The designing of golf courses has changed and adapted since its inception in the late 19th century. The days of Old Tom Morris and Alan Robertson are now a thing of the past. What was once simply marking where to cut grass and place pins has become a job for bulldozers and earthmovers. Modern course design has become a task of moving and shifting countless tons of soil to create the perfect vistas, angles, and distances.
As new courses are being built, they are becoming increasingly longer. Anything fewer than 7,000 yards is now labeled short. When it comes to the PGA tour, over the last decade, courses have quickly been approaching 8,000 yards. Developments in club technology have made this “longer is better” mentality the industry standard.
Great designs are being deemed outdated and unfit to host professional tournaments. In the worst cases, classic courses are being redesigned and lengthened to “keep up with the times.” Courses built during the golden era of design are being ignored or mangled.
Where does the “progress” stop? Simply put, courses cannot become exponentially longer. When great designs are being ruined, and new championship designs are unplayable for the average golfer. The answer lies in creating new rules for golfing technology. Developing clubs that hit the ball infinitely further fuels the problem. When the governing bodies reign in one aspect of the club (clubfaces, MOI, etc), another loophole or feature is explored and exploited.
The answer is not easy or simple. An obvious option doesn’t lie in the club head or shaft, but instead in the ball. Distance limited balls could be instituted to ease the need for monster courses.
The issue isn’t necessarily pressing or urgent, but if the trends continue, the next generation will see the pros playing 8,000+ yard courses and will have never experienced original unadulterated designs from the likes of Ross, McKenzie, or Raynor.