Why? Why not leave the great courses alone? Why turn them into bumper-car rides with crashes at every turn?
It's done to protect par in the face of the onslaught of the world's best golfers, armed with equipment technology and an evolution of their own abilities.
But in defending par, a dangerous precedent is being set. Daunting course setups with undulating greens rolling at breakneck speeds, ankle-deep rough and narrowing fairways are beginning to change the game at the recreational level.
It's a contradiction for organizations like the United States Golf Association, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, and course operators world-wide who are fighting the battle of flat participation numbers. That makes retention a key factor and it's hard to keep golfers when the game is less fun, more expensive and takes more time.
What the severe setup of courses on the major championship rotation -- Shinnecock, Winged Foot, Oakmont, Carnoustie and even Augusta National, where the opening rounds this year resembled a U.S. Open, not the Masters -- have resulted in is a skewed view of what a golf course needs to be.
Too many recreational golfers don't bother to discern between the lethal major championship set-ups and what they play. What they see on television is what they want. It's no different than seeing the pristine emerald at Augusta National on television and transferring those images to the home courses. It's impractical, of course, but it happens every year.
It's a common refrain among course operators that their golfers too often don't play the proper tee, that they choose markers too intense for their ability. By today's standards, golf courses that don't stretch to 7,400 yards are viewed as deficient. It's an unwarranted view but increasingly prevalent in course design.
It is, however, a remarkable thing that though golf courses are often in lovely places it frequently so happens that the beauties of the landscape are to be seen from anywhere except the course. Who, for instance, ever heard of a self-respecting sea-side course where one could get a view of the sea! One may hear it perhaps roaring or murmuring, according to its mood, beyond an interminable row of sandhills, but save with the artificial aid of a high tee one never dreams of seeing it. So it is at Portrush, in accordance with the best traditions, and only two or three times in the course of the round does a view of the surrounding beauties threaten our mental concentration on the matter in hand. BERNARD DARWIN