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Woods: The 8,000 yard golf course is not too far off

07 NOV 2017

By Dave Kaplan

Tiger Woods appeared on Geno Auriemma’s podcast last week and spoke candidly about the need to make changes to the golf ball at the professional level.

Woods said that he believes players are hitting the ball too far these days and that many of the sport’s best, and most iconic, venues are becoming compromised as a result.

“If the game keeps progressing the way it is with technology, I think the 8,000-yard golf course is not too far away,” said Woods. “And that’s pretty scary because we don’t have enough property to start designing these types of golf courses.”

Click here to listen to the full interview. 

The 14-time major winner went on to suggest that distance-reduced golf balls should be instituted on the PGA Tour and I don’t necessarily disagree with him … I just don’t think that it will ever happen!

Distance-reducing golf balls would certainly prevent long bombers from turning the shorter courses on the circuit into glorified pitch-and-putts. However, the introduction of these balls would also create several other unintended problems.

For starters, distance-reducing balls would unfairly benefit the longer players on the tour. Let’s say a ball that decreases distance by 10% is instituted on the PGA Tour, knocking 30 yards off of the drives of bombers who regularly hit tee shots 330 yards or more. Big deal! They’re still hitting the ball 300 yards off the tee with consistency.

It’s the shorter hitters, who average approximately 285 yards off of the tee, who would be the most adversely affected by this type of change. These shorter players would be averaging less than 260 yards off the tee, would routinely find themselves hitting 3-woods into most of the longer par 4s on the PGA Tour, and would be giving up at least a half-stroke to the longer players on suddenly unreachable par 5s.

Moreover, there would be a gigantic learning curve for all professional players, who would need to recalibrate the distances for each of the clubs in their bags. A few obvious questions come to mind: How long would it take for these guys to learn and adjust to these new yardages? To what extent might the quality of golf played on the PGA Tour suffer as a result in the interim? And how might viewership be affected during this transitional period?

Plus, if you think that players might be resistant to the idea, just imagine the fight that golf ball manufacturers, like Titleist and TaylorMade, would put up. These companies make millions marketing their premium lines of golf balls as the same reliable ones that tour players around the world use. And that would no longer be the case. After all, no amateur is going to want to spend $60 on a dozen golf balls that only go 90% as far as the ones they used to buy just because players, like Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, are now forced to use them!

Fortunately, I think that there is a solution to this issue that doesn’t require any type of modification to the golf ball. And that is to make the golf courses on the pro circuit play significantly harder than they have in recent years.  

Yes, these golf courses are very long. Some, like Torrey Pines and Congressional, are even absurdly long! Yet, most of these tracks don’t offer much in the way of challenge apart from length. The fairways on the pro circuit are often wide enough to land a jumbo jet, the rough is not thick enough to deter players from playing -aggressively off the tee, and the greens are generally a little too receptive to approach shots. If the PGA Tour required all of its tournament venues to tighten up their fairways, grow out their rough, and dry out their putting surfaces, I guarantee you that scoring would go way up!

Do you recall the 2013 US Open at Merion Golf Club? That year, the course played to a total of 6,996 yards and not a single player shot under par for the week (Justin Rose was victorious with a score of +1). The players didn’t struggle there because Merion used baskets, instead of flags, to mark the location of its hole. It was because Merion’s extremely narrow fairways, nightmarish rough, and rock-hard greens neutralized the long-hitters that week and forced the field to place a premium on strategy and precision instead.

Now, consider the US Open at Erin Hills this past year, which the USGA marketed as one of its longest venues ever at 7,800 yards. The fairways were gargantuan, there was essentially no rough and the fescue only came into play on extremely wayward tee shots. And what was the end result? Brooks Koepka tied Rory McIlroy’s 2011 record for the lowest total ever in US Open history at 16-under par!

Now, I’m not saying that every course on the PGA Tour should be set up to play like Merion. However, I do think that we should be trying some of these smaller and less drastic solutions before we make any type of radical distance-reducing changes to the equipment.

Dave Kaplan is a Toronto-based freelance writer and golf fanatic who is sneaky long off the tee. He’s on a crusade to inject a youthful perspective into golf media, especially the broadcast booth. Follow him on Twitter @davykap