‘Something Has To Give’ – Cantlay On Distance Debate

The World No.3 says it’s unsustainable to keep adding yards to courses to accommodate the game’s big-hitters

Patrick Cantlay hits a tee shot at the 2022 WM Phoenix Open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Patrick Cantlay is the latest player to speak about the game’s distance debate. The issue surrounding the distance players can hit the ball has been rumbling for years, and it’s coming into increasingly sharp focus. Many modern-day players regularly hit drives well over 300 yards, including American Bryson DeChambeau, who ranked first last year with an average of 323.7 yards.

Speaking at last week’s Genesis Invitational, Tiger Woods proposed changing the ball to reduce hitting distances. Now Cantlay has had his say on the issue. Appearing on Talks at GS, a podcast produced by one of his sponsors, Goldman Sachs, the World No.3 echoed Woods’ comments, saying: “Theoretically, the golf ball needs to go shorter. Every golf course I go to has different tee boxes farther back than even four or five years ago when I visited the golf course.”

Last week it was revealed that there would be changes to the 11th and 15th holes at Augusta National for The Masters in April, with the holes increased by 15 and 20 yards, respectively, and Cantlay doesn’t think these kinds of moves can continue indefinitely: “It’s getting to the point where the tee boxes are already to the perimeter of the property, so much so that Augusta National has been buying up all the adjacent pieces of property so they can put more tee boxes and change the holes. That’s not sustainable. Not only that, if pace of play is one of your biggest concerns, how many golf courses do I go to on Tour where the tees are 100 yards back? They can’t keep going in this direction.” 

Cantlay explained that he thinks improving technology is at the root of the problem, and it’s having a detrimental effect on the experience of playing the best courses. “The technology isn’t only better, but young guys are trying to hit it farther and farther because the stats say the farther I hit it, the better I’ll play. I think the biggest shame is that I can’t go to Cypress Point and play the course the way the designer designed the golf course to be played. The biggest problem for me is when we lose the architectural integrity of the golf course. We’re to the point where that’s where we are. Something has to give.”

Golf’s distance debate isn’t new. Indeed, Woods – once one of the game’s biggest hitters – predicted back in 2017 that we’d see 8,000-yard courses in the not-too-distant future. With players like DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson all capable of regularly hitting drives over 300 yards, Cantlay’s comments are sure to keep the subject at the forefront of the authorities’ minds.

Mike Hall
News Writer

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.