Has Driving Distance On Tour Actually Increased?

The distance the golf ball is travelling these days has been a large talking point over the past few monthsHas Driving Distance On Tour Actually Increased?
The distance the golf ball is travelling these days has been a large talking point over the past few months, with talk that modern day equipment is making our classic golf courses obsolete.
Dustin Johnson’s near ace of the 433-yard par-4 12th at Kapalua only added fuel to the fire
Pros have been weighing in on the argument too, with Tiger Woods recently saying he expects 8000 yard golf courses soon.
Jack Nicklaus is another who has been outspoken on the modern day golf ball.
But has driving distance on Tour actually increased? And is a perceived increase in distance more about the physiques of the modern day players who spend hours upon hours in the gym and tailor their diets to achieve the maximum power and flexibility out of their bodies and swings?
Here we look at some figures and standout stats from across the years to see: Has driving distance on Tour actually increased?
John Daly
1997: 302 yards
2017: 297.6 yards
Daly is the longest hitter on the Senior circuit
Daly is an interesting one having been one of golf’s longest hitters for some time now. Long John was averaging over 300 yards back in 1997 and has only lost around four yards by the age of 51.
Fred Couples
1997: 283.5 yards
2017: 294.2 yards
Couples’ effortless rhythm still yields distance
Despite turning 58 in October, the 1992 Masters champion was hitting the ball 10 yards further than he was at the age of 38.
Phil Mickelson
2000: 288.7 yards
2015: 293.5 yards
As he approaches 50, Mickelson is around 5 yards longer than in his early-t0-mid 30s
Lefty has put on around five yards in 15 years according to the PGA Tour statistics.
Tiger Woods
2000: 298 yards
2013: 293.2 yards
Woods can no longer overpower courses to the extent he used to
Tiger Woods was only second to John Daly in terms of hitting 20 years ago and could regularly get it out there 300 yards before the turn of the century. Interestingly in 2013, a year in which he won five times, he had lost five yards compared to his driving distance in 2000. You could put that down to his aggressive nature in 2000, his surgeries and his will to hit a cut off the tee.
Dustin Johnson
2008: 309.7 yards
2017: 315 yards
DJ is one of professional golf’s true power hitters. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DJ was bombing it in 2008 and 10 years on he still is. Like Mickelson, he’s put on around five yards – although that is over a shorter period.
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Driving distance through the years on Tour…
1980
Longest hitter: Dan Pohl – 274.3
Shortest hitter: Michael Brannon – 238.7
1985
Longest hitter: Andy Bean – 278.2
Shortest hitter: Tom Jenkins – 241.7
1990
Longest hitter: Tom Purtzer – 279.6
Shortest hitter: Calvin Peete – 244.2
1995
Longest hitter: John Daly – 289
Shortest hitter: Bill Britton – 246.6
2000
PGA Tour:
Longest hitter: John Daly – 301.4
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin – 251.3
No. of players averaging 300+ yards – 1
European Tour:
Longest hitter: Emanuele Canonica – 295.3
Shortest hitter: Ronan Rafferty – 257.9
No. of players averaging 300+ yards – 0
2005
PGA Tour:
Longest hitter: Scott Hend – 318.9
Shortest hitter: Corey Pavin – 258.7
No. of players averaging 300+ yards – 26
European Tour:
Longest hitter: Angel Cabrera – 306.5
Shortest hitter: Andrew Oldcorn – 265.2
No. of players averaging 300+ yards – 12
2010
PGA Tour:
Longest hitter: Robert Garrigus – 315.5
Shortest hitter: Brian Gay – 266.4
No. of players averaging 300+ yards – 12
European Tour:
Longest hitter: Nicolas Colsaerts – 307.7 yards
Shortest hitter: Christian Cevaer – 256.8 yards
No. of players averaging 300+ yards – 10
2015
PGA Tour:
Longest hitter: Dustin Johnson – 317.7
Shortest hitter: David Toms – 270
No. of players averaging 300+ yards – 25
European Tour:
Longest hitter: Merrick Bremner – 313.8 yards
Shortest hitter: S.S.P. Chawrasia – 263.4
No. of players averaging 300+ yards – 25
2017
PGA Tour
Longest hitter: Rory McIlroy – 317.2
Shortest hitter: Jim Furyk – 271.4
No. of players averaging 300+ yards – 43
European Tour:
Longest hitter: Ryan Fox – 318.2
Shortest hitter: S.S.P. Chawrasia – 262.5
No. of players averaging 300+ yards – 35
Has Driving Distance On Tour Actually Increased?
The answer here is, clearly, yes. But it hasn’t really increased as much as you might think it has in the last 10 years or so.
Whilst it may be uncomfortable for some to see Dustin Johnson nearly acing a 400+ yard par-4, it was downhill and downwind on firm ground.
Related: The Keys To Power In The Golf Swing
The reality is that we’re still closer to the 300 yard average than anywhere near to 350, and thanks to Tiger, players are athletes and long hitting machines these days. The improved modern day sports science available is another aspect that breeds long hitting.
The additions of improved driver and ball technologies, and the introduction of launch monitors, allow professionals to find their optimum setting that those in previous generations just did not have access to.
Related: Justin Rose’s 7 Ways To Hit Longer Drives
Players hitting it such distances is a sweet science that has to be appreciated.
But in the end, a shorter course with tight lines off the tee with tricky bunkering and green complexes will ensure that it’s not just a long drive competition.
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