R&A CEO Martin Slumbers on hitting distances: A serious discussion is now needed


R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers has indicated that the governing bodies are ready to take action on hitting distances.

Slumbers has consistently denied that distance in the professional game has been an issue since taking office, but has now admitted that the increases in driving distances has caused 'serious concern' among both governing bodies of the game.

Next month, the R&A and USGA are set to produce a distance report, and said the governing bodies will then take action based on the outcome of the results and data from it.

So far this season, 68 players on the PGA Tour are averaging more than 300 yards off the tee, and Slumbers admitted the issue has been caused by a variety of factors - from technology to a culture of longer hitting. 

“Hitting distance is very important to focus in on,” Slumbers said. “It’s not just about the ball, it’s about the hitting distance, and this balance between how much skill and how much technology is available."

"There’s no doubt in my mind that the technology has made this quite difficult game just a little bit easier, and at a time when we want more people to play the game, I think that’s a good thing. But we do also think that golf is a game of skill and should be reflective of skill."

"There has been a significant move up across all tours. We're looking at the longest on record average driving distance. It's caused us as well as our colleagues at the USGA serious concern."

"For a number of years there has been a slow creep upwards, but 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. But when you look at this data we have probably crossed that line in the sand. A serious discussion is now needed on where we go."

"The technology in the drivers is getting better, so the clubhead speed is able to go up. And there are a few more players coming through who have been brought up in a longer-hitting environment. So it’s a whole combination of things. I don’t really want to pre-empt the upcoming Distance Report, but that’s what we’re now thinking."

Slumbers wouldn't go in to details about future plans, but he did indicated that they are putting a big focus on reducing distance. 

"There are a lot of options. 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."