It’s all about distance these days – how far these guys hit, how far we’ve all hit it… Golf is obsessed with length. But golf is not about distance, it’s about numbers. And, since golf is a sport or a hobby, it is also about entertainment and fun. I think we are in the wrong tree when it comes to distance. For golf to be less one-dimensional and more entertaining and enjoyable, both at the elite and club level, I believe golf courses should be shorter rather than longer.
At the highest level, tournament golf seems stuck on the idea of holes stretching out there in the deep blue. “How can we protect this place from Bryson?” Here’s a hint – don’t overdo it. The 650-yard par-5s and the relentless and tedious 500-yard par-4s play directly into the hands of the bombers who, naturally, will continue to strive to hit the ball farther, perpetuating the vicious circle of “debate from a distance “.
With shorter courses or shorter courses, more golfers with different skills have the opportunity to challenge themselves. As an example, take The Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2018 when the fairways ran so hard and fast that length was no advantage. Players were hitting too far, running into bunkers or burns, so you had to play differently. Super straight rider Francesco Molinari prevailed with his metronomic action. Bernhard Langer, 60, who was the smallest hitter in the field for the week, made the cut and finished tied for 24th. Bombers have a harder time winning when they can’t clear a percentage of the field with their power.
Of course, it is rare for an event to be played out on fiery bonds as it was at Carnoustie that summer. But other tournaments, like the tree-lined Valderrama or the ever-perplexing Riviera, show that to prevent length from being the dominant factor in touring golf, holes must be set up to reward precision and strategy. rather than just power. This means properly punishing bunkers at the 300 yard mark, fairways that stretch to 285 and are lined with rough and well-placed “real” penalty areas, doglegs that cannot be cut – holes that require precision, not just muscle.
I’m not saying tournament golf shouldn’t feature long holes, power is a skill that should be celebrated. I just think it needs more variety. A tournament golf course can be around the 7,000 yard mark and still be extremely challenging with par-3 tests and strategic par-4s thrown alongside the brutes. Follow a 505-yard par-4 with a 345-yard par-4 with a well-bunkered fairway and elevated green surrounded by knee-high rough!
I also think every tournament should have at least one driveable par-4 to provide excitement and opportunity. And I don’t mean driveable for Bryson and Rory, I mean driveable for the whole course… Add a 310 yard with a green surrounded by problems, think 10 at Riviera, and you have an extremely memorable hole on which anything can happen . .
To maximize the fun of tour level golf, I say make courses shorter but more varied and difficult to negotiate. Ask players to use greater course management and accuracy, patience when necessary and power when possible. This will bring more different players into the equation rather than always reducing it to a clubbed contest.
At the recreational level, shorter golf courses also offer more in terms of fun and entertainment. Snipers, inspired by professional ‘bombers’, love the idea of playing the tips on a championship course until they’ve gone about a third of the way. In reality, very few amateur golfers will enjoy golf more when playing on tees that are far out in the woods.
Shorter golf courses give the average player more chances for pars and birdies – more chances to get something out of their plays. They allow older players, juniors, men and women to enjoy the game together on something closer to an even playing field. Shorter courses are more inclusive and more conducive to growing play.
Then there is the issue of slow play. It’s not always the case, but a super long course often means a super long day on the fairways. Many can’t spare five hours to navigate a gigantic, sprawling golf course. A shorter, smoother course usually means a shorter, smoother ride.
And shorter golf courses will normally take up less space. As we move towards sustainability in golf, less surface area requires less maintenance, fewer resources and less environmental impact. At a time when climate change is an issue central to all aspects of life, golf has a responsibility to do what it can to limit its own impact… Vast 8,000 yards are not the way to go.
Golf needs shorter courses to counter the position of distance as the determining factor in elite golf. Shorter and trickier courses, but never longer, can put the skills of traditional golf back to the fore. Such a change would trickle down to mass golf, reminding the public of the joys of a shorter course that is more playable for everyone, more durable, less tiring and faster to navigate.