golf

PROFESSIONAL GOLFERS on the top seven global tours gained 3 yards off the tee in 2017, and that’s bad news for the average woman golfer. At least, it could be, if we don’t speak up right now.

Why, you ask, is it not wonderful for the likes of Tiger Woods and Justin Spieth to hit the ball farther? And why should women who play recreational golf — average driving distance, 140 yards — feel compelled to tell the USGA and R&A that we WANT to be able to hit the ball farther? Don’t they already know that?

The truth is that for years, the USGA and the R&A, the governing bodies of golf who make all of the rules, have been trying to curtail distance. They’ve made it against the rules to use “nonconforming equipment,” the balls, clubs and other gear that is not approved by them. Most of that nonconforming equipment is prohibited because it helps players hit the ball farther.

That’s effectively stopped research and development at the big golf companies. A few smaller ones have ventured into the nonconforming niche with balls that roll longer and straighter and drivers that pop the ball farther. Check out PolaraGolf.com for an example.

NO INNOVATION WILL ADD 200 YARDS OF DRIVING DISTANCE

Note that the nonconforming equipment will not give any woman Woodsian or even Spiethian power. We’re talking small improvements, in a game where any little bit helps. But any event or entity that requires you to play by USGA rules won’t let you use nonconforming equipment.

The USGA and the R&A have their reasons for not wanting professional players to hit the ball longer than top PGA Tour average of 320 yards a drive. For one, many of the classic, older golf courses have run out of room. Pebble Beach and Augusta National can’t make their holes much longer than they have. There’s just not enough prime real estate to make golf courses that began as formidable 6,000-yard layouts into competitive 8,000-yarders today, 10,000-yarders tomorrow.

There’s also the possibility of record low scores as the pros drive the golf ball farther and farther. The governing bodies want par to mean what it always has, the “score that an expert player would be expected to make for a given hole… allowing two strokes on the putting green.” Increasing driving distance, however, could render the traditional notion of par obsolete and send scores plummeting. After all, if the experts now reach a par-5 in two, it becomes a par-4. If they reach a par-4 in one, it becomes a par-3. Soon enough, championship courses become, gulp, executive courses.

So, with apologies for all of the alphabet soup, the USGA and R&A have kept the cover on R&D in the golf industry. They agreed, in 2002, that “any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable.” And because you and I have to play at the lower level by the same rules of golf as Tiger and Jordan, we’ve since been denied access to advances in technology that could give us another 10 or 20 yards.

As a result, the governing bodies’ annual distance survey showed mere tiny incremental increases from 2002 until 2017: .2 yards here, .3 yards there. But the 2018 report, showing a distance increase of more than 3 yards on the top seven global tours (including the LPGA and Ladies’ European Tour), sounded a horn.

MORE DRIVING DISTANCE, FOR THE REST OF US?

Fortunately, instead of taking reactionary measures that would further restrict equipment, the bodies agreed to stop and think about things. And remember, these are the same bodies who have just completed the biggest overhaul of the rules in the history of the game. Now that they’ve asked our opinion, the least we can do is give it.

Here’s mine: I have never understood why we recreational and club golfers have no option but to use the same equipment as the big leaguers. In all other pro sports, there are variations for the little people. Why can’t the seven global golf tour chiefs restrict the equipment of their players while the USGA and R&A free us to use whatever middle-aged women can find that looks and works like a golf club and ball? Is it possible that the USGA and R&A want us to tell them that’s what they should at long last do?

I took the four-question survey and it took just a minute to tell the USGA that as a woman who plays recreational golf, I need all the distance I can get, and I feel GottaGoGolf’s subscribers would say the same. We do not want to be confined by equipment restrictions designed to keep Bubba Watson and friends from increasing their driving distance. Set us free!

What do you think? I’d like to know — and so would the USGA. Comment below — and take their survey now.

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