Golf’s distance debate continues to be one of the hottest topics in our game. The latest stoke in that fire may have come last week from Nick Faldo in comments he made on a podcast regarding the use of tees as a way to limit distance.
Though he mentioned he has brought up this point “in jest at times,” Faldo explained on Geoff Shackelford’s podcast how “banning” the use of tees would bring more of an element of skill back to driving the ball.
“If they banned tee pegs, if they went and played a tournament with no tee pegs, the guys would have to go out and alter their drivers. They’d say, ‘Alright, you’re allowed to place it on the grass.’ You wouldn’t be using [a driver that’s] 6 degrees. You’d need to use one that can get airborne a bit. And that would seriously change it.
“Sure, they could hit 3-wood. And that would be their optimum. They could hit 3-wood off the ground, Rory would still hit it 285 yards in the air. But it’d be a tough hit to hit a driver off the deck.
“I think that’s what we have to get out there. It’s about the quality of the strike. And that would bring in a little more inconsistency.”
It is interesting to think about how reducing a tour player’s ability to tee up their driver or 3-wood might put an emphasis back on the “quality of the strike,” as Faldo put it, and the skill involved with compressing the ball.
Golf’s ruling bodies released its joint statement on distance in February, outlining the long-term effect that continued distance increases could negatively have on the game, with the USGA’s Mike Davis saying “we want the cycle of distance increases to stop.” It’s not clear yet what measures will be put into place.
The six-time major champion and current CBS and Golf Channel analyst in his comments on the Shack Show also suggested reducing the size of a driver face to put more of an emphasis on the skill of driving the ball. “If you brought back the size of the face down, so there would be some serious mis-hits . . . that way, the sweet spot for the pro would be a real sweet spot, not a sweet face. That’s what it is now, it’s the whole thing.”
He also pointed to last year’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne and how the firm and fast course emphasized strategy and “not just smashing it down there,” as what the game should look like in the future.
Faldo also made the point that in the 1970 and 1980s, you could point to about a dozen players who separated themselves as being great drivers of the ball, whereas today, there might be a dozen players who would be considered bad drivers of the ball, and everyone else can hit it 300 yards on command. Though that’s an overly simplified observation, it’s tough to deny the new distance extremes on tour. As Mike Stachura pointed out in a February piece, the percentage of 320-yard-plus drives on the PGA Tour is a third higher in the last decade than it was from 2001-2010. In the past three full seasons, about 10 percent of all drives on the PGA Tour were 320 yards or longer, almost three times as high as it was in 2002.
On the other hand, measuring driving distance from 2012, the average increase in driving distance on the PGA Tour is less than half a yard per year, or not all that dissimilar to the timeframe of the 1980s and early 1990s, as [Stachura pointed out](https://www.golfdigest.com/story/usga-randa-declares-golf-distance-increases-must-stop-in-findings-from-distance-insights-project. And that’s part of the reason why golf’s distance debate has become a hot button topic, to say nothing of the increases in athleticism among modern-day golfers and how increasing launch conditions on devices such as Trackman has helped golfers maximize the potential of the best new equipment.