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Despite the recent obsession with creating championship 7,000-yarders, for most golfers, surely there’s more enjoyment to be had from shorter golf courses?
There may be much talk about ball, equipment and club-fitting technology rendering courses obsolete, but play most older clubs, particularly in winter, and you won’t see a whole lot of gratuitous overpowering going on.
It is then, on the softened fairways, that you discover how far you truly hit it, with par 4s only needing to creep over the 400-yard barrier to become stern, even unreachable, tests.
So why the 7,000+ yard obsession, which has prompted many clubs who will never hit that figure to chase as much extra yardage as possible, even if that means the craziest of tiny new back tees?
Some would blame course architects on some kind of ego trip, but from my experience at the EIGCA (European Institute of Golf Course Architects) conference in Estoril, Portgual last year, they in turn might point the finger at owners demanding as long a ‘championship’ course as possible.
And the owners or developers are the ones holding the purse strings!
Yes, we clearly do need some courses that are able to cope with the modern elite game, where 6,100 yards no longer cuts the mustard.
But from my experience at Estoril Golf Club that week, there’s more than one way to test the average golfer.
With the course soft underfoot, there was many a comment along the lines of, ‘That was the longest 5,600-yarder I’ve ever played!”
It boasts many changes in elevation and great variety among its enjoyable holes, but no-one in a field of 60 could better 33 points on an only moderately breezy day. Did I mention, it was only 5,600 yards?
And just weeks ago, I spent a very enjoyable couple of days in mid-Wales playing at Llandrindod Wells and Builth Wells, neither of which get anywhere near 6,000 yards, yet both of which are more than capable of providing a challenging and enjoyable round of golf.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s something exhilarating about the challenge of heading back as far as possible occasionally when the starter gives you free rein at one of our modern championship courses.
But every week? Wouldn’t most golfers derive greater pleasure sticking to an arena where their fairway woods aren’t the first clubs they wear out?
With many golf clubs crying out for new members and revenue, and slow play a much-debated curse, surely shorter golf courses might go some way to addressing both problems?
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
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