Augusta National played 7,435 yards for the just-completed 80th Masters. In 1986, when Jack Nicklaus won the tournament and the last of his 18 Majors, the course played 6,095 yards, an increase of 340 yards — or a Bubba Watson bomb off the tee.
Is this increase of length at Augusta and other golf courses good for golf? Augusta and other championship courses will tell you that the increase in length makes sense to keep up with today’s big hitters, which is just about everybody on the tour today. I get that. We’re talking about the big boys here, the PGA pros who drive a ball 275 yards with their eyes closed.
Here’s the problem, though. Joe Golfer watches the Masters, or any PGA tournament for that matter, and wants what the big boys get. It all has to do with our insatiable appetite for things bigger, faster and stronger. But Joe Golfer can’t handle the real estate. Eventually, the game swallows him up and spits him out — another golfer lost to the game-is-too-hard theory.
It’s like the guy who thinks he can eat the 5-pound hamburger topped with two bottles of Tabasco in 30 minutes because he saw Adam Richman do it on Man vs. Food. The guy tries, fails and ends up sick in bed for a week. Oh, and he can’t look at another hamburger for three years.
The length issue in the golf industry began several years ago and remains a problem. Golf courses grew longer for many reasons, one being to keep up with improvements made in equipment. But high-handicapped golfers aren’t going to benefit much from TaylorMade Golf’s latest super-duper driver.
It’s way time to dial back the length of some of these golf courses, if it isn’t already happening. Golf course superintendents agree. In a recent survey, Superintendent magazine asked about 525 superintendents what they would do to attract new players to the game to increase rounds and revenue? We offered three answers to choose from: reduce the cost of a round; make golf courses shorter and easier; and offer golfers the chance to play six holes. Forty-three percent answered: make golf courses shorter and easier.
These superintendents know what they see on a daily basis — players struggling to get on the green in three and four shots, even from the white tees.
Many golfers don’t really understand what they want — or need — when it comes to length on the golf course. To grow the game, they must be convinced of that. Showing them — by shortening more courses — is the best place to start.