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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?
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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 instruction. He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, a highly regarded trade publication for golf club secretaries and managers, and 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 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played well over 950 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, right across the spectrum from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
Jeremy is currently playing...
Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft
3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft
Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft
Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)
Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response
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