OPINION – Are Longer Courses the Right Way to Move Forward in Golf?

There is a new debate going around in the golf community about making the courses longer. Shorter courses are becoming obsolete as pro golfers are increasingly overwhelming the field, but is this true? Is preparing a longer course an answer to the distance problem in golf?

There are many players on Tour who can drive past 300 yards with ease. And just by looking at few examples, there has been a widespread belief that everyone from the pro to downward is hitting the ball further. Increasing the length of the playing area to tackle this seems wildly simplistic and statistically undesirable. Let us have a look.

Why golf courses shouldn’t get longer

Recently, Lou Stagner, a golf statistician, tweeted that USGA says ‘if a player averages 275 yards plus with a driver, he should play on courses that are 6700 yards or longer.’ However, less than 1% of golfers in the US average 275+ yards. So almost half of the courses are already long enough for the 1%.

The USGA says if you avg 275 with driver, you should play from 6700 yds or longer.

Nearly half of regulation courses are 6700+.

Less than 1% of golfers avg 275+.

Almost half the courses in USA are long enough for the longest 1%, yet we need more long courses?


— Lou Stagner (Golf Stat Pro) (@LouStagner) July 10, 2021

So if we look at this stat, it is evident that the maximum golfers in the US are already playing on a longer course. And if this is the case, why increase it even more and make it a daunting task for the majority?

One argument could be if a course wants to get the eyeballs of the authorities for a national event. And adding an extra 50 yards here and there might attract the selectors while choosing a venue. But the casual players and members who are the majority and play on that course throughout the year don’t need it. Moreover, is the length of the course the only test for best golfers in an elite event?

Golf – The Masters – Augusta National Golf Club – Augusta, Georgia, U.S. – April 10, 2021 Patrons leave the course after a weather warning horn is sounded and play is suspended due to bad weather during the third round REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

It is not always the case in professional golf tournaments. The 2021 Masters at Augusta National saw -10 as a winning score from a player who isn’t known for his distance play. On the other hand, players who lead the field in driving distance, like Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy, struggled a lot in the prestigious major.

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What is the solution?

So it is not always about the distance. It’s the course set-up, conditions, tactically positioning bunkers, etc. When it comes to the best golf holes, lengthier doesn’t always mean better. A par-4 of 350 yards demanding precision off the tee, a clear strategy, and an impeccable approach to the tricky greens ask more from a player than just strength. 

Golf – The Masters – Augusta National Golf Club – Augusta, Georgia, U.S. – April 5, 2021 Collin Morikawa of the U.S. walks up the fairway on the 10th hole during a practice round REUTERS/Brian Snyder

And this is how the Augusta National plays. The design is so strategic that you require a lot more skill than just a muscular game. So we need more courses with the layout more strategic, and there needs to be a good combination of distance and other skills. Not just the driving skill alone.  

Yes, driving the ball at far distances is one skill in golf. But it shouldn’t be the only skill a golfer possesses. So if the designers increase the course length, it would be an end to all other skills. And if that becomes a primary demand, the players will only focus on their power game and neglect other aspects of the game that make this sport challenging and fun for every age group.  

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