Technology: West Coast Swing

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West Coast Swing

Driving Distance is DOWN and Scoring Average is Flat Compared to 2003

By Wally Uihlein
Chairman and CEO, Acushnet Company

The S-Curve of invention application imparts that little manifest progress will be seen at the front end (The Breakthrough Phase) as the user community (golf equipment manufacturers, players) attempts to refine the invention (first generation large headed titanium drivers and multi-construction solid golf balls) for maximum benefit and gain.

Shortly thereafter, as the user community determines how to optimize the distinctive benefits of the inventions (The Exponential Phase), a significant acceleration in incremental performance occurs for a finite period of time. Finally, as the limits of technology are reached and the maximums of regulatory compliance are approached, the S-Curve enters its third and final phase (The Mature Phase) where the improvement is limited and gradual.

In 2003, the PGA Tour experienced The Exponential Phase of the S-Curve involving the invention and adoption of large headed titanium drivers and multi-component solid construction golf balls.


In 2004, results from the recently completed West Coast Swing further validate the S-Curve premise and indicate that we have entered The Mature Phase where, regardless of effort, improvements and increases will be gradual and modestly incremental.


Upon review of the recently completed PGA Tour West Coast Swing we see the following trends:


Winning Score in Relation to Par
The winning score in relation to par for the eight stroke-play events show virtually no change in 2004 when compared to 2003. The average winning score in 2004 in relation to par is 19-under par. The average winning score in 2003 was 20-under par.


Average Score for Players Making the Cut
Similarly, the average score of all players making the cut in 2004 events shows little or no change when compared to a year ago. The year-to-date scoring average is 69.91, virtually flat versus the 70.04 average through the first eight events last year.


Average Driving Distance
Finally, the negative current that surrounded the increase in driving distance last year seems to have subsided in 2004. One reason may be the fact that the average driving distance of all players making the cut through the 2004 West Coast Swing is 283.2 yards, a DECREASE of 3.3 yards from the 286.5 yards at this time a year ago. Furthermore, there are 7 players who are currently averaging more than 300 yards per drive versus 12 through February 2003.


All of the above confirm and validate what golf equipment manufacturers argued last year. That is, letís not jump to irrational conclusions. The past few seasons, and most particularly in 2003, have featured a textbook demonstration of the S-Curve of technology at work where during The Exponential Phase; performance enhancements are distinctive and significantly incremental. However, as we have seen before, this Exponential Phase, this spike in the letter S, is soon followed by The Mature Phase, where there is a return to a slow and gradual increase in performance improvement.


Golf on the PGA Tour is now in The Mature Phase, and the statistics from the West Coast Swing are early, solid proof.


This helps explain why the anti-technology hawks that were so eager to swoop last year have been so quiet.


It helps explain why the USGA, R&A and PGA Tour have taken the judicious wait-and-see position they currently hold.


And, most of all, it helps explain why we as manufacturers continue to advance the idea of balanced and objective coverage of the so-called Distance Debate.


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