R&A, USGA set to take action over distance issue

Dustin Johnson

R&A chief Martin Slumbers has confirmed that golf’s governing bodies are set to address the game’s ongoing distance issue.

Last week, USGA chief executive officer Mike Davis hinted action could soon be taken over the incredible distance the top players are able to hit the ball, and his opposite number at the R&A has now confirmed that “serious discussions” will soon take place.

The two bodies are set to publish a joint report in the coming month, outlining their concerns and sharing data they believe makes the argument for taking action.

“There has been significant move up across all tours,” Slumbers said. “We’re also looking at the longest on record average driving distance and both of those have caused us, as well as our colleagues at the USGA, serious concern.

“We had talked for a number of years about slow creep, and this is a little bit more than slow creep. It’s actually quite a big jump. Our 2002 joint statement of principles put a line in the sand, or purported to put a line in the sand.

“I think our view is when you start to look at this data now that we have probably crossed that line in the sand and that a serious discussion is now needed on where we go.”

The likes of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have all expressed their support for limiting the distance a ball can travel.

“We’ll be publishing the distance report within the next month and there is a statement in there from the USGA and the R&A on the data that’s contained within it,” Slumbers added.

“I think there are many, many options available. There’s a lot of work still to be done with a lot of people, and engaging with not just the game but the equipment manufacturers and all sorts of things, but that work we now feel needs to be done.

“I’m hoping that we have a constructive conversation with all stakeholders for the good of the game. What do we want to do? We want the game to expand. We want more people to play. We want to see it as a skillful game. I think we will all work and talk around this whole distance issue.”

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