Home Tech The 2024 US Open is designed to frustrate golf’s big hitters

The 2024 US Open is designed to frustrate golf’s big hitters

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The 2024 US Open is designed to frustrate golf's big hitters

Since Tiger Woods and his sky-high drives burst onto the scene in 1997, golfers have been driving the ball farther and farther, and courses have lengthened their holes to mitigate the lead, a practice both financially and environmentally unsustainable. But this week at the US Open, the United States Golf Association will feature a course at Pinehurst No. 2 whose firm, fast conditions, along with slick, domed greens and considerable length off the tee, aim to challenge the best hitters. without resorting to more yards. The USGA hopes this shows how courses can stand the test of time. The Open could be a key turning point in golf’s arms race with sports science and technology.

These tactics, if successful, could spark changes far beyond the major championships and the PGA Tour. The need to combat longer and longer campaigns goes far beyond the professional ranks, says Thomas Pagel, USGA director of governance. “There’s the college game, the state amateur tournaments, the state opens, the PGA section events — all of these golf courses have to increase their length to keep up.” The need to keep the sport sufficiently tested at the highest level “is an issue that affects thousands of golf courses around the world,” Pagel says.

Pinehurst No. 2 is a course with a long and storied past. Additionally, it is landlocked and has little capacity to surpass its current footprint. In fact, the North Carolina course will play at 10 yards. short it last hosted the US Open, in 2014. The USGA has committed to continuing to use “cathedrals of the game,” such as Pinehurst No. 2; plans to return to the North Carolina countryside four times in the next 25 years. —But with the ball traveling farther than ever, these classic places are in danger. Over the last decade, the average driving distance on the PGA Tour has increased marked every year, recording about 10 more yards since the last time the Open came to Pinehurst. Compared to the early 1990s, today’s drives are 30 yards longer.

In part this is due to the players. Today’s pros (and elite amateurs) are the picture of fitness, with toned arms and powerful legs that allow them to push off the ground and rise high in their swings, increasing the distance the ball flies. Both men and women have adopted a combination of new techniques, modeled after a similar movement in Woods’ golf swing early in his career, to achieve this effect.

These have coincided with advances in technology. Launch monitors, which use Doppler radar, the same technology used in speed guns, measure the physical characteristics of the ball at the point of contact to provide players and coaches with a variety of data: swing speed , launch angle of the ball, how fast the ball travels. , how much it spins, not to mention how far it flies. These devices give golfers the data they need to change their technique and refine their equipment to hit the ball farther.

“You get a lot of distance by reducing the spin of the drivers and even the irons, but maintaining the launch,” says Chris Voshall, director of product development for the sports brand Mizuno. Voshall says that over the past 10 to 15 years, launch monitors have helped players understand the relationship “between launch angle, spin rate and the golfer’s ability to generate ball speed.” In addition to improving technique, this has led to more athletic players seeking faster swings to impart more power to the ball, he says. In addition to this, these tracking devices have allowed sports companies to optimize their products for generating distance by focusing on launch and spin, he says.

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