Comin’ off this Caveman’s examination of the new groove rules and the USGA’s explanation that less accurate approach shots will put an added emphasis on drive length and accuracy, a few of my Rock Heads had the same follow-up question: “Why not just keep lengthening courses?”
More than a few elite golf courses have gone this route and added yards from the tips, with still more on the way. Over at The Riviera, for example, plans are to add almost 40 more yards to the already 418-yard, par-4 #9, and 50 yards to #12, a 413-yard par 4.
But if you ask me, the lost playing time and high cost of stretching a course doesn’t hurt good players so much as punish us hackers. Will those extra 40 or 50 yards at Riviera really matter to a PGA’r who’s already pushin’ 300 off the tee? Probably not. But to a regular Joe still strugglin’ to break 90, even a slight increase in distance might mean the difference between a bogey and a double. Most of us just don’t have the swing speed and power that the pros do.
Of course I won’t be playing Riviera any time soon, but at my local courses I’d much rather see new bunkers, water, or other elements than simply have more ground to cover. The shot selection and course management side of the game is one of the most difficult (but rewarding) aspects to work on.
Golf course architect William Amick agrees. He wanted to know how to give golfers of every skill level a great round no matter what tees they picked to start from. So, he sorted golfers into eight different levels, collected a TON of data about the distances each type of player could reach, and looked for patterns.
And what he found was really interesting:
Although golfers varied widely in how far they could hit the ball, the relationship between the distance each hit their different clubs was strikingly similar. For instance, each of the eight golfers hit their next longest metal wood nearly 88% of the distance of their driver. They hit their 5-iron approximately 70% of the length of their driver and their 9-iron was about 52% of their driver. And these mathematical relationships were close to the same for both men and women.
Once he knows a golfer’s average drive, he can pretty accurately determine their distance with any other club in their bag. Armed with that, Amick feels he can deliver a better playing experience no matter what handicap a golfer carries.
So, getting back to the groove rule, here’s hoping the change does in fact make elite golfers focus on drive accuracy more, and that course superintendents can stop stretching their fairways for a while.
PS: I’m lookin’ for tips & techniques that will add distance to my drives. Have you found any drills or exercises that have given you a few more feet off the tee?