Don't make golf courses longer, make par shorter
Stuart Appleby hit a 427-yard drive on the 650-yard 16th at Firestone this past weekend (and a few more over 400 yards, to boot). Is that exciting to witness in your book? Or is it simply boring to watch these freaks of nature hit driver-wedge on every hole?
For the average Joe, the new equipment is quite likely slowing down the speed of play, as more and more golfers are slicing further and further off the fairway. So length of holes isn’t as much of an issue as the width of the holes (or, more precisely, the amount of acreage needed to lay out a course that won’t be hemmed in by O.B.). The new equipment DOES make the game more fun in general for us mortals, though. So I say don’t worry so much – the USGA and R&A are doing fine (apologies to new course developers who need that extra land, though).
For the courses that host Tour events, length of the course IS an issue. Many classic tracks are land-locked, and cannot expand. Moreover, doing so threatens the integrity and beauty of the original designs. Instituting a special Tour ball or equipment limits for them that do not affect everyone else assaults one of the fundamental beauties of the game, where everyone plays on the same track with the same equipment.
So here’s my idea: For Tour events, don’t lengthen the courses, just shorten the pars. We’re already seeing 500+ yard par 4s. Good! More of that. No one says par has to be 72, 71, or 70. Maybe par should be 67, 68, or 69 on some tracks for tournaments. There are already tournament pin positions and tournament tee boxes on many courses which are never used for regular daily play. Likewise, there are competition course records and non-competition records. The division between competition and non-competition play is established already. One between “pro equipment” and “amateur equipment” is not.
A 340-yard par 3? Sounds pretty damn exciting to me. Some pros can’t hit it in one? So what? Let’s see how good their wedges are. Just grow the rough and REALLY penalize the long hitters if they go for it and miss. A 560-yard par 4? So what? Just whittle the fairway down to a sliver 350-400 yards from the tee and keep it nice and inviting at the 270-300 yard area and from 150 yards and in. Again, let’s see how good these guys are with their long irons and wedges.
The beauty of this idea is that it is cheaper than lengthening holes (all that might need to be done is to adjust rough conditions and fairway widths, and maybe reposition a few bunkers). It also leaves the course essentially unchanged for recreational players. That 340-yard par 3 can revert back to a par 4 when the tourney is over.
And they can still go for it from the tee if they want, with that new toaster-on-a-stick driver and that nuclear-core ball.
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And especially about tightening the fairways at certain points.
I think if you hit a massive drive, there should be no margin for error. If long hitters see terrible dangers and disasters at the 350 yard mark, they won't be going near it!
However, it would be nice if designers built more courses like Pinehurst No. 2, where the challenges increase the closer you get to the green and where rough needs only to be 3 inches deep to test the best players in the world. And, amazingly, it's a lot of fun to play for golfers of all skill levels. Imagine that.
Par and Bogie are just words. The number on Sunday isn't really about how many over or under someone is it is about how many strokes they took for 72 holes. Would it assuage your ego to see that Tiger was only 4 under at Augusta instead of 12 even if his four round total was the same? Are you that simple?
Basically the only part of your idea that is substantive is growing rough. I suppose that article has already been published though.
If you ever want to play a quick nine and have a little fun, give it a try.
If you notice tournaments such as the Masters, they refer to players at the end by their total score 282 or 280 rather than 6-under or 8-under.
You can make courses par 50, but the winner will always be the person who completes the course in the fewest number of shots.
Why is it that pros have to play on concrete fairways. A bit more water would surely do the job. After all, with a normal roll (like we all get at our clubs)only a small number of competitors would carry over 300 yards.