Two weeks after the USGA and R&A jointly released their much-anticipated Distance Insights Project, the CEO of one of the leading equipment manufacturers has weighed in with his thoughts on one of the hottest topics in golf.
David Maher, CEO and president of Titleist's parent company, Acushnet, released a statement Wednesday reacting to the report's findings that further distance increases would be "detrimental" to the overall health of the game. With Titleist at the forefront of distance and technological innovation for the past two decades, it's not surprising that Maher offered a dissenting take on the issue.
"We believe the conclusions drawn in this report undervalue the skill and athleticism of the game's very best players and focus far too much on the top of the men's professional game and project this on golf and golfers as a whole," Maher wrote. "Furthermore, we believe that existing equipment regulations effectively govern the prospects of any significant increases in hitting distance by the game's longest hitters."
According to Maher, the rules already in place have "been effective in setting upper limits on equipment performance" and have ensured that the key factor in performance separation remains the skill of the player, not the level of technology in his hands.
"Professional golf is as dynamic as it's ever been, and the game remains a healthy challenge for all players at all levels," he wrote. "The ability to consistently achieve distance with accuracy, and convert this into low scores, remains a special and elusive skill."
Maher's response also tackled the topic of bifurcation, which continues to gain traction as a possible solution to what the distance report described as a problem. In their findings, the USGA and R&A floated the concept of having a local rule option whereby specific equipment could be required for a given event. It's also one with which Maher disagrees.
"The existing equipment regulations allow professional and amateur golfers to play by the same unified set of rules, with the same equipment, and on the same courses," Maher wrote. "We believe that playing by a unified set of rules coalesces our game, is an essential part of its global understanding and appeal, and eliminates the inconsistency and inability that would come from multiple sets of equipment standards."
Maher has been with Acushnet since 1991 and was named president and CEO of the company in 2018.
The USGA has issued a response to Maher's statement, noting in part that the governing body views the distance debate as a "multifaceted, long-term issue that impacts everyone."