Golf Courses: Are Longer Courses Bad For The Game?

Golf Courses: Are Longer Courses Bad For The Game?
Photo by Sly Dizzle / Unsplash

Pro golfers are making it their business to be in business outside of their sport, while show-biz stalwarts and superstar athletes like Steph Curry, Peyton Manning, and Andy Roddick are discovering that the smart money is in golf itself.

I learned to play golf in the early 2000s on a local nine-hole course. Ocean View golf course would almost be considered a "short course" these days are golf courses keep increasing in length to keep up with equipment technology. We all agree that the first thing you do when checking out a new track is, ask, "how long is it" and "what's the slope."

Why is this? Modern golfers learn that the longer the course, the more difficult it probably is. Watching PGA Tour pros crush drives over 300 yards makes you think that it's easy and that everyone should be able to do it.  

PGA Tour

When top golf brands like Ping, Titleist, Taylormade, and Cobra released a new product, a new driver was released every two years. In 2022, companies are releasing 2-3 new drivers a year, promising to increase your driving distance by 10-15 yards.

As a former certified club fitter, I can tell you that this is far from the truth and is just a marketing scheme to increase sales. The USGA currently has golf club manufacturing guidelines and must test each club not to exceed the limitations.


Golf’s two rules-making bodies want to cut down on the distance players can hit the ball. Player fitness is impossible to regulate so it's clubs, balls and courses that will be capped and modified

Today, the professional golfer on the PGA Tour hits their ball almost 295 yards from the tee. Back in the 1800s, the average player could hit a drive only 200 yards – and half that if the rain permeated its outer layer, turning it as heavy as lead. Likewise, the feather-filled ball you hit off the tee would travel no more than 200 yards – and half that if the rain permeated its outer layer, turning it as heavy as lead.

By the turn of the 20th century, the sport had transformed. Almost overnight, the average player could hit a drive 25 yards further, thanks to the rubber core golf ball replacing its feathery counterpart. But unfortunately, playing a round of golf in the 1800s wasn't a pleasant experience. Relatively poorly kept courses meant you could trudge across uneven grass and hack through tangled rough. The United States Golf Association (USGA) has published a report stating that:

"longer distances, longer courses, playing from longer tees and longer times to play are taking golf in the wrong direction."
Sugar Golf Balls, https://sugar.golf
Photo by Sugar Golf / Unsplash

They blame advances in technology in the last 15 years and the increasing athleticism of players on the professional tour. But what about the average golfer? My current handicap is +2, and I rarely shoot over par when I play. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for most golfers.

According to the USGA, the average handicap index among golfers in the United States is 16.4. Among those 2.4 million golfers with an index, approximately 40,000 are scratch or plus, meaning they have a handicap index of 0.0 or a plus handicap.

The USGA will halt the club manufacturing limitations in the next ten years to avoid every golf course being over 8,000 yards long. Augusta National (host to The Masters) upgrades the golf course each year, adding distance and minor design tweaks. Augustus is ranked the #1 course globally and has tighter security than the White House. Unfortunately, most tracks don't have the real estate or funding to keep up with advances in technology. I believe the trend to build shorter golf courses will encourage new golfers to take up the game and have fun without hitting drives 300 yards.

The Hay at Pebble Beach

In an era in which short, typically par-3 golf courses play a significant role as resorts and clubs reimagine their guests' experience, Pebble Beach Company has one of the most important announcements yet: The Hay, designed by Tiger Woods, opens April 16. When it does welcome its first players, Pebble Beach will be not only home to Pete Dye's Par-3 Course. It will also have a second executive layout at the world's best resort course.

Courses like these are trending and attracting resort guests that may not be interested in playing Pebble Beach Golf Links. Tiger Woods, the world's most famous golfer, is a massive advocate for shorter courses and has built a new Putt-Putt franchise geared to kids and family-style fun.

Popstroke

Tiger Woods has partnered in a venture called Popstroke. Woods is offering more than just his name, though — he's the designer of all future Popstroke courses. Seven sites across Florida, Arizona, and Texas will open in 2022.