Women Golfers Are Embracing the Power Era. Is That a Good Thing?
Emma Talley had never cared about tee length until her rookie season on the LPGA Tour.
She has always been an accurate hitter and that year, 2018, she finished 52nd on the earnings list, which earned her over $ 420,000 in prize money. She has finished four times in the top 10 and has had a great start as a professional golfer.
But playing among the best golfers in the world, she began to wonder if her game could get even better if she could hit the ball further.
“When I first got here I was a little above average in terms of distance, but I wasn’t a long hitter,” said Talley, who will compete in the Amundi Evian Championship this week. at the Evian Resort Golf Club in France. “At the end of my rookie year, I looked at the top five players and they all fizzled out. So I tried to take some distance.
She watched players like Nelly Korda and Ariya Jutanugarn hit their tee shots 20 to 30 yards from hers, which left them with shorter and easier second shots into the green. “I started hitting him all over the place,” she said. “I couldn’t figure out how to gain distance with the precision I had before. “
By the end of her second season, she had lost her tour card and needed to regain her playing privileges.
Distance in golf is the holy grail: the longer a player hits the ball, the more it fascinates fans and other players. Like a sprinter’s time or a baseball home run, a player’s starting length is one stat that stands out from all the others.
“The LPGA Tour is generally a straight hitting tour,” said Grant Boone, a commentator on Golf Channel. “There have always been women who have hit far. Laura Davies is the first to come to mind, and Mickey Wright could really shake it up 50, 60 years ago. But what we’re about to see on the LPGA Tour is what we’ve seen on the Men’s Tour. We are entering an era of power.
It may be to come, but the ranks of successful female golfers show something not seen among professional male players: a huge disparity in tee length. But hitting with more power doesn’t necessarily determine who wins a tournament. Sometimes he is the most precise golfer. Of course, combining the two can make a player formidable.
The difference between the longest hitter on the LPGA Tour and the 168th ranked player, who is last on the list, is 60 yards. On the Ladies European Tour, which co-sanctions the Evian with the LPGA, the difference is 79 yards between first and 168th place.
But even these numbers can minimize how far longer hitters push the ball, because bombers don’t always have to hit their pilots to get maximum distance; they can play it safe with a wood or an iron and still be there.
In contrast, the difference between the longest hitter on the PGA Tour and number 168 is 33 yards. And almost all of these players are able to hit the ball from 300 yards or more.
Some of the LPGA’s shortest hitters like Inbee Park, # 156, and Paula Creamer, # 166, have had some of the longest and most productive careers. Park has been in the world’s top 10 for most of his career, reaching first place four times. It also has 20 wins and seven major titles, including the Evian in 2012.
Creamer, who won the Evian in 2005, has 10 wins and a major, winning the 2010 US Women’s Open.
Davies, 57, is still one of the longest hitters on the LPGA Tour, even though she faces women half her age (or younger). She said distance was never a problem, but said it was long at LPGA and LE.T. the tournaments did not have the same advantage as the men’s circuits.
“You don’t have to travel miles to do well,” said Davies, who has won 85 tournaments around the world. “On the men’s tour they all hit long, and then you have super long hitters like Bryson [DeChambeau] and Dustin [Johnson]. While on our tour there is a substantial distance between Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson.
Davies won the Evian in 1995 and 1996, but will miss this year’s event due to Covid issues. She said setting up courses like the one at Evian Golf Club would benefit from incentivizing longer hitters to hit riskier shots, knowing their failures could be more costly.
“I would prefer some longer par-4s and attainable par-5s,” she said. “Our par 5s are so inaccessible it’s frustrating. On the PGA Tour, it’s eagles here, eagles there. Turn par 5s into risk-reward holes for us.
Grant Waite, a former PGA Tour player who now coaches several top LPGA players including long-hitting Patty Tavatanakit, said the players were making greater distance gains than the professional men. This is the result of creating more efficient swings and throwing the ball higher for greater distance.
Waite said the typical male amateur player swings at around 94 miles per hour, while typical professional female golfers only swing slightly faster at around 96 miles per hour. But the LPGA pro hits the ball 20 to 30 yards farther than the average amateur.
The pros “learn to swing a certain way in order to be able to kick the ball properly,” he said. “They also do this by being very specific in a way that few can.”
He singled out Park, whom he called the best player of the past 10 years. “She doesn’t hit him for very long,” he said. “She pushes the ball right. She doesn’t make mistakes with longer irons, and she is very good with wedges and her putter. It’s a pretty straightforward model.
Easier said than done. Gerina Piller, who turned pro in 2010, said she doesn’t worry about length, but young players make her think differently about how she trained and prepared for tournaments.
Piller, 36, said that when she first came on tour, there were four categories of players: “The successful girls. Girls who do well. Girls who strike for a long time. And the girls who bombard him.
Now, she says, there isn’t a huge difference between long hitters and bombers. She credits the club’s technology, but also the willingness to train to get stronger.
“Now it’s all the buzz, and I jumped on that boat,” she said. “I haven’t gained a lot of meters, but I’m getting older and my body needs that stability.”
Piller, who is in the middle of the field in terms of distance, said what became more important to her than chasing distance was to train with an idea of what she wanted to improve.
“A lot of players at our level, we are told that we have to put in hours, but we are not told what to do,” she said. “You kind of have to experiment and find out. Now I feel like refining and shining every part of my playing. But there are still some dull parts that I shine.
Golf, of course, is a game where perfection is only occasionally attainable, and great days elusive.
After collecting her tour card, Talley said she went back to her old trainer and started trying to recreate the swing that had served her so well in the past. After all, it had made her an academic star at the University of Alabama.
“I look back now and say it was so silly to run after distance,” she said. “In my second year on tour, I would have known the golf courses better. I would have been used to traveling the world. Looking back, I regret it, but I learned a lot about myself.
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