From The Inbox

Design holds the key in golf’s distance debate

Strategic obstacles would keep bashers from pulverizing the game, but don’t expect the PGA Tour and R&A to play along, reader writes

Reader Ken Young of Indian Trail, N.C., got it right: Tightening up the golf courses would make the world’s best golfers stop and think instead of just bombing their drives down the middle (“From the Morning Read inbox,” Nov. 4).

Too often in the PGA Tour competitions and in the major championships, a pro can drive way off line yet find that he has a decent shot to the green. The course designers should be encouraged to introduce strategically placed bunkers, rough (real but fair rough), bushes, trees, even water hazards to make the golfers’ skill from tee to green pay off, and not just brute force from the tee.

Old-time designers such as Old Tom Morris, James Braid, Harry Colt and Alister MacKenzie, without massive earth-moving equipment and huge budgets, knew how to do produce very challenging yet enjoyable golf courses, which rightly would penalize shots that go way off line. 

Should the PGA Tour and the R&A decide to bring in the above changes, the ball and equipment manufacturers shouldn’t complain. They can promote their products based on the skills of the pros who rise to the top. There are a bunch of them who don’t figure at the top of the leaderboard simply because courses are now too long.

Golf isn’t all about distance. With these changes, there would be no need to restrict how far the golf ball flies. The courses would determine how far is safe. Drivers that make the ball fly 350-400 yards would be redundant, and the manufacturers would design clubs that allow the pros to best display their skills. Spectators still could delight in watching the pros playing thoughtful, skillful, admirable, wonderful golf. 

Having said all that, will the PGA Tour and the R&A consider reader Ken Young’s suggestions? Doubtful. They probably will bow to player power and the manufacturers, who would threaten to sue. 

Mike Wilson
Innerleithen, Scotland

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