"92% of golfers can't break 90, half of that 92% can't break 100. 8.5% can break 90 but not 80 and the remaining 0.5% can break 80. Golf is a hard game!" - Tom Weiskopf.
This quote is one that stood out to me over the course of watching and reading various articles and features on the game of golf, growing the game and the design of current golf courses. There is no denying golf is a hard game and if you have followed any of my previous posts many of them have been tailored toward making the game easier by informing anyone willing to listen. Spoiler, this article is no different. The design of the golf course itself has a great deal to do with the difficulty of the game. We are seeing a few big name golf courses such as Pinehurst, Bandon Dunes and Medinah implement some interesting new concepts to help grow the game and make the game more enjoyable for the majority.
Playing The Proper Tees Part 2:
The first new concept we are seeing is a new, innovative tee system. Yes, I am going to beat this drum again but this time I have back up from the Founder of US Kids Golf and golf course architect, Reece Jones. They were featured on one of the best features I've seen recently on Golf Channel bringing attention to the Longleaf Tee System. I encourage everyone to take a minute and watch this feature at the bottom of this page. The Longleaf tee system effectively scales the golf course and provides options for golfers of all ages and skill levels to easily evaluate which tees they should be playing. Scaling the golf course means that each hole plays as it was intended. For example, a par 4 is meant to be reached in 2 shots and usually stretch from 300 yards to 450 yards. A junior golfer who hits it 150 yards off the tee has next to no chance of getting to a standard length par 4 in two shots making a tee option from say 225 or 200 yards a more reasonable option for them to play, not to mention provides a much more enjoyable playing environment. The chart below shows how golfers can easily determine what position they should be playing from to be able to get to each hole in regulation and give themselves a shot at posting a good score. This method gives juniors and beginners a place to play from early on in their playing career and provides an enjoyable environment for the golfer.
I experienced this first hand when playing with a beginner golfer. They originally played from a course's "ladies" tees and while they were hitting the ball just fine, they were taking 3 or 4+ shots to get to par 4s and par 5s quickly became unenjoyable for them. I suggested they move to the set of gold tees that were further forward yet from the "ladies" tees and it was like a switch had been flipped. The game became enjoyable and they even had a few legitimate looks at birdie. This is a pretty straight forward concept for golfers of all levels when you think about it. Is it more enjoyable to drive par 4 or have 3 iron or 3 wood into a par 4? This is not a concept that only your local muni can utilize. As stated in the Golf Channel special, Medinah has implemented this program providing yardage options for the course as short as 2,000 yards! Every golf course can and should implement a system similar to this to provide 92% of golfers with a proper place to play from and create a more enjoyable golf environment for these golfers if they so choose to swallow their pride and move forward!
Most rounds played are for fun, recreational purposes, so why not play from a position that allows you to post a decent score and enjoy the game!? Shooting in the double digits is much more enjoyable than triple digits.
The Short Course:
The other interesting trend that many big name venues are implementing is the short or par 3 course. Most recently, Pinehurst announced that they hired Gil Hanse to not only renovate their No. 4 course but to first and foremost build a 10 acre short course next to the club house. This is a fantastic idea in my opinion. This again provides a place for juniors to learn the game on a smaller scale course while also providing a fun venue for golfers of all ages to enjoy a quick round or a fun round before or after they take on the big course.
These courses are becoming more popular and Pinehurst is not the only big name constructing these unconventional courses. Bandon Dunes, Prairie Club, Bluejack National, Augusta National all have a short course facility. Tiger Woods' latest project was actually a short course addition to his course in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Of course, the implementation of an entire 10 to 20 acre addition is a greater undertaking than addition in some tee locations with a much larger price tag attached to it. However, there is undoubtably a place for these courses in the golf business. Golfers are always looking for somewhere to get in a quick round with their increasingly busy schedules or a place to take their kids out to spend a few hours away from their Playstation. Locally these type of courses are present and provide these assets to the golf industry. Northern Pines Golf Course in Brandon Manitoba has served as a venue for juniors, ladies, beginners as well as accomplished golfers to hone their skills on a course that does not demand 250+ yard drives off the tee. While I think that there is a demand for additional golf options in Brandon to begin with, golf courses such as this are instrumental to the growth of the game of golf now more than ever. If there were ever another course built in the area, my hope is that there is a feasible way to implement a short course in with the facility.
Golf is hard and 99.5% of us can attest to that fact. But are we making it harder than it needs to be? Golf courses are implementing forward tee options for juniors and beginners and it is up to us to know where we should be playing from and utilize the options provided to us! I truly hope the trend of short course construction continues and encourage everyone to give it a try if given the opportunity. Finding a way to feasibly implement a short course or a tee system similar to the Longleaf system would be a huge asset to any facility. Golf is hard, but it doesn't have to be.