Well... apparently the governing bodies have finally come to the conclusion that golf's changing distance climate does indeed exist.
Without wasting enormous time separating the wheat from the chaff, I'm including the two conclusions drawn from both the USGA and R&A, formally known as "Key Findings" of their recently released study. For those who prefer, I'll post the official link at the bottom for further reading.
USGA's Key Findings statement:
“This is not about the last few years or the next few years but rather about the long-term future of the game,” said Mike Davis, chief executive officer of the USGA. “This report clearly shows a consistent increase in hitting distance and golf course lengths over the last 100-plus years. These increases have had a profound impact on costs to build, modify and operate golf courses and they have impacted golfers at all levels. We believe this problem will continue unless this cycle is brought to an end. With collaboration from the entire golf community, we have an opportunity to stem this tide and help ensure golf remains sustainable and enjoyable for generations to come.”
R&A's Key Findings Statement:
Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said, “We believe we have reached a pivotal moment in golf. The publication of this report is highly significant. The impact of long-term hitting distance increases on some of golf’s essential elements are now clear – including changing the strategic challenge of the sport, altering the balance of skills needed to be successful and risking courses being less challenging or obsolete. Our objective as governing bodies is to work with the key stakeholders in golf to address this issue in a way that brings the sport together and which ensures it continues to thrive for many years to come.”
While the heir elder statesman, Jack Nicklaus, applauded the governing bodies' "long overdue" report and recognition of the distance problem, naturally the currently-active bomb-and-gouge era players seem a bit more cool to the notion that technology has played the biggest role.
Phil Mickelson, who has never let an opportunity to be at odds with the USGA go quietly into the night, wasted little time assuming the mantle for the opposition's point of view. “I struggle with some of our governing bodies. I struggle with it because we're the only professional sport in the world that is governed by a group of amateurs, and that leads to some questionable directions that we go down. I wish that we had people that are involved in the sport professionally to be in charge a little bit more.”
But he was just getting started.
“I also don't feel that you should punish the athletes for getting better,” he said. “I don't think that we have had massive equipment changes. We have just had athletes that have been able to take advantage of the equipment, more so than in the past. And I hate to see that discouraged. “You look at what Bryson [DeChambeau] has done getting in the gym, getting after it, lifting weights, and hitting bombs . . . and now you're talking about trying to roll it back, because he has made himself a better athlete? So, I don't know if I agree with that.”
Dustin Johnson, currently ranked 4th in total driving distance, dismissed it entirely. "I saw the email, saw it was 18 pages long, and didn't bother reading it."
The PGA Tour released a statement as well, basically saying (without saying) "we have our players' backs."
"We believe the game is best served when all are working in a unified way, and we intend to continue to approach this issue in that manner. The PGA Tour is committed to ensuring any future solutions identified benefit the game as a whole without negatively impacting the Tour, its players or our fans' enjoyment of our sport."
Think that Monahan and company aren't at least posturing on their top stars' behalves given the current rumors of a "Premier Golf League" beginning to swirl, which guys like Mickelson, Koepka, Rory, etc. might at the very least entertain the thoughts ($$$$$$$) of? Not to mention the obvious sway and influence of the equipment manufacturers that have played a considerable role in the modern professional game? (more $$$$$$)
Some argue that it could be the prelude to bifurcation, of which several players, like Paul Casey, argue would create a lack of interest as a result of the recreational players not being able to relate to the stars they watch on television since many would be playing different equipment. "What would it mean to the elite amateur players with professional aspirations, who've honed their games with the current technology?" one anonymous tour player asked.
Either way, does anyone really think that the USGA/R&A is willing to upset the applecart by aggressively moving forward? Or is this akin to the Tour's run-of-the-mill noncommittal stance on slow play, and pretending they're doing more than 'just looking into it' to help quieten the qualms of those who have grown tired of it?
Seems like there's a lot of discontent. Then again, what else is new.
As promised, here's the link for those interested. https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/advancing-the-game/distance-insights.html