Let’s be done with this whole distance debate and just go ahead and implement the obvious solution: make golf courses shorter.
Yes, you read that right. Instead of constantly fumbling around trying to make the golf ball go further let’s just bypass all the kerfuffle and shorten the courses.
The two objectives end up at the exact same point so there’s no logical reason not to.
Imagine how good the scoring could be at a place like Augusta National if we simply wiped off the 490 yards they have added since 1997?
But don’t stop there. Let’s continue to incrementally reduce the length of courses each year or couple of years until we eventually get to a game that more closely resembles pitch and putt than golf.
There are a number of obvious upsides to this concept. For example, it removes the expense of buying land and redesigning golf courses to cater to elite level players.
It stops in its tracks the arms race between the course – whose dimensions are essentially set and not easily changed – and the weapons of Trackman, the gym, coaching and equipment which are readily available to the player.
"On a planet of finite resources, increasing the footprint of the game is a dangerous and irresponsible way forward."
Scores would almost immediately come down markedly as even the shorter hitters (a relative term at the top levels in the modern era) would be hitting short irons to most holes.
It would prove beyond question that today’s players are ‘better’ and the complete elimination of the concept of a ‘three shotter’ (par-5 for those not familiar with the term) would be proof positive of the advancement.
Distance is an absolutely crucial element of golf. So crucial that it has become the almost exclusive marketing tool of manufacturers and coaches alike.
But golf is a game of balance. Few other sports test power AND precision so completely as golf, the 300 yard drive and the one foot putt afforded equal value on the scorecard.
When that balance is skewed – and ever increasing distance on the part of the player or ever shortening yardage of the course unquestionably skews it – then the game loses a part of its charm.
Golf is also a game of relativity. John Chin finished 50th in the PGA Tour driving distance standings in 2019 at an average of precisely 300 yards.
In 1999 he would not only have been second to John Daly (305.6 yard average), he would have been the only other player at 300 or above.
Was golf less interesting when Daly was the longest hitter? Or Greg Norman before him? Or Jack Nicklaus before that?
The answer is no, it wasn’t. But the courses were shorter and used less ‘inputs’ to maintain.
On a planet of finite resources, increasing the footprint of the game is a dangerous and irresponsible way forward.
So let’s dispense with the ever-longer hitting golfer and instead introduce the more cost effective and environmentally responsible ever-shrinking golf course.
Both concepts are madness but they end up at the same place. And at least one of them is sustainable.
Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, Good Good, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
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