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The trend in golf and especially golf course design work has been focused on distance. Call it the equivalent of an arms race the length of courses on the PGA Tour is getting closer and closer to 8,000 yards. The safe bet is to say one day they’ll be there. Sorry but that day has alreadu arrived, I’ve discovered. Robert Trent Jones, Jr.'s golf course in Colorado's Vail Valley, Brightwater, is said to be near completion, every inch of its 8,005 yards. There is also a golf course outside of San Jose, CA., called Inquisition, that's 8,000 yards. I guess this isn’t fantasy anymore. The idea of something under 7,000 yards representing a stern test just doesn’t seem to translate into the 21st Century.
“You know, I kind of chuckle to myself when I see the latest possible ruling from the USGA on the groove issue, taking the spin rate off the ball out of the rough with the square grooves,” Champions Tour player, Loren Roberts said recently. “And I do know the PGA Tour is involved in that sort of decision. From the professional side, we noticed this was a problem back in 1986, I don't know why it's taken 22 years to get the decision that it was a problem, but it has.”
Roberts isn’t the only person with an opinion on the topic. Fellow Champions Tour competitor, Jim Thorpe added, “I totally agree with Loren. 25 years ago when we played on the regular Tour and missed a fairway, you had to really golf your ball to try to hustle par.”
Roberts said the toughest challenges he faced in golf didn’t involved astronomical distances. “When I was late in my career on the regular Tour, some of the shortest golf courses we played were the toughest, because they played them firm and fast with a lot of rough. I don't know why they don't do that all the time now?”
To offer some insight into the way the game has evolved Thorpe shared a recent experience that hit home for him. “ I just played the CVS tournament that Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade up in Rhode Island. I’m standing on the green, 370 yards away and Bubba Watson waiting for us to get out of the way. And then here comes his ball. It's just unheard of today.”
Many believe its an equipment issue that as forced owners of golf courses to expand not only their land but the costs associated with keeping it in shape such as more fertilizer and equipment to sculpt the monsters needed to challenge today’s modern players.
Thorpey added that while many people are fixated on length a byproduct of this dimension also affects the way courses are set up. “Pinehurst No. 2 years ago was one of the greatest golf courses in the United States, but they have changed it so much and now they made it like a Mickey Mouse course,” he said. “Its a golf course where you can't chip it on the green. I think John Daly proved of it a few years ago when he kept going back and forward, back and forward, and golf to me shouldn't be stupid. There should be a lot of skills in the game.”